Last time I took you to Pic St Loup it was to climb it, this time we’re tasting it. Pic St Loup is not only gorgeous but it’s also one of the best wine areas in the Languedoc region and, as it’s a hop and skip away from Montpellier, it’s the perfect getaway from the city.
Wine tours are brilliant things. You learn a bit, drink a lot and you leave feeling merry yet terribly cultured. I particularly love it when you pop to a restaurant or supermarket afterwards and spot a wine you know and can say ooh yes, I’ve been there, lovely lady, cute dog, oh yes I’ll have that one.
Doing an organised wine tour in Pic St Loup costs around £90 per person. It’s not cheap but it does mean you don’t have to lumber someone with designated driver aka spitter status, plus you don’t get lost and end up driving to the vineyard that closes at 5 but maybe 3pm on Wednesdays/doesn’t open at all on Mondays.
We decided, because we’re now locals of course, to take matters into our own hands and just do our own wine tour and spend the money on actually buying the wine. Armed with a map on the ipad, a car and friends, we went with the intention of trying and buying local wines for the wedding. Our designated driver tasted every wine but swallowed none, while the rest of us tasted and then swallowed everything. (Thanks mate. We (he) will totally drive next time, promise…)
Our first stop at a cave with multiple local wines was an easy way into trying a variety of wines from the region. They were nice, but we weren’t blown away by any of them and the cave was more of a local wine shop where they’d quite happily let you try what you like, so that was a fun intro, but not exactly what we came for.
The next stop was far more eventful.
Picking another red dot on our map we made our way through some villages and past the vineyards till we reached what looked like a turning with a driveway. As we approached what looked like a wine-type place, you know all stone-y and chateau-y, a very loud bark revealed a dog the size of a small horse galloping towards the car, jowls and saliva flying in all directions. Trying to manoeuvre around the beast we turned towards where some arrows in the ground were pointing, into what quickly stopped being driveway and became more of an abandoned building yard. Except it wasn’t abandoned, a man with a chainsaw was walking towards us looking angry. Or confused. It’s hard to tell when you’re sitting in a car stuck between a rabid animal and a chainsaw-weilding man.
As he got closer to the car the boys lowered their window and muttered something about following arrows and wanting to try wine. The man explained the arrows weren’t for us (duh) but, while waving his weapon around, explained we needed to go back towards the dog and go a bit further before parking in there. And he’ll be right with us. Excellent.
Eventually finding the right entrance and getting out of of the car we found ourselves outside a beautiful house, complete with an excellent darkly lit wine cave. The man, minus weapon, gave us several very good wines to try, telling the stories behind the names such as Jamais Content (Never Satisfied – the winemaker was a perfectionist) and we took home several bottles of the stuff. Jono even had a cuddle with horse-dog, who turned out to be a giant softie.
After the events of the morning, we realised it was well into lunchtime and if we didn’t find something fast we’d lose our chance. French restaurants wait for no one. So we returned to what seems like the only restaurant around for miles and enjoyed a very French, very slow lunch. I insisted Jono got a café gourmand. He got the café. I got the gourmand. Relationships rock.
Taking to the road again, this time we found a little village with cats instead of giant dogs. A lady with a heavy southern French accent greeted us at a small cave where we tried plenty more wines including a lovely light red . I’m not going to start pretending to be a wine connoisseur here, don’t worry. By this point the wines had started all merging into one and my already unsophisticated palette was a bit wined out.
Finally though, we stumbled upon the ugliest, least romantic of all the wineries, which also just happened to have the best wine. The large cold warehouse filled with giant barrels was impersonal but after a half an hour wait to see someone we finally tried a wine which was special. Domaine De L’Hortus Grande Cuvée blanc was everything we wanted in a wine and more. We bought one bottle, carried it round Germany and Poland and then popped it open in Bratislava, where it was even better than we remembered.
So did we find our wedding wine? Well no. While the final wine was quite possibly the best white wine we’ve ever had, it was also one of the priciest, so we’ll probably just buy ourselves another bottle or two and save it for a special day. Next time, we’re hoping to do a little wine tasting in Montpellier itself, so designated driver can swallow.
Have you ever done a guided or DIY wine tour?