Une dégustation, Monsieur?

If there’s anything better than a good wine, it’s a good story.  And a good story about a good wine is even better.

Many years ago, Steve was vacationing in the south of France and of course he had to go wine tasting.  At the time – this was a long while ago – he hadn’t had much experience with Rhone wines.  Being in the Rhone valley, this trip was in fact his real introduction to the wines of the region.  He asked the hotel he was staying at for recommendations of wineries to visit and they handed him a list of their favorites.  Thus informed, Steve set out for wine tasting adventures.

Adventures indeed!  The hotel didn’t mention how small and convoluted the roads are in the southern Rhone valley and he got thoroughly lost.  But little by little, he did locate most of the wineries on the list.  Of course, in France they are all closed for lunch, so many of Steve’s finds did not lead to wine tasting.  Near day’s end, he rolled into the village of Vacqueyras (va-KAY-rass) and asked about one of the places on his list.  His French was good enough that the local folks knew what he was talking about (okay, maybe they read it off his list) and with some finger-pointing and sign-reading, he eventually arrived at Clos de Cazaux.

What he saw was a farm house, surrounded by a vineyard, with a few outbuildings scattered around the house.  A very small, frail, old woman came out of the house, looked Steve over, and figured out that he must be a wine tourist.  What ensued was a conversation in Steve’s barely adequate French; fortunately the old lady spoke very slowly so Steve could understand her.

Here’s what ensued:


Entrez dans ma cave, monsieur.

Come into my cave, sir.  This was one of the outbuildings.

 Nous avons quatre vins, deux Vacqueyras et deux Gigondas.

We have four wines, two from Vacqueyras and two from Gigondas (the next village over, also well known for its red wines.)

Les vins de Vacqueyras sont traditionnelle, fait de Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre et Cinsault.

The Vacqueyras wines are traditional, made of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre et Cinsault.  Steve nods.

Un de Gigondas est traditionnel aussi, mais l’autre est fait juste pour les Anglais.  Syrah pur.

One of the Gigondas wines is traditional too, but the other is made just for the English.  It’s pure Syrah.

Steve realized that by “les Anglais” the woman meant him.  And so she poured him the first taste he ever had of a Rhone wine that’s one of his favorites even today, Cuvée des Templiers.  The Templiers, or Knights Templar in English, were an order of knighthood in the Middle Ages who (supposedly) kept themselves pure to fight the Crusades.  They were and are well represented on the label.

Photo courtesy of wine-searcher.com

Now roll forward some 25 years.  Steve and Lucie are vacationing in the southern Rhone valley.  Steve has learned quite a bit about Rhone wines in the intervening years, but Lucie is an expert, a Chevalier de la Commanderie de Costes de Rhone.  They are in Rasteau on a Sunday and all the wineries are closed.  The only place in town to buy wines is the Tourist Information Bureau.  So they go, buy a few bottles and chat with the young woman who is staffing the bureau.  By now, Steve has forgotten the name of the vineyard but remembers the story, which he relates in his now much improved French, courtesy of Lucie.  Can the information woman help them to find the winery again?

She says (in French, of course), “Of course I know the winery.  The old woman is my mother-in-law and she’s still alive.  But Cuvée des Templiers is not made just for the English.  We love it too.  And it’s not and never was pure Syrah.  I’ll be working there tomorrow, so come by and I’ll open a bottle for you.”

Small world, n’est-ce-pas?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *