Our wine supplier invites us every year to a day trip to local wineries and a related business. We have never gone as Dave cannot drink wine, he is not interested in it – it also involves a really early start, which we’re not good at! However, this year I have a new friend, a Swedish couple who started off as clients and who have become friends and who have moved to Vernet full-time. She is a sommelier and has set up a business here advising Swedish restaurants on the regions’ wines. She works with a Swedish importer and various restaurants in Sweden with their wine lists. OMG Swedish law is DRACONIAN when it comes to wine! No wonder they moved here! Anyway, she was the ideal companion! So off we went yesterday 7am up, 8am off to Perpignan – horrible time of day, but fortunately we had been quiet the night before, so I had managed to get an early night.
So, croissants and coffee at the meeting place, off to Chateau Planères where we had a tour of the processing plant in the middle of the vines, followed by a tasting of some of their wines. there was an oenologue and a sommelier on the trip who were guiding us through the techniques of both the production and the tasting – a charming mother and daughter, the elder, clearly passionate about her subject. Interestinglythe Chateau are working on a ‘petillant’ – or sparkling wine, which must be near completion as we tasted a bottle. It is called ‘La Perle de Planeres’ and was a really different wine to the more common Limoux or cremants which are generally quite buttery. This one is really citrussy and acidic and would make a fantastic aperitif. No sparklers are produced in the Catalan region, so this would be a real novelty and I would love to do ‘Kir Catalans’ in the restaurant.
On to Domaine Mas Rous who we supply in the restaurant and whose wines I have been drinking since the Dordogne Days. There we had a tour of their facilities, plus a tour around the vines by horse and cart, followed by a grillade lunch outside (thankfully it was a lovely day). We were given a lovely selection of 3 of their wines as a present. We got to taste an amazing Muscat de Rivesaltes from the Domaine that the Oenologue declared as ‘exceptionel’. These Muscats are unique to this part of France, they are sweet wines, naturally rich in sugars and drunk mostly as aperitif or dessert wines, but also work really well with foie gras. This one, though, was really caramelly in taste, and had more of a character of a digestif, powerful alcohol and honey flavours, it was just lovely – and I don’t usually have any truck with sweet wines. I would love to put this on the menu as a dessert with a slice of Roquefort cheese. I think that would be a lovely taste of the region. Again, the owners are utterly charming and thanks to Monsieur’s friendship with the cork makers ‘Bouchons Trescasse’ in Le Boulou, got us a tour of their cork production plant – normally it is very closed to the public, apparently. Wow! I had no idea how complicated it is to make a cork. Theirs are top quality ones that grace the top wine bottles of the world : Chateau Margaux et al. It takes 35 years from planting a cork oak to be able to have a first harvest of cork, and then they can harvest 5-7 years after that depending on rate of gowth. You have to be patient!! Also, they have to have a huge civil liability insurance as if any wine goes off or is damaged as a result of a faulty cork, they can be sued by the winemakers. Imagine a batch of Bordeaux Grand Cru oxidising as a result of a tiny hole in the cork!!! It doesn’t bear thinking about! All in all very interesting – especially the printing of the corks. Amazing. We got back to the car at 7pm – a long but great day, and all free!