OK. So, there’s not really much in the way of wine made immediately around Carcassonne. But, it is really cool and it’s a nice (if somewhat illogical) place to settle in for a tasting lunch with a winemaker from 140+ miles away.
This was specifically chosen as just a fun place to spend part of the day, and it was that. The site of many a fortress dating back to Roman settlements in the 6th century B.C., Carcassonne (the fortified city) as it stands today dates to the mid 13th century A.D. and was restored in the mid 18th century. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but is more-or-less a tourist trap now (albeit a very engaging one) filled with souvenir shops, restaurants, and a Best Western (seriously, many of the one-time homes and shops of the city have been converted to hotel rooms). We all had fun exploring the city and I was taken with imagining what the lifestyle of a commoner in a largely self-contained and self-sufficient city must have been like. It all seems pretty idyllic…with the exception of the numerous sieges of the city endured.
Within the fortified city. What must life have been like in the 13th century?
Once convened at Brasserie le Donjon within the city, we settled in (with Jacques Calvel) for lunch and to meet with Raphaël Troullier of caravinsérail. caravinsérail is the umbrella under which Troullier produces three lines of wines from the Southern Rhône and the Côtes de Ventoux: the value-driven Vin de Pays de Méditerranée, “elicio”; the entry-level AOC Ventoux, “in fine.”; and the elegant AOC Ventoux organic terroir expressions, “cascavel”.
The elicio (Vermintino, Grenache/Cinsault rose, Grenache/Merlot) and in fine (Clairette/Bourboulenc, Grenache/Cinsault/Syrah rose, Grenache/Syrah) wines clearly expressed their freshness and immediately satisfying profiles exhibiting fine value. But, it was the cascavel (“Le Cascavel”: Grenache/Carignan/Syrah, and “Léonor”: Grenache/Syrah), the wines that put Troullier on the map, that resonated best, showing a richness, complexity, structure, and (most importantly) sense of place that far exceeded their estimated prices.
Raphaël Troullier prepares to present his wines at Brasserie Donjon in Carcassonne.
So, this ended up being a visit with a winery in the Southern Rhône while in a restaurant in the Western Languedoc. No matter, as Carcassonne was a wonderful site to visit, Mr. Calvel offered a palate-refreshing magnum of crémant, Brasserie Donjon provided near-deadly cassoulet, and Mr. Troullier graciously traveled nearly 300km to present his wines (as well as presenting us each with a gift of a jar of prepared figs—a local Ventoux specialty). But, this would mark only the beginning of a very strange day…
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