Outings like yesterday’s should be done more often. Why live in such a splendid part of France if one does not allow oneself to be refreshed by the beauty around us?
Dessa and I planned the trip with three aims: to enjoy some of the lovely countryside on our doorstep, to replenish my wine stock, and practise together taking photos (we bought the same camera, a Fujifilm XT3, on the same day a couple of years ago).
Well, we managed the first two objectives, but not the third: Dessa forgot to bring her camera! She is wedded to taking photos on her phone, but however good these may be, I keep trying to persuade her they would be even better on her camera. After all, that was why we bought them!
From Ganges we headed south through Brissac (as always admiring its medieval church and the chateau above the village) and then along the valley of the Buèges, enjoying the vineyards, olive groves and limestone crags above. This time we did not stop at the picturesque village of St Jean de Buèges, and pressed on southwards along the road carved through the increasingly remote garrigue.
We did a detour so Dessa could show me the source of the Buèges, which was alarmingly low but a beautiful oasis of sparkling blues and greens. We may not have had much rainfall, but the unusual cool spring and early summer means that everything is still lush and wildflowers are flourishing.
Then we reached the end of the plateau and below us stretched the immense panorama of the vineyards of the Terrasses du Larzac. Chris discovered this, then relatively unknown wine area, 20 years ago. After he died I have continued to come here with my brother in law, Peter, and this time with Dessa, and yesterday we were visiting just three familiar vignerons.
First stop at Montpeyroux was the cave of Villa Dondona. It seems only yesterday that André Suquet took Peter and me on a tour of his beautiful vineyards, but I see from my blog that it was 2016! This time it was André and Jo’s neighbour, Dominique, who was selling the wine. I suspected from what she said that André has serious health problems. This is very sad, as he is a delightful and interesting man.
Lunch was at La Terrasse du Mimosa, the understated but very classy restaurant in the centre of Montpellier. We ate very well and I made a new discovery in wines. (Dessa, who was nobly doing all the driving, does not drink.)
Visiting Laurent Taisse and his elderly mother in St Jean de Blaquières has been another annual ritual in my wine tours with Peter. Madame Taisse, now in her eighties, has had a year of health problems, but she seemed to me as dynamic as ever. She and Laurent laughed as they reminded me of a cake I was carrying a few years back, and Laurent remembered the first time he sold wine to Chris (after I imagine Chris’s usual earnest interrogation about his winemaking practises). All of this over a glass of Laurent’s excellent vin du pays, round the large table in the large first floor kitchen of the old maison de maitre in the centre of the village. Mme Taisse said the family have had vineyards there since at least the sixteenth century.
Then on to Octon, on the Lac du Salagou, for our final visit, to our young (well, younger than us) friends, Graeme and Alice. I am very fond of them, so this is always a lovely way to end a wine buying trip. This time our visit was more rushed than usual as they were preparing to sell wine at the village’s weekly market. So our visit ended watching them having what looked like a satisfyingly busy demand for their very good wine.
Even the trip home – Dessa still selflessly driving – was a good part of the day out. The view up towards the Pegairolles de l’Escalette must surely be one of the most impressive motorway experiences in Europe.
As usual I did not record each event of the day properly, but here are some snapshots which remind me of this very pleasant day.