• The Wine
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  • The Wine
  • The Wine
  • The Wine
  • The Wine
  • The Wine
The Wine

Okay, so, apart from roads, sanitation, irrigation, political stability and Christianity what did the Romans ever do for us?

Well, we also know about their innovative construction skills, and of course their military prowess. But, one might argue, perhaps their most inspired idea whilst marching around the Mediterranean was the considered and discriminate planting and cultivation of the vine: along with civilising the world they also managed to educate its palate.

It’s all very well ruling half the known globe - and constantly having a pop at the other half - but if a campaigning centurion can’t lay down his scabbard every once in a while, slip off his sandals and enjoy a nice goblet of full-bodied red between battles, then it might be a pretty tricky task persuading him to march forth and do a bit of conquering in the first place.

Although they must take credit for firmly establishing and developing the vineyards of the Languedoc, the Romans were not the first to bring the grape to the region. The Phoenicians and Greeks originally introduced vines around 600 BC. But it was glorious Rome who rewarded her most successful veterans with wine estates in this beautiful region of southern France: and from those beginnings, today’s wine domains continue to flourish and flow. The rich, lush vineyards of the Minervois, originally planted over two-and-a-half thousand years ago, owe their existence to the admirable Roman predilection for bacchanalian home comforts.

The sun-blessed expanse of gently undulating, limestone terrain - between the Montaignes Noir in the north and the rugged Corbieres uplands in the south, and stretching from the defensive ramparts of Carcassonne eastward to coastal Narbonne - was then, as it is today, an idyllic combination of ‘terroirs’: a perfect blend of soil, climate and topographical exposure.

God, having created this magnificent milieu, was compelled to give it purpose: so, in His unimpeachable wisdom, he created the grape. It may not have been His initial effort: perhaps He first tried an exotic vegetable, a wonderfully scented flower or even a brilliantly-plumaged bird. But, when He got to it, the grape, in terms of bringing pleasure to the palate, was simply unsurpassable. And then, thank goodness, in a further flash of divine inspiration, He blessed mankind with the intelligence to know what to do with it.

Sadly, in the Dark Ages, (and how dark they must have been!) many vineyards were destroyed as a consequence of mediaeval conflict. But, around 800 AD, the hand of God intervened once again: this time through local Benedictine monks, who revitalised winemaking in the region as a commercial enterprise.

France, embraced and influenced by the Atlantic and the Mediterranean and enjoying numerous beneficial micro-climates, is uniquely suited to the cultivation of the vine. It has the greatest wine tradition and the most stringent production controls in the world.

Uppermost in terms of quality are the superior French wines which boast ‘Appellation d’Origin Controlee (AOC)’ designation. These are select wines whose geographic origins, varietal composition and production techniques are precisely regulated and controlled: in essence - the very best of the very best.

‘Minervois’, of course, has ‘AOC’ status: producing excellent wines from grapes which, when carefully tended and skilfully blended deliver a rich and rewarding ‘message in a bottle’. Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre are the essential vines, and these may be blended with certain other varieties whilst adhering to very strict guidelines. Indeed, some precisely-defined areas in the region produce so many wines of an excellent standard that they have earned sub-AOC status in their own right. One such Appellation is ‘La Liviniere’, whose vineyards occupy the gently sloping terrain between Trausse and the village of La Liviniere, just a few minutes drive away.

Probably more than any other of life’s luxuries, appreciating wine is, by its very nature, essentially a matter of personal taste. In our area of the Minervois you will have almost unlimited opportunity to put those tastes to the test - through the cellars of the region’s numerous Chateaux, Domaines and Co-operatives.

Whether your preference is for robust rouges, resplendent roses or beautifully-balanced blancs, local proprietors will be delighted to elucidate on their winemaking skills and offer ‘degustations’ of wonderful wines for the delight and scrutiny of your taste-buds.

Wine: Useful Terminology and Expressions

Bottle: Bouteille (Booteiy); Cork: Bouchon (Booshon); Label: Etiquette (Etikett);

Corkscrew: Tire-bouchon (tear-booshon); Sampling: Deguster (Daygoostay);

Taste: Gouter (Gootay); Colour: Robe; Strength: Puissance (Pweesarnce);

Box: Carton; Sold Loose: Vente en Vrac (Vont on Vrack);

Grape Variety: Cepage (Sayparge) Hello: Bonjour (Bonjoor);

Is it possible to have a tasting?: C’est possible de deguster? (Say posseebl de daygoostay?)

May I try another sort, please: Puis-je prendre un autre vin s’il vous (Pwee jzzu pron on oatr van, see voo play?).

Thank you very much: Merci beaucoup (mercy boakoo).

Er - can you tell me where I live?: Pouvez-vous me dire ou est chez-moi? (Poovay voo ma dear oo ay shay mwa?)

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