21 September 2016

A wine tour with Virgile Joly (a day spent with the beautiful people)

On a recent trip to the South of France, I thought I would visit a few of the winemakers whose wines I have particularly admired on the Naked Wines website. So, of course, I had to visit the wine legend that is Virgile Joly whose cellar door is in Saint Saturnin de Lucian.
Views from Saint Saturnin

Saint Saturnin couldn't be more French if it strung some onions round its neck and wore a beret. The town consisted of a restaurant, a hotel, Virgile's cave, the church and a few stone houses. Everything was fading slightly at the edges and pretty much the only person in sight was a slim lady brushing up some leaves from the restaurant floor (in a very laid back, unhurried fashion). It was like a scene from a movie (something arty in French that I probably wouldn't understand!)

Camille in the Vines
But then Magdalena, Virgile's partner who I had met at a wine tasting in the summer, arrived followed by our tour guide, Camille Renault. Both were incredibly welcoming, spoke amazing English and were, frankly too attractive!

Camille drove us to a vineyard overlooking Arboras which is where Virgile has his actual winery. In the car, I said to my husband "didn't she have the most beautiful eyes"? 

It was a gloriously sunny day and the view over the vines was completely stunning. The plants looked green and lush and the sun was glinting off the leaves. All the plants looked amazingly uniform, like they had been perfectly tamed to grow in little lines in identical shapes. All around the air was filled with the buzz of little tractors putting around the countryside assisting with the harvest. 
The grapes being sorted
We then proceeded to meet Virgile and see some of the wine production. In the car on the way, I said to my husband, "why don't we live somewhere like here?"

I'd never been lucky enough to visit a winery during harvest and everything was in furious, focused production. Two men were effortlessly scooping up ginormous crates of luscious looking grapes and emptying them onto a conveyor belt that took the grapes for sorting. The whole building and courtyard smelt very sweet and fruity.

Virgile showing us around
the winery (with his
dreamy hair)
Virgile was kind enough to spend quite a lot of time with us. I'm sure he must have been extremely busy with the harvest. But he never seemed as though he was pressed for time and was extremely generous with his attention. 

We tried some of the juice from the grapes that had been picked yesterday. I've never had the privilege of trying day old wine before, but the liquid was clear, crisp and incredibly sweet. I could have drunk it all day. Virgile spoke passionately about his organic methods and how he does his best to respect nature. Producing quality, unique and individual wines of which he was very proud.

The ridiculously
stunning view from the winery

He told us that he was worried about how some of his wines were fermenting. And he wasn't sure whether to add more oxygen or to change the temperature. Evidently, he is serious about his art and wants to make the best wines possible. I get the impression that he worries a lot.

Finally, we went back to Saint Saturnin to try some wines. In the car on the way back, my husband said "now there is an attractive man, I am very jealous of his hair."

The range of wines we tried

We went into another building (how many buildings does Virgile have?) to try the wines. Camille with the beautiful eyes explained to us that all of Virgile's wines are very distinguished and have a "feeling" of the man that runs through them all.

Camille spent a great deal of time "helping" us to smell and taste the wines. Sadly, despite us enjoying wine and spending a lot of time talking about it, we are clearly complete heathens when it comes to describing the subtleties of the wine. But she was very patient and kind and the whole experience was really enjoyable and the wines were delicious.
Tasting the wines

My personal favourites were, despite me not being a massive pink wine fan, his Saturne 2015 rose which was fresh, light and perfectly dry. I also enjoyed his Carthagene Rose Liqueur wine which had a wonderful pinky-orange colour and tasted of lychee and rose. One of the nicest sweet wines I've tried in a long time.

Lunch at Le Pressoir
Part of our tasting package was to have lunch at Le Pressoir restaurant over the road. I think we were the only English people in there and lots of the people around us looked as though they had just stepped in from the harvest to enjoy a glass of pastis. The food was delicious, but mostly I have no idea what I ate. I couldn't even read the hand written menu board, let alone translate it into French. Poor waitress had to resort to "moo" and "baa". We washed it all down, whatever it was, with a bottle of Virgile's Saturne Rose. A great experience.

We had the most wonderful time and I would encourage anyone to visit Virgile and try his wines. However, be prepared to feel slightly unattractive, slightly unworthy and very, very English. And also, just a tiny bit in love with Virgile Joly....

You can buy Virgile's wines in the UK on the Naked Wines website. And, he is such a complete legend that there is also a book about him which is available on Amazon. But be warned, you may be more in love with him and Magda after reading it!

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