Grape Harvest 2014 (Part 2)

September2014 108

After an early hearty breakfast, we set out for the vineyard. We arrived to find lots of people already there, including our friends who we had supper with on Friday. We all walked towards the designated vines and were given secateurs and instructions from Bertrand, the owner.


It was a beautiful, sunny, September day and we soon got into the rhythm of picking, emptying the grapes into buckets and moving down the row of vines. Talking to other pickers, we discovered some were neighbours, some customers and friends, and were French, English, Dutch, Danish, American. More and more people arrived to help and we finished the plot within two hours. All the grapes were tipped into trucks and taken back to the buildings to be processed. The grapes were tipped onto a de –stalking machine, then picked over on rollers then crushed before being blown into the vats.


We were offered glasses of wine from Chateau Guilhem, and stood chatting in the sunshine, listening to a jazz band.


Preparations for lunch were taking place on the lawn. Teams of waiters were setting up vast tables of food and towers of glasses, the like of which I had never seen before.


On closer inspection, the tables contained platters of oysters, escargots, charcuterie, salads and mountains of bread.


Bales of straw were placed around for people to sit on. We noticed that the regulars had brought their own chairs and picnic tables and were in prime positions close to the food and wine. We watched and waited our turn… Seeing our French neighbours returning to their seats with plates piled high with oysters, escargots, meats and bread, we politely held back and just had meats and salads. Wine was unlimited and we noted that our neighbours had all asked for the best red, Clos de Blason which is superb. As it was hot and sunny, we favoured the rose which is perfect for a summer day.

The sun shone, the jazz band played, glasses clinked, the murmur of French voices and with the Chateau in the background, it felt like being on a film set –almost unreal.

Thank you Chateau Guilhem, for fantastic wine and an unforgettable experience! Hope to see you in 2015.

The Wine of My Dreams

Running your own restaurant is a dream for many people and a job which I am fortunate to have and to love. However, having run the restaurant for 9 years, there was one thing missin …

This was to find a stunning wine, taste it on the ground it grows on (a Shirley Valentine moment) and import it to serve in the restaurant and tell it’s story. Well, this is it …

Back in June, I persuaded my husband that we needed a holiday and that maybe we could go to France for a week and do some wine tasting. He agreed and in an hour I had booked the flights, car hire and accommodation in SW France.

We flew from Bristol to Toulouse and picked up the hire car (there is a long story there ..) and drove to our bijou gite near Limoux in the Languedoc. It was very hot and we spent a lovely couple of days relaxing, pottering around deserted hilltop towns and eating all our meals outside on the terrace. We were surrounded by vineyards and it was very clear that this was an important wine producing area.

June2014 160

The owner of the gite, Hal, had told us about several of the vineyards in the area that we should visit and mentioned one which was his favourite. We visited it the next day only to find the shop closed and nobody about. Meanwhile we visited another vineyard close by, which had its own restaurant and with stunning views across to the snow -capped Pyrenees. Coincidentally, I have only recently started buying wine from that place. (

However, on the Monday we set out for Hal’s favourite vineyard, Chateau Guilhem, and we were not to be disappointed. Beautifully kept vines, all organically grown, family run since 1878 and with a chateau – ticking all the boxes! We tasted most of their wines and Tristan spent over 2 hours with us, telling us all about the vines, production, storage and the family.


What about the wine? I hear you ask. Well, I can only say they are the best wines I have ever tasted (and I have tasted a lot) and that they will shortly be appearing on their own list at Clavelshay Barn to be enjoyed by my lovely customers and friends.


P.S. Roses are planted at the end of every row of vines as they can obviously show the first signs of any disease which the vines have and so can be quickly identified and treated.