Last month, Hannibal Brown sent five lucky Golden Ticket Competition winners for a trip to Domaine La Maurerie in Saint Chinian, down in the south of France.  This is a wonderful account of the fun they had whilst down there.  Read on…..

DOMAINE LA MAURERIE – A LITTLE CORNER OF PARADISE

The instructions from Maria Depaule (co-owner of DLM, as we now refer to this wonderfully understated property) stated, “when you think you’re lost, you’ll probably be there”.  She was right – 5km after the last village, we took a turn off the main road.  And another 2km of meandering through grape-laden vines, we finally reached the tiny hamlet of La Maurerie and our home for the next five days.  Close to midnight, we arrived to a true Depaule welcome:  3 boxes laden with glorious La Maurerie wine, not to mention a friendly greeting from Carla, the resident wirey old farm dog.  Sitting outside our gite under the stars, several glasses down, it was hard to believe that we had been rushing around London just a few hours earlier.

Maurerie

Maurerie

We had timed our visit to DLM to perfection.  The locals, relieved and happy following a successful white grape harvest, were taking a well earned indulgent break before embarking on the reds.  The vines looked amazing with those plump purple grapes, crying to be picked.

Next morning, surprisingly fresh (it’s the lack of sulphites apparently), we were treated to a winery tour with Michel Depaule (vigneron and other half of this humble property) during which time he taught us that magnums were infinitely preferable to bottles as the ‘wine comes alive and develops far better’.  Maria, meanwhile, showed off the new winery equipment and their splendid party room (definitely NOT a conference room!).   We then began the day’s essential tasting with the newly bottled 2011 vintage.  We especially loved the Crestell – which tasted even better in the smug knowledge that we’d snuck a taste in before Hannibal!

We experienced market day in Saint Chinian, a quaint little medieval town with the biggest southern French character and rusticity.  Here, we petted the world’s smallest pig(!), bought the world’s most expensive macaroons and constructed world’s tastiest cheeseboard.  And after sampling (drinking) maybe a little too much of the local Saint Chinian co-oerative wine with the locals, we stumbled back across vineyards to our gite (the converted old barn of the DLM winery), where we barbecued on old vine roots and shared stories of the day’s events with our hosts.

The rest of the week involved kayaking, oysters, tractor driving, beach, walks and new friends.  This hamlet in the middle of nowhere managed to feel like the centre of everything to us lucky Golden Ticket winners.  Sante Hannibal!

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