It was raining ‘chats and chiens’ on the afternoon I first visited Chateau la Roque, situated in the remote region of Pic St Loup, north west of Montpellier.
I was in two minds whether to proceed with our arrangement to meet, as it was in the middle of the harvest, and as wine and water certainly do not mix, I may not be a welcome distraction at this difficult time.
However, as I had not been able to keep a previous appointment 3 days earlier with my host, vineyard owner Jacques Boutin, I made my way up the wet stony track that led to the main house.
Jacques was awaiting my arrival, at the same time deploying his workers to channel the ever increasing rivers of rain water from the vineyards now heavily burdonned with grapes of Syrah and Grenache.
I made my apologies and fully resigned at my expected dismissal, was surprised at his reaction.
With a wave of his hand and a typical French shrug of his shoulders, he beckoned me in.
The house was part of an old Benedictine Monastery and as we negotiated the well trodden stone steps and worn corridors leading to the cellars, I could sense the atmospheric history still existent within these vaulted caves.
His very limited command of English made me more aware of the necessity to communicate, in my best French of course, my reason for this seemingly inopportune rendezvous.
However I had forgotten that good wine has an international language of its own.
At Jacque’s invitation, throughout the day we tasted old and new vintages of ‘cuvee Tradition and the top marques of these specially crafted wines, tasting and savouring the delights of the originality of his unique style. Punctuated by frequent departures to assess the conditions outside, we continued this tasting experience well into late evening.
I awoke the next day to the unmistakable aromas of baking bread and freshly brewed coffee, the sun had mercifully returned and Jacques, who had left at dawn, was taking full advantage of this welcome gift to bring in his long awaited red wine harvest. Leaving grapes on the vine well into late September to maximise quality, always tests nature to its extreme.
Since the formation of this warm friendship, these wines of character are firmly entrenched on my list. Sadly, Jacques has now retired, however leaving a great legacy of wine creation to the new owners, the family Figuettes, who vow to continue this tradition adding their own professional style, still cared for by!