Looking ahead

For a little while I’ve been thinking about an events page for this blog¬†– there is no better time than the new year to start this!! ūüôā ¬†On the¬†new page,¬†I will list¬†upcoming events in and around the area, which you might enjoy. ¬†I will try and update the page¬†as often as possible – if there is an event you think should be listed here, please drop me a line. ¬†If you want to visit the area and need accommodation please head to¬†www.midihideaways.com¬†. ¬†Here now are the events I have added to the new page. This is only the start . . .

Limoux Carnival – 03.01.2016 – 13.03.2016


The good people of Limoux take their carnival very serious. ¬†Different groups have the run of the central square every Saturday and Sunday during the carnival period. ¬†It’s always a fun festival to visit – I have previously written about it¬†here.

Fete du Mimosa in Roquebrun – 14.02.2016


The Fete du Mimosa is a¬†must¬†if you are in the area – a great fun fete! ¬†I have visited many times and I’ve written about it¬†here.

Grand Deballage in Pezenas – 01.05.2016


This is one of the larges antiques and flea markets in the area, with at least 150 stands. ¬†Serious bargains can be found¬†if you are prepared to look! ¬†I’ll try and be there – should be good fun!

Tour de France 2016 – 13.07.2016 and 14.07.2016


On July 13, the cyclists of the Tour de France will be racing from Carcassonne to Montpellier. ¬†Rumour has it that the route may be going through Minerve and past La Caunette, but nothing has been confirmed yet. ¬†On the following day the Tour will go from Montpellier to Mont Ventoux. ¬†This should be an interesting stage, as the cyclists have to climb more than 1300m in altitude! ¬†Here’s a post¬†from when the Tour came through Saint-Chinian a few years ago!

Bastille Day, all over the area – 14.07.2016


France celebrates her national holiday in great style Рparties and fireworks take place in pretty much every village!  Some fireworks parties take place on the 13th (e.g. Beziers) and some on the 14th (e.g. Saint-Chinian and Bize-Minervois).  Not to be missed!

Fete du Cru, Saint-Chinian – 17.07.2016


A whole day of wine tasting, a not to be missed event in Saint-Chinian.  You can read about a previous fete here.


Trading places

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you may remember my mentioning Domaine La Madura every so often. ¬†Over the years, I have become friends with Nadia and Cyril Bourgne, who own the domaine, and I’ve been able to observe the wine-making process at close quarters. ¬†If you type “la madura” in the search box on the blog website, you’ll find quite a few articles which mention the domaine.

Today’s post isn’t as much about wine making as it is about the winery itself. ¬†When Nadia and Cyril first bought the vineyards in 1998, the winery building was part and parcel of the deal. ¬†It was located in Saint-Chinian, on Avenue Raoul Bayou, and it was very typical of a small winery building dating from the early part of the 20th century: two rows of concrete fermentation vats/tanks facing one another, and a kind of attic space above. ¬†Very little room to manoeuvre ¬†and almost completely¬†dark without the lights switched on or the barn doors open.


For years, Cyril had been dreaming of working in a modern, newly-built winery, where he would be able to have the best possible working conditions for making his wines.  After many months of wrangling with the planning authorities, Nadia and Cyril finally received permission to build a new winery on one of their former vineyards, just outside of Saint-Chinian.

Getting the new winery built was no mean feat – all the services had to be connected, and the smallest detail had to be thought of. ¬†When he wasn’t working in the vineyards, Cyril spent every moment he could spare at the building site, to make sure that everything was going to plan! ¬†The new winery¬†was ready in time for the 2015 vintage!!

Here now, is an overview of the new winery, in all its gleaming glory. ¬†The new building is off the Route de Salabert, and you’ll see this sign on the side of the road:

IMG_3131¬†Arrive at the winery and you’ll see that everything has been thought of. ¬†There’s even a car park!


Here’s what you see when you approach the building:


Of course¬†by the time of your visit, it won’t look like this any more, the landscaping around the building will be much more advanced! ¬†The colour of the wall render was carefully chosen to harmonise with the surroundings. ¬†If you turn away from the building, looking towards the village, you’ll see the most wonderful view:


There’s another great¬†view from the terrace outside the tasting room:



Perhaps I’d better tell you a little more about the layout. ¬†There are several parts to the new winery. ¬†There is an office, where Nadia can be found most days, during office hours. ¬†The office is behind those three windows, as you arrive at the winery. ¬†Next to the office is the laboratory, where Cyril analyses samples of wine and grape juice. ¬†From the laboratory a door leads into the winery proper, where the fermentation vats and storage tanks are:

All of the tanks are fitted with sensors and equipment which allows for temperature control during fermentation.  Stainless steel stairs and a walkway give access to the air locks on top of the tanks.  The air locks ensure that the fermentation gases can escape, but no air can enter the tanks.


There is ample space for storage:


… and there is lots of light and air – it must be a pleasure to work here!

From the winery a door leads to the storage area.  At long last, all the bottled wine can be stored under one roof.  Before, it had to be stored in several different locations, in Saint-Chinian and Assignan, because of lack of space.


From the storage area, another door leads into the barrel cellar, where the wine is ageing in oak barrels:


From the barrel cellar, a glass door allows access to the tasting room.  The tasting room has lots of space, along with a very zen atmosphere!

The views from the large glass windows are wonderful, especially with a few bottles of wine in front: ¬†ūüôā


So you’ve seen pretty much everything – all that is left to do is for you to visit the new winery in person! ¬†And taste the wines, of course! ūüôā

If you would like to visit Domaine La Madura, please get in touch with Nadia Bourgne ahead of time, either by e-mail or by phone on +33 (0)4 67 38 17 85.

Running out of time

Life is full of serendipitous moments, and¬†it’s all too easy to let those moments slip by if we don’t grab the opportunities presented by them! ¬†One such serendipitous moment occurred to me very recently. ¬†On Facebook I saw that Domaine La Madura had shared a post¬†about the sale of furniture from O Bontemps, a restaurant I had been to a number of times. This is a screenshot of the post:

Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 12.13.33

And this is a screenshot of the text, as translated by Fb!!

Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 12.13.56

As you can see, the translated text was somewhat cryptic – they were selling the furniture and pretty much everything else, including the menu case and door sign, and closing on February 15, but then what? ¬†I had to find out more!! ūüôā

Eventually I found an article, on the website of¬†the local newspaper, Midi Libre (see the article here). ¬†In the article, Olivier Bontemps, the chef owner of the restaurant, explained that he was re-locating within the area, with a concept more centred on the lunchtime trade, so that he could spend more time with his family. ¬†While I was in the middle of reading the article, a friend stopped by for coffee, and we started talking about how nice it would be to go to the restaurant once more, before it closed. ¬†“Why don’t we go this week?”, said the¬†friend. ¬†Just what I needed :)! ¬†I picked up the phone and made a reservation for the following evening!

And so it was that I got to eat at O Bontemps in Magalas one more time!! ¬†Here’s the outside of the restaurant:


And part of the dining room:


Ever since he opened his restaurant, Olivier Bontemps has been serving mussels, as a little appetizer, while the guests browse the menu.  These mussels were small and plump, and prepared wonderfully with smoked bacon, chopped almonds and cream Рthey were heavenly!!


Once we had ordered, we were served an amuse bouche, a small glass of brussels sprout soup, topped with a cream made with smoked paprika.  The soup had a wonderfully clean flavour of brussels sprouts, and was just delicious.  It was also served hot Рnot tepid Рwhich pleased my friend immensely Рshe likes her food to be served hot!


The amuse bouche was followed by the starter Рa reimagined club sandwich.  The plate was covered in a carpaccio of courgette, which was dressed with a most wonderful vinaigrette.  There was an elusive flavour in that dressing Рthe chef told us that it was kaffir lime, a citrus fruit which is a major component of Thai green curry.  The courgette carpaccio was topped with a wonderful salad, beautifully decorated with edible flowers, and of course there was also the sandwich:  slices of crispy bread filled with some very tasty smoked ham and cheddar cheese:


After that wonderful starter came an even more wonderful main course Рrumpsteak, which had been cooked at low temperature for 18 hours!!  I know that if I were to cook a piece of steak for 18 hours it would not look like this!  It was perfectly pink, juicy and tender, and it had great texture and flavour.  The sauce had been prepared with trompette de la mort mushrooms and truffles, and there was a side dish of vegetables, served in a separate bowl. The vegetables were mostly green in colour, but with different textures (crunchy, crispy, soft).  A chewy element was introduced by the rice shaped pasta, which was mixed in with the vegetables.  The broth in which the vegetables had been cooked was spicy, and it complemented the beef beautifully.


Finally it was time for dessert.  Once more there were contrasting textures and flavours.  On a base of a kind of redcurrant cake was a light cream, topped by Italian meringue, accompanied by home made vanilla ice cream, and a masala tuile biscuit.



Wow, what an end to a great meal!!

Now, there’s a reason why I inserted the video below (e-mail subscribers, you’ll have to visit the website to see the video): ¬†the title is “Get¬†here” and you should get there if you can, before the restaurant closes. ¬†They still have space up until February 11, 2016.

More information on the website at http://www.o-bontemps.com

All things bright and beautiful

Here’s to another year!!

And here’s what I would like to wish you: May 2016

  • bring peace
  • be joyous
  • be full of health
  • sparkle with exciting adventure
  • be full of sunshine
  • bring you prosperity
  • be¬†enjoyable!

Whilst writing this post I was thinking¬†back¬†to¬†when I first started this blog in 2013. ¬†Back then I couldn’t have¬†imagined that¬†I would never have to look very far for subjects to write about. ¬†Can you tell that I am still enjoying the discoveries which I am making when I write and research my weekly posts? ¬†Writing has allowed me to look at things differently, to pay more attention as I go through life. ¬†Is there anything you would like me to write about? ¬†What has been your favourite post? ¬†Do please let me know by leaving a comment at the end of this post!

IMG_0870On one of my walks in late December, I came across a grove of mimosa trees, where several of the trees were already in full flower!  The grove is in a little dell, not all that far from the cooperative winery in Saint-Chinian, and on the side of a hill.  The trees nearest the track seemed to be getting the most sun, as they were the ones flowering.  It was a glorious sight to behold, and the scent was heavenly.

I wasn’t the only one to appreciate the blossom, the bees were out in force for a winter feast. ¬†The mimosa trees usually flower from late January onwards, but because of the¬†mild winter, many trees are flowering much earlier than usual.

Here is a video I took (e-mail subscribers, please visit the website to watch the video) – please make sure that your speakers are turned on!!