A weekend of summer fetes…

And what a weekend it was!  It all really happened on the Sunday, but the excitement was palpable when all the tents went up on the market square in St Chinian on the Saturday – neatly aligned!

And then it began – the market stalls were all displaced and scattered along the streets, and tables had been set up in the gardens of the Mairie to feed the hungry mouths at lunchtime with a traditional grillade prepared by the rugby club.

The sugar dusted sacristans looked yummy (crispy puff pastry and almond twists), and the rude tomato was just too much!  Anyhow, on to the Fete du Cru – the 60 stands opened for business at 9am, a mixture of wine and Produits du Terroir, ranging from beautiful Mohair blankets, scarves & more by Jean Paul Dore from Sarrazo via sausages and cheeses, to marzipan fruits.  A group of local painters were showing their latest pictures and offered painting demonstrations, and another group exhibited model cars and other toys.  But I digress, you all came for the wine, didn’t you?

With all that wine where do you start? With a visit to the stand of the Cru, right by the entrance, behind that impressive arch made from barrels and pallets.  Here’s a table full of glasses, hundreds of them, all with a little attachment that allows you to hang the glass around your neck.  For 3 Euros the glass is yours and you can be off to try whatever takes your fancy.  There are also straw hats in case you get too hot, and wonderfully colourful aprons, in case you are prone to spilling your drink!Nadia and Cyril Bourgne from Domaine La Madura, in a relaxed mood before the rush of visitors! The Confrereries gathered, all decked out in their colourful robes and attended a church service, followed by an aperitif in the Place du Marche – the rose was very tempting, but it was a little too early in the day for me to start!

One of the reasons for not having a drink that early was that I wanted to take to the road – to visit the Fete de l’Olivier in Bize Minervois, also taking place that Sunday.  The “set-up” in Bize was very different, with the focus on Olives and Olive oil, but much less exclusively so.  The esplanade along the river was taken up with stands selling food and drink, and long trestle tables for the patrons to sit and eat and drink.  There were mussels (with fries) and grilled sausages (with fries), and there was another stand selling food without fries.  I loved the home-made bunting that was strung all across the esplanade – someone had made a big effort!

There were a couple of bands marching through the narrow streets, past a myriad of stalls, selling all manner of things – soaps, kitchen implements made from olive wood, clothes, more food and there was a stall selling ice cream made from sheep’s milk.  Absolutely gorgeous with unusual flavours – if you’re interested their website is at http://www.audeline.com/ .

Walking around the village I came across a gate which I’d never seen open before.  Curiosity got the better of me of course, and I wandered in.  The courtyard behind the gate is home to Domaine Saint Michel Archange and for the fete they had a duo of ladies playing steel drums.  Not your usual steel drum players, but classically trained, skilled musicians with a beautiful touch.  My video stars partway through their piece, but you’ll get the idea.  The ladies have their own website and a number of other videos on YouTube.

The river in Bize is of course always inviting for a swim or just spending time lazily sitting in the shade of the willow trees, perhaps with a book or a picnic, and if you are staying at Les Remparts or Le Figuier then all that is only a short walk away.

Back in St Chinian I got down to the serious business of wine tasting.  As you can see there were more people visiting in the afternoon than in the morning, but the vaporizers which had been strung all along the row of tents were helping to keep everyone cool, and the band kept up the atmosphere!  Oh, and that’s a car under all those stickers and posters!

I won’t bore you with a list of the wines I tasted, but I stayed with rose and I particularly liked the wines from Belles Courbes, Domaine Mont Cabrel, Domaine Maurine Rouge, Chateau la Dournie and Mas Champart.

Two wonderful fetes in one day?  Almost too good to be true, but it happens in Languedoc! 😉