One brave soul dared to spend a few hours in the shoes, or rather apron of Chef Liz to participate in one of O’Vineyards’ fascinating Food & Wine Workshop. Katie’s parents hungrily observed the process as she learned how to prepare a multiple-course meal under the guidance of none other than Chef Liz herself. Katie began by testing her skills at preparing Chef Liz’s unique sweet-and-savory hors d’oeuvres:
Pear-Roquefort Crumpets with almond slices and coconut shavings
Homemade Spring Rolls and Chef Liz’s garlic and lime soy sauce
Melted Goat Cheese and Herb Crumpets, starring rosemary and thyme from O’Vineyards very own herb garden (yes, they do grow plants other than grapevines!)
Black Pudding Stuffed Apples
Not dainted by this initial challenge, Katie dared to attmempt the second step: preparing Liz’s internationally inspired main dishes, including:
Bami (an Indonesian national dish composed of vermicelli noodles, spring onions and other vegetables)
Roasted turkey à la crème fraîche with leeks
Perfectly grilled Merguez, the celebrated lamb- and beef-based sausages typically enjoyed in North African dishes
Mashed Potatoes with Melted Brie
Twice-Baked Potatoes à l’Américaine, with fresh chopped bacon, melted brie and chives from the O’Vineyards herb garden
The second-to-last challenge in Katie’s Workshop involved learning which herbs go best with which cheeses. She found that some of the best pairings were sheep’s milk cheese with rosemary, and the brie with a sage leaf.
To finish “avec une petite douceur” (with a little touch of sweetness) — as Mom and Dad’s tastebuds could hardly hold out another minute — Chef Liz walked her through the process of making the perfect Tarte Tatin, a sort of carmelized apple upside down pie, if I may dare. This final challenge proved to be a difficult one: properly carmelizing sugar is no easy task, and neither is the scary-impressive-pie-flip-over step, but Katie pulled off these final stunts with flying colors.
Katie was very proud (and after surmounting the challenge, quite hungry too). The other guests around the table were delighted to taste the end result of Katie’s culinary escapade, accompanied with none other than Joe’s pairing of O’Vineyards delicious wine! Having personally experienced all of these dishes and many more delicious meals paired with O’Vineyards wines at the Winemaker’s Table, I can only say…
“Way to go, Chef!”
Way to Go, Chef!
“Some Naked people came to pick up their wine last week, and we all had a blast!”
I admit it was somewhat alarming to hear these words coming from Liz during my first few days at O’Vineyards. I was going to have to live with these people for several weeks, so I needed an explanation. Luckily Ryan had previously posted about the Naked Wines Angels, who are the main actors in O’Vineyards’ new vineyard share program. One hundred “Angels” rented some of O’Vineyards vines and are paying Naked Winemakers Ryan and Joe O’Connell to see these vines through wine fruition. Now, the Naked Wines Angels are streaming in one by one to pick up their wine. If you are still confused, they are perfectly normal people–properly clothed and everything–they just went that extra mile because they really like our wine.
Michelle and David, Naked Angels
So, meet Michelle and David. They are Naked Angels. Liz and Joe had the pleasure of meeting Michelle and David (I unfortunately was not here yet) when they stayed at the B&B around two weeks ago. They enjoyed a tour of O’Vineyards and shared good times and good food around the Winemakers’ Table. As Michelle very poetically puts it in her TripAdvisor review: “We arrived strangers and left as friends.” They also reportedly arrived as fully clothed and sober angels, and left as…
Sometimes, it seems like all winemakers have the exact same pitch when talking about their winemaking. I get to read a lot of winemaker biographies and property descriptions, and they just say the same things over and over and it starts sounding a like its own language: wine bollocks. Even my own winemaker statement on this website has significant bits of winespeak in it. How do you describe your vines or terroir without sounding like everybody else? How do you talk about your winemaking philosophy without the word passion?
Anyway, these serious questions aside, I decided to have some fun with the archetypal winemaker statements. Since most winemakers generally make the exact same claims about their vineyards, I thought I’d summarize the rules for making a generic, forgettable winemaker bio.
How to write a generic, forgettable winemaker biography
Here are a few rules to follow if you want to sound like every other winemaker who has ever described his or her vineyard/winery.
Rule #1 – Use the word “passion” repeatedly
This is simple. You have to use the word passion or passionate at least once. Talking about your passion ensures the reader that you are in fact passionate because, after all, you said so.
example: Pierre’s wines reflect his passion about the land.
If you fail to talk about passion, everybody will assume you do not care about your job. Conversely, if you use the word more than once or include synonymous concepts like authenticity, this will promote the notion that you are a highly engaged and loving winemaker.
example: Pierre is passionate that his wines should be an accurate and authentic reflection of the land.
Rule #2 – Your terroir is unique
Defend the uniqueness and rarity of your vineyard’s geographical position.
example: Pierre’s vineyard is unique in the world.
Using government denominations is very popular, especially if they are obscure and unpronouncable.
example: Pierre’s vineyard is in the AOP Coteaux de Malbaraient, the tiniest and most unique appellation in the world.
Rejecting government denomitaions shows that you are really cool because your land is good enough to use the appellation but you deem that the system is beneath you in some way.
example: Pierre’s vineyard is in the AOP Coteaux de Malbaraient, the tiniest and most unique appellation in the world, but he labels his wine as a simple Vin de Pays because he doesn’t care for the pretense and archaic bureaucracy of his denomination.
edit: contribution by Michael Cox from Wines of Chile – You may want to show people that you were the only person who dared to plant vines where you are. This can be done simply enough by making generalizations about the locals.
example: When Pierre first planted his vines in this area, the locals all said he was mad.
If you’ve picked a place that is truly unique and rare, it is likely obscure. You may want to inform people as to where your vineyard actually is.
example: Pierre’s vineyard is in the AOP Coteaux de Malbaraient, a small sliver of land in the south of France.
Using rich language can conjure up a specific image in the reader’s mind despite the fact that they have no idea where your vineyard is located geographically. Again, don’t underestimate the impressiveness or appeal of unpronouncable proper nouns.
example: Pierre toils in his century-old Grenache vines perched atop the rocky, south-facing slope of the sun-drenched Plateau du Saux-Manues.
Often, a winemaker will choose to describe the location of the vineyard by placing it between two other objects (eg mountain ranges, sea fronts, climatic influences, etc.)
example: Pierre’s century-old Grenache benefits from its unique location on a high south-facing ridge between the foothills of the Pyrenees to the southwest and the sun-drenched Mediterranean coastline to the northeast. This unique dual influence brings balance and equilibrium to his wines.
Rule # 3 – People care how long you’ve been making wine
If your family has been making wine for at least two generations, you should find the most impressive way possible to convey the span of time your family has been making wine. This is true even if you’re just a nobleman who inherited a vineyard and you’ve barely met the people who tend your vines and make your wine. It might be especially true in that case.
example: Pierre’s family have been making wine for fourteen generations, showing a steadfast passion for the land.
If you haven’t been making wine for very long, emphasize your belief in a balance between old world wisdom and new technology. Characterize yourself as a fresh perspective in an old profession. This can be an excellent place to reuse the word passion.
example: Peter developed a passion for wine while watching the movie Sideways after which he left his job as a stock broker and bought a vineyard. He deeply respects the customs and traditions of the previous owner of his vines, and tries to use new techniques and a cutting edge winery to make the most authentic wines possible.
This might also be the time to name drop a famous oenologist or winemaker who you work with at the winery.
example: Peter fell in love with this vineyard shortly after watching Sideways. When consulting oenologist Marcel Dutramplon first saw the property, he said “There is no reason we cannot make great wine on this old and proven terroir.”
If this particular vineyard or project is new, but you have a pedigree in the wine business, you can actually use all of the previous techniques.
example: After 7 years of indentured servitude, Pierre has earned his freedom. His passion has driven him to strike out on his own in a daring new project where he will finally have the freedom to make his own wines with the help of renowned consulting oenologist Marcel Dutramplon.
Rule #4- Do You Parlez Franglais?
Turn off spell check! A few well-chosen errors make it seem like you’ve written about your vineyard in French and translated it to English. This allows the reader to imagine that a French wine expert has written about you and that the English language is just insufficient to fully describe your quality. Awkward word choices and mistranslated cognates remind the reader that you are an authentic French winemaker. Opaque translations of idiomatic phrases are your friend, and don’t be afraid to occasionally make up words.
exemple: The reencounter of these dual influences results in the harmonious equilibrium between the minerality and the research of power, an authentic character that Pierre looks for with a great passion to make the first wines in this old region.
Rule #5 – It’s never called dirt
If you choose to talk about the land, use technical geological terms that most people won’t understand. When speaking about dirt, never refer to it as dirt.
example: The land around the vines is composed of very stony, calcareous topsoil on top of deep marl beds.
Similarly, all climatic influences should be made more important-sounding. Use of foreign words, proper noun naming, and highly technical language can help in this field.
example: While the Vent Serraphin creates a uniquely stressed pluviometry, the vines extend their root systems deep underground to tap into the soil’s winter reserves.
Rule #6 – Other helpful words
Most of the following words and phrases should also appear throughout the wine producer info:
south-facing slopes (if applicable)
respect for nature
minerality (n.b. this word is trending today, but may soon be replaced with “tension”)
If you are big, brag about the epic scope of your endeavor.
example: Etienne de Tarantantan took over his grandfather’s small parcel of vines in the 1970s and his passion for wine has led him to expand his holdings to own six properties throughout the region, producing over 3,000,000 bottles of quality wines each year.
If you sell to supermarkets, describe your ambitions with words like value, approachable, friendly, and unpretentious while alluding to a prestige cuvée even if you only make a couple hundred bottles of it.
example: The wines crafted by the de Tarantantan estates range from highly approachable, unpretentious wines all the way to elegant garage wines, all with a focus on value and delivering high quality to the consumer.
If you’re not big, emphasize how small you are by citing a specific number of cases produced per year. This will help consumers understand the scale of operations and creates a unique marketing position. Since you are the only small winemaker on earth.
example: Pierre toils on his two hectares of low-yield grenache all year to make just 94 cases of wine.
I keep finding beer containers positioned on top of my vines in the first row of the Merlot parcel closest to the village. I figure a simple “Don’t litter, you idiot” would fall on deaf ears. That message is already everywhere and I’m clearly dealing with an exceptional individual here…. so here’s an open letter to the person who keeps throwing their beer away in my vines.
Dear artistically-minded litterbug,
Stop leaving empty beer containers on my vines. I’m not sure of your name (yet) but I know that there will be no confusion when you read this letter. While many people litter, you are the only one who specifically places your empties on top of my vines rather than just throwing them on the ground.
Obviously, I admire your ambition. You’ve taken littering to the next level. Most of the slobs who throw their rubbish on the ground do it wherever they happen to be standing. Presumably because it would take too much of their valuable time to find a trash bin somewhere. But you don’t do it for the sake of convenience. On the contrary! You seem to go very far out of your way to litter in a specific row of my vineyard and with such style (dare I say panache).
"symbol of the intoxicating penetration of today's globalized consumer"
I see that you’re not simply dumping out empty beer bottles. Rather, you’re creating artistic installations that speak to the deepest problems troubling me in this day and age. In the photo above, I hope to have captured the courson inserted into the oversized beer bottle, symbol of the intoxicating penetration of today’s globalized consumerism.
Simple photos can’t display the emotional significance of your work. After all, a photo is only two dimensions and your art works knows no limits. Your pieces are at once sculpture and performance art, evolving over decades, polluting the environment around the installation as time erodes the label and glass, and as the bottle itself hampers the growth of the vine underneath.
"a subtle nod to the Danube School"
Even the choice of beer brands was inspired in this week’s installation. Switching from a domestic brew like Jenlain in the first week to a foreign beer like Bavaria 8.6 was the perfect way to bring attention to contemporary worries about European economics and the balance of power within the EU. The way the can is crushed and wrapped around the vine’s supporting wire, as if to strangle it and replace its natural fruit with the product of foreign alcohol, acts as a powerful reminder of the commoditization of French culture.
And the choice of the “Bavaria” brand was also a clever wink to the Danube School and the deterioration of the European landscape immortalized in the work of those Bavarian-commissioned painters like Huber and Hirschvogel.
Indeed, your work can be seen as the new marriage of landscape and street art. As street artists gain credibility in the contemporary art community, their work is no longer unsanctioned. Even as museums and art galleries are desanctified and toppled as monolithic authorities on beauty, the new temple of art is the natural world. You won’t stand for this sort of unfettered “official” narrative of beauty. You will tear it down and show nature that it doesn’t know the first thing about beauty.
And suffice it to say that the irony of leaving beer containers in a place where we make wine has not escaped me. You are a wit, sir.
But I’m not writing simply to commend you. Sadly, I have to ask you to stop your art. Because it’s simply too powerful. Too moving. I know I’m just a peasant, a simple farmer growing grapes. My work is not as romantic or as important as yours. But my family’s simple efforts won’t raise any commotion. Your life-altering master pieces are a potential threat to the way people function in that they will incite people toward revolution. And so I hope that the humanitarian in you can overcome the artistic urge to desecrate my vines with empty beer containers.
I’ve played a lot with graffiti in the past few months and it’s always been pretty popular. So I should probably post it here on the blog which is a tad more permanent than facebook status updates and tweets.
Sud de France launched an ad campaign with these posters that feature a model who might be eating a picnic on a dock… a picnic consisting of like 300 different products from the south of France including but not limited to an entire leg of ham. It looks like quite a picnic and she is pretty so you worry that she is eating all that alone (although it’s good to know she’s not annorexic).
Here’s the ad as it appears on the Sud de France website:
I floated a different version of the ad with a thought bubble explaining the concerned look on her face.
Then the other day I saw this TER train:
Normally the trains in the region say “Vivre en Languedoc-Roussillon” but you can’t spell vivre without ivre. So with one letter removed, the slogan goes from “To Live in Languedoc Roussillon” to “Drunk in the Languedoc Roussillon”. You have to love French and the efforts of this very inspired graffiti artist. I swear it wasn’t me.
And now the Outsiders are playing around with a new logo for our event at Vinisud.
I watched some of these satirical 1 minute videos starring a French writer for Libé calling herself Bridget Kyoto. Donning a military helmet, she advocates the use of ecologically friendly weapons of mass destruction, so that we can wipe dirty countries off the map and replace them with greener ones! Or she’ll share statistics about energy dependency as she puffs a gauloise and prepares to shoot heroin. A little over the top, but maybe it can get some people to talk about the environment. More on her environmental blog.
Oh, and she’s not afraid to get naked, which is naturally the best way to get people to treat your environmental beliefs seriously.
The video series was brought to my attention by Vigneron Blog, the generically named winemaker blog now managed by Pierre Fabre, the owner of Chateau de Gaure.
à travers mon métier de journaliste environnement à Libération, je réfléchis depuis longtemps à une manière efficace d’alerter le grand public sur la catastrophe écologique en cours. J’écris des papiers depuis dix ans sur le sujet, j’ai collaboré à plusieurs émissions télévisées d’écologie et j’en ai proposé d’autres dans l’espoir saugrenu de toucher le plus grand nombre.
A la télé, on m’a répondu : « L’écologie, on n’en veut pas, c’est trop anxiogène. Les annonceurs veulent du positif. Quant au public, il veut dufun. Alors laissez-le consommer tranquille, il a déjà bien assez de problèmes comme ça. La réalité écologique, les espèces, la pollution, le réchauffement, tous vos trucs, là, ça l’ennuie. Ça l’indispose, même »
Alors, un jour, je me suis dit que, puisque le journalisme ne suffisait pas, je passerai par la dérision. J’ai inventé Bridget Kyoto et tourné ses premières vidéos.
Bridget est comme nous, désespérée par le crasse aveuglement de notre “civilisation” mais elle est trop sérieuse pour ne pas en rire. D’elle-même et du reste. Pour ne pas pleurer.
Elle cultive la vie, l’autodérision, l’absurde et se moque de tout, y compris de l’écologie et de ceux qui la font ; elle plaisante depuis le pont du Titanic qui s’incline. Il n’y a pas assez de canots de sauvetage pour tout le monde, de toute façon.
Mais surtout, Bridget a besoin de VOUS :
Exposez-la sur vos pages, e-mailez-la, relayez-la sur Facebook, faites-la connaître, PARTAGEZ SES VIDEOS, critiquez-la, donnez-lui des frères, des soeligurs, du bouche à oreille, du bouche à bouche, n’importe quoi, mais FAITES DU BRUIT, du bruit médiatique, du bruit tout court mais du bruit, pour qu’au moins, on entende un peu le chant de Bridget Kyoto, petite sirène d’alarme.
Bien à vous,
At O’Vineyards, we try very hard to get people buzzing about the Languedoc, Aude, Carcassonne, and even my tiny village of Villemoustaussou. And we are pretty good at making people talk. Somewhere along the line, I started assuming I was Villemoustaussou’s leading voice online…. But I was wrong.
Villemoustaussou’s most viral video
Patrick Sébastien’s music video for “Ah… Si tu pouvais fermer ta gueule…” was filmed in Villemoustaussou in the Boulevard Cafe! And with over 1.2 million views on YouTube, it is moderately more successful than everything I’ve done combined!
So, cancel my coronation. This is a great reminder that I’m just one fish in the Languedoc pond. And it takes a lot of massive effort from many many people to get some attention for this region.
I just saw Epicurean Dealmaker ran a big string of Bond movie wine puns on Twitter. And then other people started weighing in, including Randall Grahm (with some really good ones). The result is a great list that I wanted to preserve in one easy to read place. I hope that’s okay with all the various authors.
Q: What was the favorite M.O. of Batman’s nemesis The Riddler? A: Méthode Champenoise
Q: And favorite appellation in the Languedoc of his other nemesis, Catwoman? A: Félines-Minervois
You’ve probably heard people argue about wine bottle closure. Cork vs. screwtop. Real cork or synthetic cork. Bottle vs amphorae. People rage on about technical sounding concepts like TCA and Stelvins and all kinds of crazy advanced crap. Arguments can employ precise percentages from comprehensive studies or anecdotal evidence from last night’s dinner. People get really passionate about it too. REALLY REALLY passionate.
Well I’ve kept silent long enough. I need to make a confession.
The secret origin of the wine closure debate: I made it all up to distract people while I drank all their wine. Sorry, guys.
The Creation of the Wine Closure Debate
One night, we were sitting around and there was only one glass left in the bottom of the last bottle of wine. And everybody was too polite to pour it for themselves. Or to afraid to be caught. So I devised a cunning plan.
I told everybody about the advantages and disadvantages of cork closures as well as synthetic and screwtop closures. I engineered these descriptions to cater to the political and philosophical tendencies of different people in the room. And then I set them up to argue uselessly about which one is “better”. While the argument ensued, I poured the last of the wine in my own glass. My plan had worked.
But the plan worked too well. The argument was supposed to distract my friends for a few minutes while I snuck the last glass. But it lasted ten minutes. Then thirty minutes. Then… it never ended.
Friends, stop arguing. I know it will be hard to forgive my mischief and trickery. But I had to come clean so that you knew the truth. You can’t drink wine and argue about bottle closures at the same time.
The European Wine Bloggers’ Conference is full of really cool panels and seminars. SO many that you have to make some tough choices about which to see. I opted toward seeing panels that were not being filmed figuring I’d be able to enjoy the more mainstream ones from the comfort of my computer chair. And I got a wonderful surprise!
The online wine commerce seminar had three people talking about some of the different ways to monetize wine on the web. Evelyn Resnick, author of Wine Brands and wearer of the technicolor dreamcoat, Andre from Adegga, and Rowan from Naked Wines.
The nice surprise is that O’Vineyards was mentioned multiple times by multiple panelists! So this post is going to be a little narcissistic and personal, but you can watch the video and form your own nerdy academic impressions this time. Instead, I’m focusing this post on my emotional rollercoaster and the birth of a humorous comic book rivalry between me and another winemaker!
Yes, you heard right, this exciting post will reveal the secret origins of The Winemaker.
Evelyn talked about how few wineries try to communicate directly with their clients with the Internet. But she did include a slide about some winemakers who are doing it right and O’Vineyards was on the top of the list. What a nice surprise. 🙂 Very good to see Evelyn recognize my family’s work as she’s a point man (point person?) for wine branding.
And then Andre got up and talked about different solutions he’s found to monetize his wine-based social network, Adegga. I was enjoying hearing about some of the cool projects underway in Portugal. Adegga is doing event promotion and finding ways to feature wines on the site in a way that is a lot more engaging than a banner ad. And just as I was coming down from the high of being mentioned by Evelyn, Andre starts talking about AVIN codes.
Now I think AVIN codes are awesome. They’re like an ISBN number for wines. The dorky librarian in me thinks this is great and even indispensable for the cataloging of wine. One day, we will not understand how wines went so long without having numeric codes. And Andre mentions some wineries that have AVIN codes on their labels, and BOOM, O’Vineyards get mentioned there too. Look at that! You cannot talk about wine commerce online without mentioning O’Vineyards. Pretty flattering!
Now I see Rowan get up and I think to myself… oh boy… my importer.. I’m gonna get a hat trick. I’m going to get three references in a row on the same panel. I feel it in my bones. Rowan’s progressing through his slides, explaining his amazing business model. Naked Wines is devoted to real innovation. They constantly try out new ideas, they embrace their clients’ opinions, and they aren’t afraid to stumble now and then on their sprint down the road to greatness. And they have cultivated a clientelle that understands the way the company works. It’s all very cool to be a part of it. And then Rowan gets to it. A slide where he explains how Naked puts wine lovers (photo of pretty wine drinkers pops up) in touch with wine makers (DRUMROLL AS I AWAIT MY GLORIOUS PORTRAIT TO APPEAR)… JOCK HARVEY?! YOU’LL RUE THE DAY YOU CROSSED ME, JOCK HARVEY!!
haha, okay so Jock is a Naked Wines star. And he deserves it. I tasted three of his wines while touring the UK and he makes some really interesting wine with a sort of exuberance and joie de vivre that is typically new world. But I’m getting distracted…this post is about our newly born rivalry! The best kind of rivalry, one where the other person doesn’t even know I exist! Bwahahaha
In the coming weeks, events would unfold to fan the flames of this one-sided rivalry. But I don’t want to spoil it all at once. Part 2 in the saga will come soon enough.
How to find us
Domaine O’Vineyards, located in the North Arrondissement of Carcassonne, is just minutes from the Carcassonne train station, the Medieval City, and the Carcassonne Airport.
GPS coordinates: 43.259622, 2.340387
Wine, Dine, Relax at our Boutique Vineyard
Unique thing to do in Carcassonne
Wine Cellar. Winery Visits. Wine Tasting.
Wine & Food Pairing
North Arrondissement of Carcassonne
885 Avenue de la Montagne Noire
11620 Villemoustaussou, France
Tel: +33(0) 630 189 910
Best by GPS.
Follow the signs to Mazamet/ Villemoustaussou using the D118. At the end of the last straight part of D118, you will come to a roundabout with the Dyneff gas station.
Take the exit towards Pennautier. Continue 500m to a small roundabout and go straight over.
Look out for the second road on your right, Avenue des Cévennes which curves up hill (about 1km) to Avenue de la Montagne Noire on the left.
At the last juction, bear left. the road sign “Ave de la Montagne Noire” (confusing as it seems to show a right turn)
After another 500m you will see our red brick color building in the middle of the vines.
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