First Full Day in France Huge Hit

SAINT SATURNIN de LUCIAN, France -  The charm, wit, and knowledge of a winemaker got the Wabash College Alumni Travel trip – Wine, Wabash, & France – off to a tremendous start Sunday.

See an album of Sunday photos here.

Bob Wedgeworth, Frank Kolisek, and Mike Butler listen to Virgile Joly

Drizzle, showers, and downpours weren’t enough to dampen the group’s spirits after spending two-thirds of our day with Virgile Joly. The group left Montpellier at mid morning and traveled to this tiny village of about 300 people to meet the face of France’s organic wine movement.

The charismatic Joly did not disappoint.

After a brief courtyard welcome, we went down an ancient path way to Joly’s tasting cave. There the 30-something Frenchman poured his wines, educated, and entertained. Joly’s signature wine has become a Grenache blanc blend that France’s leading wine magazine, Terre de Vins, rated the best organic white in France.

Joly then joined the group for lunch at a spacious local café, La Pressior. Lunch consisted of a beautiful  salad featuring fresh greens, cheese, a soft-boiled egg, duck, and salmon. The entre was roast beef fired over open flame at the center of the restaurant. The ooing and awing continued over an incredibly delicious chocolate cake filled with a warm and rich chocolate Grenache.

We capped our lunch with Joly’s fortified Rose’ wine – a big hit with the Wabash men and wives!

“The enjoyable thing is the guy’s passion and knowledge,” said Dr. Frank Kolisek ’82. “He’s never in a hurry and he would talk to us until right now. He talked about building a new winery but never talked about himself or making money.”

Judy Myers, wife of Bob Myers ’67, also talked about Joly’s passion. “It was his passion for what he does. He respects the people tasting;  he always took the first glass so see that it was good to serve his guests. We’re so used to giving our guests first pour

”It never felt like he was talking about his vocation. He spoke so much about the technical aspects of winemaking. It was so important to him to be precise.”

As we finished lunch the skies opened again altering the day’s plan. We boarded our bus and traveled to Joly’s winery to look over the Languedoc countryside. Joly gave us a brief description of the French wine region classification system and how it drives the terroir-driven wines.

Our day was capped with a real taste of history. Back in Montpellier, we toured Chateau Flaugergues.  The Colbert chateau was built at the end of the 17th century. Colbert was finance minister to French King Louis XIV. The “castle” remains in the family and is currently occupied by Count Henri Colbert  and his wife Brigitte. The working chateau and home is open to visitors and many of the original furniture, priceless tapestry, and other furnishings remain.

We finished off the visit – again under showers – with a tasting of the Flaugergues wines.

Monday the group has its big wine day starting off with a visit to the century-old historied Narbonne market. From there we’ll visit a winery for lunch and view of the sea, taste at powerhouse Gerard Bertrand, and wrap up with a third stop at one of the Languedoc’s best Cabernet wineries.

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