Montpellier toward the Rhone

Today we headed east from Montpellier toward the Rhone and a small appelation on the west side of that River called  Costières de Nîmes where Anne and Francois Collard make whites, roses and red wines, all redolent of the countryside. We’re just a few miles north or Arles, which is one of my favorite cities in France and one where Van Gogh did some of his most memorable work. We arrived in the morning so before tasting the products of their labors we took a 2 hour guided hike with Anne into the surrounding countryside, which besides grapes includes  orchards of peaches, apricots, cherries, many olive groves and wonderful brush covered hillsides that were unbelievably fragrant. We were experiencing the terroir in the very best sense, by walking though it it. Called the Garrigue it looks like scrub plants on stony soil, streaked with red for the iron it contains with patches for gray clay. As we climbed a gentle grade to some of the oldest vineyards on the property, with Grenache grapes planted 30 years ago by Collard’s father. Other grape growers then thought he was out of his mind because in that time the emphasis was on quantity, not quality. But thinking changed after the new apellation was carved out in 1986 and the elder Collard was instead a pioneer.

The aromas of the surrounding vegetation called out to us of wild thyme and rosemary, wild roses,fennel, garlic, mint and a beautiful yellow blooming bush some of us thought was gorse and others called broom But it turned out to be called Genet , at least in French, and some of us thought it smelled like vanilla.
On our walk we were  accompanied by a pair of border collies who obviously knew the way. When we got to talking and failed to turn where we should they reminded us, as any sheep-herding dog worth its salt would do.
By the time we returned to the chateau for our tasting, our senses had been educated to the aromas we would find in the wines.

It was an extraordinary experience and one that anyone can repeat. Although we preferred to walk to work off the calories awaiting us on this food an wine trip, others can choose to take the same excursion by bicycle or horse and carriage.

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