Today, myself and most of the other Erasmus students at our uni in Toulouse decided to avoid the thoughts of impending exams by taking a short trip to Gaillac for a wine tasting and meal. Located in the Tarn department of the region of Occitanie, Gaillac is a small town that has become well known in part thanks to the wines it produces at its vineyards. We were able to visit Domaine Saint Laurent de Saurs, which produces 7 different wines and not just one type: it makes red, rosé and white! It was a lovely visit and we learnt and tasted a lot!
A quick tour was first on the itinerary, and we had a comprehensive look into the winemaking process at the vineyard. A short walk past some of the vines and we were shown the large yellow machine which collects the mature grapes from the vines. One of the managers explained to us that the machine is efficient because not only does it mean that the grapes do not need to be picked manually, but also because it can work at night. This is important because to make the white and rosé wines here, it is important that the grapes are harvested when temperatures are lower. Fresh, crisp nights and hot days therefore provide a great climate to the grapes growing here. As you can see in the picture of the machine below, the vines enter through the lower part of the machine as it moves along the rows, and the grapes are pulled from either side to be pressed and fermented.
It was interesting to learn a bit more about the process of making different types of wine. I had previously thought that different grapes were used for white and rosé than for red, when in reality the same type can be used. The difference is that for white and rosé, only the juice is used for the process whereas for red wine, the skins are kept to add colour to the wine so that it retains its deep red hue. The vineyard also produces champagne, using a more complicated process of natural gas fermentation and freezing to remove debris from the top of the bottle that is naturally created during fermentation. It was great to see the different machines and vats used for storage and different processes, and find out a lot more about it all, and all in French!
After the tour came the tasting! This was definitely what I was most excited about, as we got to try about 7-8 different wines which was fantastic! It’s so nice to try wines that are produced there at the vineyard, and I feel like although I’m no connoisseur I’m finally beginning to properly get different flavours from different wines and respond more than just “yes, that’s wine” when someone asks me what it tastes like. My personal favourites were the dessert white wine and the sweet rosé, but all in all they were all really lovely as you can tell by my happy face in one of the pictures below. A LOT of wine later (no spitting was involved here), it was definitely time for some food. Enjoy this small collage below of some less than inventive shots of various wine glasses; I actually only just added that one of my face at the end for a tiny bit of image variation.
As part of the inclusive trip organised by our uni association, we got a freshly prepared three course meal included in the day, with many of the dishes served by the sweetest young helpers who must’ve been under 11 years old! They could definitely carry more plates than me. On our long banquet tables complete with baguettes and (more) table wine, we were treated to a salad, barbecued sausages and veg and some ice cream and it was the perfect way to end a lovely visit. We spent the next part of the afternoon lounging in the sun outside the main building, and it was just such a relaxing day. I’m so grateful to the lovely owners at the wine farm who gave us such a great welcome, tour, tasting and lunch!
As you can see, we had great weather for fleeing the city and rediscovering the countryside. Every time I get back into the rural France, I remember just how incredibly beautiful it is – I could spend such a long time walking around the fields and trees because it’s just so calm and relaxed! I can’t wait to spend more time in the South of France in the future, and hopefully visit more towns and places in the area. Stay tuned for a post soon about another village we visited on the same day: one of the prettiest in France!