Friday, 15 November 2013

Domaine d'Arton - a beautiful, hidden corner of South West France - vineyards as far as the eye can see!

Domaine d'Arton

Patricks wonderful vines with crocuses in the foreground

If you travel with us to Gascony in South West France on one of our very special Cooking Holidays you will be privy to a very special treat - a visit to Domaine d'Arton, the home and vineyard of Patrick and Victoire de Montal. They are two of the most elegant and charming hosts I have ever had the pleasure of meeting - and I do not exaggerate! Whilst staying at Castelnau des Fieumarcon, the Authentic Adventures team were introduced to this wonderful place by Didier Billes, our host and local knowledge in Gers. We spent a morning exploring the estate and tasting the wines, as will you on your Cooking Holiday. It will be an experience you will take with you and remember for years. Excuse my lack of knowledge regarding wine - I am learning (slowly), and merely re-iterate the facts as recounted by Patrick!

Elegant interior of the drawing room

We weave through the hills, known as 'the Tuscany of France' and arrive at a very solid, but not ostentatious pair of iron gates, which slowly open to reveal a single track drive towards a beautiful, stone property surrounded by vivid, limey-green, healthy vines - forty hectares to be precise. It is a family run estate, planted and tended to for the past forty years by Patrick and his whole family. Every single grape grown in Domaine d'Arton goes into the bottles of wine, nothing is bought in from outside the estate. Seven different varieties of vines are grown, and blended together to create the delicious wines each year. How lucky we are, then, that Patrick supplies the wine for our guests at Castelnau des Fieumarcon, which you will taste and savour alongside the delicious food you will cook with Anneli Faiers. The wines will be carefully matched by Didier Billes, himself a knowledge on wines of the region, and he will provide a good and basic guide to Armagnac (white also) which is famous in this part of France.

Wine tasting (Patrick centre)

Armagnac - famous in this region of France, and made predominantly from the Ugni Blanc grape variety (because of its high acidity), in 400 litre oak casks at low temperatures. It creates a kind of 'eau de vie' and was first produced in 1310 - one of the oldest in the world. We sit, and chat to Patrick and enjoy his quiet, yet confident manner, supremely elegant, when suddenly two gun-shots ring out, "C'est la chasse," explains Patrick, "Hunting." He continues - "seven varieties of grape are grown here - merlot, syrah, cabernet sauvignon, colombard, sauvignon, petit monsant, gros montsant. Three grapes are used in producing red wine, and the remaining four for white." He is clearly passionate about his product, and we taste every single one, accompanied by delicious morsels of local food that are perfectly matched. For example, Patrick explains his white wines are perfect when drunk with fois gras, and surprisingly, Indian food! The sweet wines should be eaten with game. I feel priviledged to listen to his ideas regarding food and wine - I must remember to drink fine wines with fois gras at home (if only).

Wild croci carpet the lawns surrounding Domaine d'Arton

After much enjoyment and replete from wine, cheese, pate, fois gras.....we slowly walk around the estate in the morning sunshine. Victoire smiles - she is well versed at playing hostess - and leads us through her garden carpeted with tiny, violet crocuses left to grow wild. From a vantage point, we look down upon the vines that snake away in neat rows into the distance, each vine and grape carefully tended to. Vinotopia is a true art, a religion almost, every waking hour spent nurturing these precious vines.

John Brough tasting the product!

Wine with accompanying nibbles


The only way meet Patrick and enjoy his delicious wines is to join us on a Cooking Holiday at Castelnau des Fieumarcon! We still have places left on our convenient short breaks (three and four nights) in May and October. Order your brochure, email our office to express your interest, or give us a ring for an informal chat - we are so excited and passionate about our 'culinary experience' holidays. Places like this are what make Authentic Adventure holidays different from the rest - something special that you would never find on your own.

For more information about where you will stay and what you will learn on your holiday, go a little further back in this blog and delight at the interior shots of Castelnau.