Monday, June 22, 2015

A week of vineyards and wine!

Monday morning came early after the weekend in Barcelona with a 7 am bus ride to go visit the Abbaye de Fontfroide near Narbonne. The first part of the day was dedicated to touring the old Abbaye and learning the history behind the use of the building. Hundred of years ago, there was a cloister of around 15 {} monks and a couple hundred brothers. The monks and the brothers did not interact due to the monks vow of silence and since they were cloistered, and the two groups were separated into two different living courters. The brothers were in charge of working the land that the cloister owned where they grew much produce but focused mainly on wine. The building itself was beautiful and settled right up into the hills. The Church was lit by magnificent stained glass windows and the gardens on the groups were some of the most beautiful I have every seen. In the rose garden, I can now say I have officially found my favorite flower… it is a beautiful mix of soft pink and yellow and orange and smells so sweet and heavenly. The signed that marked it in the garden named it "Rose des Cisterciens (Delbard)"… I will be on the look out for more of these! After our tour we ventured into the old kitchen where we were treated to a wine tasting of three of their fabulous wines they produce there on sight. They had us try a Chardonnay, Rose, and a spicy red wine. Given this was our first tasting, we were  somewhat taught the proper way to taste and appreciate wine and began to learn what we should be looking for. It was fun, the wine was spectacular (especially the Rose) and I felt very fancy.

We then had a typical frustrating French lunch break (one where we finish eating in about 30 minutes yet wait around for TWO hours until we get back to business). After our forever lunch, we took a tour of the vineyard and the winery. Unfortunately, we hadn't had any viticulture classes yet so most of the details he was talking about went right ever my head. I still thoroughly enjoyed this visit and it made me very excited for the weeks ahead of me dedicated to learning all about wine. 
courtyard of the Abbeye

The fabulous wines we tasted

I found my favorite flowers!!!!

The vineyards

Today was our first lecture on viticulture! I find these classes very interesting and I hang onto every word in hopes that I learn it all. Our professor has a background in biochemistry and then went back to school at 40 for viticulture and flavor science. He has lived all over Europe and the states teaching and running vineyard and wineries. We have been learning all about wine from its chemical composition to the wine regions of France and the world. We have studies the anatomy of the vine and have gotten into the economics and details about the wine certifications and classifications. I am in awe about how much I have already been able to learn.

In the afternoon we had another winery visit and tour. This time, we went about an hour outside of Toulouse to the Cave de Fronton. This winery is a coop where multiple different vineyard send their grapes to this central winery where they are processed into wine. Compared to the winery we saw the day before, this one was much more industrialized and made for a larger production quantity. I was shocked though by the lack of concern having 30 people walk through the plant… there was no hairnets, not safety or sanitation line to stay behind and we were even left at one point to walk around and explore. I was standing over a fermentation tank and inches from their bottling line with no hairnet or any sanitation barrier. I found that very different from anything you would find in the states. After the tour, we were once again given a wine tasting. They served us four different wines: a very light Rose, a fruity red, a spicy malbec, and a super sweet Rose. My favorite was the first Rose called ines. It was a fun visit and when we got home, it was off to the market to stock up on my fruits and veggies and peanut butter to get me through the next two weeks.
the top of the wine fermentation vats

the single bottling line

the wines we tasted

In the morning we had another field trip to the Purpan experimental farm just outside the city. I was not a fan of this visit given that it had nothing to do with wine and I had very little interest in the farm. Yet, I did get to see dairy cows up close and personal for the first time in my life! They also had this super fancy milking machine that was all automated and allowed the cows to just walk up to it whenever they wanted to be milked. That seemed very human and cool. We then spent a few hours looking at corn and stevia and farm equipment… wooo. After lunch brought another French lesson trying my best to pick up anything I can and presenting a project we had been working on. After dinner, a group of us decided to go downtown and check out this big music festival happening in Toulouse this weekend called Rio Loco. Each day is themed with a different regions music with multiple acts playing on different stages. We got down there pretty late though on Wednesday and didn’t feel that it was going to be worth it to buy tickets for the hour we had left, so instead Lindsey, Audrey and I went and walk around the outside of the festival and enjoyed the music. It was very fun though and made me very excited to come back Thursday to actually go in! It was also a great place to people watch and observe the French people around us.
my new dairy cow friends
I took this on my phone. No filter. Toulouse is beautiful!

Two long lectures today in viticulture in the morning and French in the afternoon. After class was over, we made dinner and then headed down to the Rio Loco festival. Today's theme was America's and was all bands from central and South America. It was fabulous! The carnival atmosphere mixed with beautiful weather and entertaining friends lead to a sincerely enjoyable night. The Latino inspired music just begs to be danced too and the friends I was with were all for dancing! With a night of light, music and dancing outside, how could you not have fun! The good vibes around me were intoxicated and even though I could barley make out any of the Spanish being sung on stage, I could feel it. I loved every minute of it. One of the bands that I loved dancing to is called Bomba Estereo. Here is one of their songs if you feel so inclined:

There was one very strange occurrence in which some French lady tapped my shoulder mid set and shhhed me…. We are at a concert lady, why are you telling me to be quiet?! I am going to cheer for the band when I think they are good. It was strange and happened twice which was very weird. I don’t know if I will ever fully understand the French.  

Rio Loco!

What a week!

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