I joined more than a thousand people in the Languedoc region of southern France yesterday afternoon at what must be one of the world’s ultimate walk-around wine tastings. Instead of being confined to a room, we hiked our way on a brilliantly sunny and windy day up and down the parched, gravelly trails of La Clape, a a sub-zone of the large Coteaux du Languedoc appellation not more than a couple of miles or so from the Mediterranean Sea. The area is known as a “garrigue,” a landscape of low scrubland on limestone soils, small slopes and plateaus. At this time of year it is already overgrown with wild herbs, including rosemary, thyme and juniper, as well as almond trees and fennel plants that practically trip you as you make your way up and down the dusty paths. All around these trails are vineyards, still light green, their grapes just beginning to form. A few months from now they will yield the fruit that defines this place -- grenache, mourvèdre, syrah, carignan and cinsault among the reds and rosés; grenache blanc, bourboulenc, roussanne, among others, for the whites.
In our three-and-a-half mile hike, there were six stops to be made, featuring six courses of food and anywhere from four to eight wines to be sampled at each. The dishes included a gazpacho of artichoke and fennel, a “marmalade” of eggplant and anchovies, a scallop and crayfish duo, a “parmentier” of duck confit and, of course, a little chèvre to round things out. At least 25 wines were served -- white, pink and red -- ranging from the rustic to the refined, and I will describe some of my favorites here in coming days. But for now, have a look at some of the photographs I took at this unique and memorable event.