Posts tagged: English

Toques et Clochers Gala with Massimiliano Alajmo – Love That Languedoc Episode 58

This is part of the continued coverage of Toques et Clochers, the Sieur d’Arques auction in Limoux that raises funds to rennovate local churches each year. Thanks to Sud de France Export for inviting me to the event and even getting me a seat at the super exclusive gala dinner. Video at the bottom of the page!

The even lasts a few days. On Saturday, the town whose churchtower is being redone becomes an open air festival. This year, sleepy mountain town Couiza welcomed some 50,000+ visitors through the winding village roads to enjoy several thousand liters of Chardonnay. It’s really surreal to see these little villages roped off (traffic is rerouted to go around the village and you can only access it by buses from other neighboring towns) and flooded by sooo many festive spirits.

couiza parade

It’s the kind of event that defies logic. And the fact that it’s organized in a different village each year means they have to redo all the logistics from scratch. Nothing is the same year to year. A very impressive event on a scale that independent producers like me could never accomplish even if united.

toques et clochers auction hallBut the moment that defines the event is the auction on Sunday where bidders will raise their paddles and buy up limited runs of wine in barrel. There’s a big tasting so that everybody can pick their favorite barrels of wine for the vintage. Then there’s a long auction where 80 lots are sold and people bid on wine. Some are there just to support the event and the rennovation. Others are shrewdly trying to grab the best deals because there are some real pearls that you can uncover in the tasting. So the most devoted tasters who spend all morning researching will have an opportunity to buy barrels that the casual visitors didn’t discover. The average barrel price was 4,500 Euro or so this year. The highest bid was about 6,400 Euro, as I recall.

And then we celebrate with a massive dinner. As the French are wont to do.

This video is a presentation of the dishes, the wine pairings, and a musical accompaniment for each course. Nice. In English and French since this is a very International crowd. Only a few hundred people get to attend the gala and it’s a pleasure to bring you behind closed doors to see all the yummy treats and wines and dancing clowns(?!) that bring this event to a close so delightfully.

toques et clochers gala clowns

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Who is Ryan O’Connell

Ryan O’Connell, host of Love That Languedoc, is a winemaker in the south of France.

Ryan is a self-professed ascended fanboy who has been making wine since he was nineteen.  He has won the recognition of the Guide Hachette, Revue du Vin de France, Bettane et Desseauve, Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, Wall Street Journal: Europe, and

In 2009, Ryan founded Love That Languedoc, a website devoted to talking about the region he lives in and the  producers who influence his work.  He has interviewed legendary winemakers like Aime Guibert of Mas de Daumas Gassac and Claude Gros who has made many of the region’s most prestigious cult wines like La Negly, La Peira, and more. Whether he’s pigging out at a Michelin-starred restaurant or attending an exclusive trade show, Ryan’s goal is to capture the spirit of the region and serve it up to his friends online.

In 2010, Ryan started a campaign to train other winemakers and agricultural producers to use web tools that work for his winery. A champion of rural web technology, Ryan believes that agriculture and other rural businesses need to have their own personalized approach to web marketing.

Ryan is proud to live in the Languedoc and to have the support of so many great individuals and institutions in this part of the world.

If you want to get in touch with Ryan, it’s as easy as sending him an email or reaching out on sites like Twitter and Facebook.  He’s happy to hear from you.

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Toques et Clochers Wine Auction Sells Barrel on Twitter

The commissaire priseur closed the bidding and announced that the barrel had been won by… Twitter? Did I hear that right? So I approached the Dutchman who claims to have been bidding on behalf of Twitter and by golly, I did hear right.

Gilles Faëlens explains how Bacchantes represented Twitter-ers at the auction:

Basically, they tweeted about Toques et Clochers, the famous wine auction that helps rennovate church towers in the sleepy south of France. The tweet said they’d be down in Limoux bidding on barrels and asked if anybody was interested in buying part of a barrel. The overwhelming response from Holland alone allowed them to buy an entire barrel, pre-sold. Nice!

This is a great story because Twitter-users are combining forces and using hyperspeed communication technology to participate in an event that is normally very exclusive. And they’re saving a part of our rural French landscape in the process. Way to go to tweeters.

@cunovanthoff is the actual Twitter account that roiled up all this support. But it’s hard to tell since he’s tweeting in Dutch.


I’ll follow up with more about Toques et Clochers 2010 VERY SOON.

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WWOOFing at Domaine Baillat – Love That Languedoc episode 56

I visited Christian Baillat in the Corbieres who makes some excellent natural wines.  He also gave his wwoofers a chance to appear in the episode, and we talk a little about this unique way to travel the world and experience agricultural lifestyles.

The wine is really great and I explore a side of the Corbieres that we haven’t really seen on the blog yet.  It’s a rustic setting, but no rusticity in the wine.  Instead of playing on those barnyard qualities, there’s some smooth red fruit and a good bit of structure.  I could easily confuse some of his top cuvées with wine from my own area in the Cabardes.

And Christian Baillat is a cool guy with a sort of spiritualist, hippy vibe to him.  He believes in natural winemaking and treating the plants with the respect that every living organism deserves.  I don’t think he’s certified biodynamic, but he sounds like he believes in that fanatical level of micromanagement with a pince of magic.  He treats his vineyard more like a native-plant garden than a monoculture.

If you want a taste of the life of a winemaker, wwoofing is a very interesting way to do it.  You volunteer to work for a little less than full time and you get lodged and fed and wined.  And then you have time to visit the countryside or go to town ocassionally.  It’s really neat.  Look it up.  Or email me about it.  WWOOFing is technically an organic program and only works with certifiied organic growers.  If you don’t care about organic or have other specifications, you should email me and I’ll put you in touch with people who like to do this kind of thing.

I apologize for how slow things have been on the site. To explain briefly, the website is way more popular than I had ever expected. THANK YOU FOR VISITING AND MAKING THAT TRUE.  We just hit our 10,000th view last week, and I am grateful for every single one of your clicks and minutes spent on the site.  However, I am hitting some of the limits on the free accounts at pages like and now I need to figure out a way to expand.  Stay tuned. Things will only get bigger and better.  And thanks for your patience and thanks for liking this website and for loving that languedoc!

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