Shoshanna used to work for Michelin starred restaurants in England and wine and food pairing is an essential part of her life. She often had clients that requested information about the wine list and as time went by she decided that in order to better inform customers, she should take the extra step and further educate herself in wine and the regions these come from.
It started out as a very innocent learning experience that turned into a passion. Shoshanna continued with this passion during three years as a part time wine advisor with Oddbins in Wimbledon and it was during this time that I became very seriously involved with wine to the point of taking her WSET (The Wine and Spirits Education Trust).
Interview with Shoshanna:
When did you discover your passion for wine?
I used to work for Michelin starred restaurants in England and wine and food pairing is a very essential part of the job responsibilities even in my role as chef receptionist. I often had clients that requested information about the wine list and as time went by I decided that in order to advise my clients better it would be an excellent idea improve my knowledge of the wines and the regions that they came from as well as how certain grapes soil types etc. create the flavours of the wines. For example, the Chardonnay grape is a variety that is harvested throughout the world however depending on where it has grown; the wine whilst having the basic characteristics of Chardonnay will have a completely different expression and characteristic. It started out as a very innocent learning experience that turned into a passion. I continued with this passion during three years as a part time wine advisor with Odd bins in London and it was during this time that I became very seriously involved with wine to the point of taking my WSET (The Wine and Spirits Education Trust) Intermediate and Advanced examinations (recognised in 32 countries).
What are your key highlights of the Languedoc Roussillon wine region?
There are so many, it is the perfect region in many ways! Here a just a few highlights:
- It is estimated that one in ten bottles produced in the world in the 20th century came from this region so the choice of wines to discover is endless.
- Approximately 39,000 hectares of vines (four times that of Bordeaux).
- The region borders with Spain giving it a mix of Spanish culture intermingled with French tradition, the native dialect here is called Occitan which is a combination of French and Catalan.
- You could also take a trip on the famous UNESCO site, the Canal du Midi, explore the the vast areas of beautiful French countryside and seaside. Come and discover the Land of the Cathars and maybe you too, can get a taste of the magic of the first sparkling wine recipe that Dom Perignon brought back from the monks at St Hilaire.
- There are many eccentric wine producers here of all nationalities which add to the richness of the wines that are produced.
When are the best times to visit Languedoc Roussillon?
The region has many things to offer throughout the year, for truffles the best time is between November and February, be warned that in the mountains the winters can be quite cold and harsh with ice and snow which can be quite beautiful, however if it is gorgeous weather that you prefer the region boasts an average of 300 days of sunshine per year with temperatures rising to 35°C during the hot summer months. There are many festivals throughout the summer from gastronomy to music, something for everyone.
Do you have a personal favourite winery in the region and if so why?
L’Hospitalet - Gerard Bertrand - a former Rugbyman, he has four vineyards in the region but the most recommended would be the domaine 5 minutes from Narbonne Beach high in the mountains and with breath-taking views and mouth watering wines. There is also a restaurant and a hotel on the domaine. Also if you are a fan of Jazz there are dinners and Jazz concerts every Friday.
What is a traditional local wine and food pairing dish?
Cassoulet is probably one of the best known dishes in Languedoc Roussillon, this hearty mix of sausages, duck confit and white beans is very filling and therefore a good Syrah or a Merlot, however even a Rosé can be paired with this dish if desired.
Finally, what would be your top tips for the keen wine traveller?
Do not just go to visit the top well known wineries, if possible try to visit some of the smaller ones, there are some amazing producers that are not known outside of the region but they are creating some real beauties not to be missed. Basically try to go off the beaten path if possible.
Visiting a wine region is not just about trying the wine but also experiencing the culture and history, the history of a region plays a big part of how the production of wine evolved and continues to evolve. For example it was the Roman invasion that brought vines to France in the first place almost 2000 years ago. Understand the culture for a better understanding of the wines. There are many interesting stories behind the wines and each vineyard has one to tell.
Visit some of the local wine festivals if possible, this is the best way to see the locals in their most natural form. And it can be loads of fun, the locals love nothing better than a good celebration.
And most of all things move slowly here. Don't try to rush things - take the time to relax and enjoy!