I’m always curious about where the wines I drink come from. I like to get as much information as I can to help me understand more about, among other things, the practical results of “terroir”. When it comes to a table wine, though, there is often a lack of info about where the grapes were grown beyond a very general description. So then I look at the winemaker and where they are located.
Carte du diocèse de Béziers
This inexpensive import is made by the company La Caumette SARL in Béziers, France. Looking at it on a map, I see that it is just a few kilometers from the Meditarranean coast in the Languedoc region. What does that tell me? Well … I’m not sure that it tells me anything. But as I look over the map of southern France, it does remind me of something. Something I’d rather forget but somehow can’t seem to shake the memory of.
Give me a few moments of your time, and I’ll share with you a tale of trouble, calamity and woe. A tale that is seared into my memory banks like burnt cheese on a frying pan.
photo by Sven Storbeck
When I was a young boy – 5 years old – my family was living in Europe. While there, my father did his best to expose his American children to as much of the Continental culture as he could. We managed to see quite a bit as we camped our way across western Europe. Oh yes! We had a VW camper, a pup tent, a camping stove, sleeping bags, etc. Each trip was an adventure.
Let me say first that we had some great times on our treks. On one of our trips through France I learned how to swim at the campground pool. But that place was not on the southern coast. Thinking back now, I can’t recall exactly where on the coast of France we pitched our tent. Was it near Nice, Marseille, Montpellier, Narbonne? I just can’t say.
photo by Lewis Clarke
What I can say is that once settled in at our campground, we decided to visit the local public beach. My first surprise – the beach was pebbly not sandy. Very big pebbles, too, for a little guy of five shod in flip flops. Then there was the smell. This beach had a very pungent odor – fish, seaweed, and something else. So far, I wasn’t especially thrilled with this outing. I hung with my family, of course. It’s not like I could get anywhere by myself. Five years old, didn’t know the area, didn’t know the language.
Eventually, nature called, and I had to make my way to the restroom. The very old, very well-used, public restroom. For some reason, I was wary going into this facility. Once inside, though, I saw they had individual stalls. I quickly disappeared into one and locked the door behind me. When I turned around from locking the door, what I found took the breath out of me – literally.
I was facing a behemoth of a urinal. Beginning at floor level, it was almost twice as tall and wider than me. It was stained and cracked. The large drain hole didn’t have any cover over it, and from it’s mouth escaped an odor that made my nose burn. Given that I had business to take care of, I screwed up my courage and approached it’s gaping maw. Everything proceeded handily until, preparing to leave, I had to shift my weight slightly. Unfortunately, around the base of the porcelain monolith the uneven cement floor was slick. One small shift, and my world was turned upside down.
photo by Bjørn Christian Tørrissen
In a split second, my left foot slid forward and into the jaws of this horrible beast. It was inside the hole, not above it. As soon as I realized my situation, I yanked my foot out of the blackness. In so doing, however, my flip flop caught on the edge of the nasty mouth and was ripped from my foot. My shoe fell forever into that horrid darkness. Now in a hurry to retreat, I turned and unlatched the stall. But it didn’t budge. The latch remained perfectly in place to keep everyone else out … and me in. I looked around for another way out. Maybe I could crawl under the stall door? No! The door and walls went all the way to the ground. I looked up, but at five I couldn’t have scaled a normal-sized stall. And this stall was much taller than any I’d seen before. So I tried the latch again. And again. Finally, having run out of options, I yelled. A cry for help to any good Samaritan who might be passing by.
As luck would have it, my sister was just coming out of the women’s restroom. She bolted to my parents and explained that I was trapped. Trapped by a nefarious French commode. And so my father came to assess the situation. Ever the logician, he asked me to try the latch again. Again? All right! One more time — to no avail. And that was it! I had put on a brave face walking across huge pebbles in nothing but flip flops. I had faced the crusty, crumbling porcelain demon alone. I had been attacked by the demon and lost a flip flop – almost lost a foot, in my mind. I had tried to escape on my own. Had tried the latch many, many times. So rose in me the anger, the frustration, and the howl of a cornered animal.
In a matter of seconds I heard scrabbling and scraping and scratching. Then I saw the stall walls shake ever so slightly. I looked above me to see my father clambering over the very high walls of my prison. Climbing down to join me in my dark cubicle. Then he was pulling hard – very hard – and releasing the latch that had secured the stall door. And I was free of that wretched adventure!
I have plenty of marvelous memories from France and our time in Europe. But this day, this one day in the south of France. This is still a day of trouble, calamity, and woe. On my bucket list is another trip to France’s southern coast – Provence or perhaps Languedoc – to make a new memory and banish this 5-year-old’s day at the beach. In the meantime, though, I think I’ll have another glass of wine.
Winemaker: La Caumette
Wine: L’Authentique Red Table Wine
Varietal: Red Blend
Price: $4.99 at Trader Joe’s
Notes: The La Caumette red blend was dark purple in the glass. The bouquet held scents of earth, dark berries and pepper. It was a light-bodied selection with a slightly velvety feel in the mouth, mild tannins and good acidity. Alcohol was 13%. On the palate I found earth, dark cherry and blackberry, oak, a hint of licorice and bitter eucalyptus on the finish. Really not a bad wine for the price. It was light, yes. It was definitely light. But that might be just what you’re looking for.
This post is part of a monthly wine blog challenge. Begun by wine blogger extraordinaire the drunken cyclist, this month’s challenge has been issued by The Armchair Sommelier who won the transportation-themed challenge. The theme for this month’s challenge? Trouble.
Important: I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur. See “About” for the full disclaimer.