What a pleasure it was to plan and share two days of Carcassonne Wine Excursions for 25 Chevaliers du Tastevin from Los Angeles!

The Chevaliers travel to France every year in January to participate in Burgundy’s feast day of St. Vincent (La Saint Vincent Tournante), celebrating the patron saint of wine growers.

In their 22 years of traveling to France, this is the first time they added our region, Languedoc–Roussillon, to their itinerary, and it was so much fun to plan their two-day experience and share in the fun!

Part one of Day One, January 21, 2020 – Lunch and regional food and wine education at Maison du Rire, Coustouge

A highlight of our first day (actually, a highlight of the two days) was our visit to the 100-person village of Coustouge, and Emma Kershaw’s Maison du Rire (House of Laughter) for an amazing lunch and education about the food and wines of Languedoc-Roussillon.

Emma Kershaw in her Maison du Rire Carcassonne Wine Excursions
Here’s a great photo of Emma that I took when I first met her in November, at her home and wine school.

Emma, who holds a diploma from the prestigious Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) from Britain and teaches classes on world wines and gastronomy, treated us to a delectable and educational two-hour five-course food and wine tour of Languedoc-Roussillon.

Emma Kershaw teaching the Chevaliers in the sitting room of Maison du Rire during a Carcassonne Wine Excursion
Emma and the 25 Chevaliers in her teaching salon. The Chevaliers took a lot of notes – a sign that they really enjoyed it!

Emma of course chose our six wines, and prepared all the dishes herself with local, seasonal ingredients. During and after the experience, the Chevaliers raved about the wines, the pairings, and the in-depth education she shared about the foods, wines, and terroirs of our region.

Where and when did sparkling wine originate?

Our first glass of wine: Emma chose Domaine Antech Cuvée Reserve AOP Blanquette de Limoux for our aperitif. People – including these very knowledgeable Chevaliers – are always surprised to learn that Blanquette de Limoux is the first sparkling white wine produced in France, created more than 150 years before Dom Perignon allegedly tasted the stars.

Above: Antech Blanquette de Limoux, and Abbey of Saint-Hilaire where the method of creating sparkling wine was first recorded in 1531. (Dom Pérignon brought this method back to Champagne in 1693 – 162 years later!)

Then on to our first course:

Black radish Carpaccio with fennel, marinated in radish pesto; mussel croquettes Carcassonne Wine Excursion
Black radish carpaccio with fennel, marinated in radish pesto; mussel croquettes. Paired with La Croix Gratiot Picpoul, AOP Picpoul de Pinet

Chevaliers learning about Languedoc-Roussillon food and wine from Emma Kershaw in her salon Carcassonne Wine Excursion

Our second course:

Cod served on walnut toast and goat cheese Carcassonne Wine Excursions
Cod soaked in milk and pounded, served on walnut toast, with a goat cheese from very near Emma’s village. Paired with Domaine de Deux Clés, Jeu des Clés, Vin de France

Emma Kershaw teaching with a map of Languedoc-Rousillon Carcassonne Wine Excursions

Our third course:

Top to bottom: Chicken liver pate, local sausisson, Catalan sausage at Emma Kershaw's Maison du Rire Carcassonne Wine Excursions
Top to bottom: Chicken liver pâté, local saucisson, Catalan sausage. Paired with Laurent Miquel Connemara, AOP St Chinian

The family who makes the Connemara wine that we enjoyed with the above course has been making wine since the 1200s!

Map of Languedoc Wine Region Carcassonne Wine Excursions

Our fourth course: Sadly, I didn’t take a photo of a favorite dish – Wild slow-roasted boar, poached in wine and roasted overnight. Emma paired it with an Olivier Pithon, Le Pilou, IGP Côtes de Catalanes.

Our fifth course:

Blue cheese and Pain de Piece with carmelized apples Carcassonne Wine Excursions
100% cow milk Blue Cheese from the Briola Farm, and Pain d’Epices (spice cake) with caramelized apples. Paired with Château Montner Rivesaltes Ambré, AOP Rivesaltes VDN.

Two interesting notes about our fifth course, above. Our region is too dry for cows, so the vast majority of cheeses from here are goat cheeses. The cheese above is, as Emma said, “the only cheese that comes from cows in the region.”

And another interesting note – the wine she served is a fortified wine from the region that predates Port by 500 years!

Chris serving wine to a Chevalier at Emma Kershaw's Maison du Rire Carcassonne Wine Excursions
Emma’s husband Chris managed the wine service, and Emma brought in two additional experts to help serve.

The Chevaliers absolutely loved it. Here are some of the comments that I heard, and that they shared on our evaluations:

“This is a gourmet experience. This is the real deal.”

“We eat well as a group, and this will go down as one of the great eating experiences of our group.” “To meet someone like her is an uncommon experience in life.” “Unbelievable, “ talking about the pairings. “An eye opening education.” “We’ll be talking about this forever.” “Quite an adventure.” “Wonderful tutorial.” “Emma gets a 10.” “Wonderful tasting and lunch.” “Excellent.” “Fabulous.” “Great presentation.” “Wonderful pairings, outstanding in all ways.” “Wow.”

I’ve shared a little more information about Emma toward the bottom of this post.

Walking Tour of La Cité

Before going to Emma’s, we started the day with a guided walking tour of La Cité, Carcassonne’s medieval walled city, including a visit to the Basilica of Saints Nazarius and Celsus, and a walk throughout the city and in between the walls.

Chevaliers listening to a guided tour in Carcassonne's Basilica of Saints Nazarius and Celsus Carcassonne Wine Excursions
The Chevaliers inside Carcassonne’s Basilica of Saints Nazarius and Celsus

Chevaliers and their tour guide inside Carcassonne's Basilica Carcassonne Wine Excursions

Cevaliers and tour guide during walk along Carcassonne's ramparts Carcassonne Wine Excursions
Touring between the ramparts.

In my next posts I’ll share the rest of Day One, and also Day 2 of our Carcassonne Wine Excursions.

Here’s our complete itinerary:

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

  • Walking tour of La Cité
  • Emma Kershaw’s Maison du Rire, Coustouge – 5-course food and wine pairing
  • Gerard Bertrand – tasting of 7 wines, and intronisation of two Chevaliers into the Confrérie de Septimanie of Narbonne, La Clape and Quatourze (a respected local wine organization)
  • Dinner – Comte Roger, within the walled city

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

  • Domaine la Tour Boisée – Wine tasting
  • Domaine Gayda – Tour and Lunch
  • Château Pennautier – Tour, Acapella Choir, Wine Tasting, Dinner

A little more about Emma Kershaw and her tastings

Emma and her husband Chris moved to Coustouge, in the Corbières region of Languedoc-Roussillon, in 2008 and lovingly converted an old winery, built in the 1700s, into their home and wine school La Maison du Rire. She offers luncheons of wines paired with small courses; a day of cooking lessons and wine, and various weekend breaks. She also offers private tastings for lunch or dinner in your home or lodging for a minimum of 8 people.

Coustouge is about an hour’s drive from Carcassonne along lovely country roads, or about 40 minutes along the motorway. One definitely needs to have a car to go there, but the experience is worth it. https://www.lamaisondurire.com/


1 Comment