Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Chateau Maravenne

Back to France again, and back to... near La Londe, at the western end of the Massif des Maures, is Chateau Maravenne. Last August, late one afternoon, we stumbled upon it by chance when we were looking for a room. We'd spent the day near Cabasson at a beach (rustic, with white sand, and half-empty except for families with sandpails and shovels). Afterward, we decided to stay nearby rather than push on, and so we scanned phone book listings. The Chateau, a mile or two north of a light industrial park, was an old manor house, half-renovated, half shambolic, and set among vineyards. More about those vineyards in a moment.

Yes, they had a room, said Luc, a hulking mustachioed Provencal in shorts and flip-flops.

Was there somewhere we could eat?

He squinted and held up a knife... a paring knife. In his other hand was peach, a spiral of peach-skin hanging down from it.

After stowing our bags in a room upstairs, showering, a moment relaxing on the terrace outside our room, we took one of the half dozen tables in the garden. We ordered a bottle of rose, a product of those vines nearby. Fifteen euros and superb. Photo from my phone of that bottle at the end of the meal posted above. The plan offered bread with olive and anchovy spreads, home-made gravlax with creme fraiche, then osso buco Provencal... with local herbs as well as orange peel, and then tarte tatin. Twenty euros.

The next morning, before departure, browsing down among the wine barrels, we saw a farmer fill up a large plastic container from what looked like a gasoline hose in the wall. Two gallons of red to go.

We'd soon be staying with friends in Plascassier, and so bought them a bottle of the Reserve, twelve euros. That evening our copains kindly opened our gift and shared it out. Our host, after the first taste, pulled a face, as if he wished he'd put it back for himself rather than shared it out immediately.

Very good, he said. Yes, very good.