A Visit to Vincent Carême, 2010

I have long extolled the virtues of visiting vineyards and meeting vignerons, glorious days out which can foster a deeper understanding of the people and their wines, and thus enhance the joy we can find in the glass. It can be difficult at times though, especially in France, where for some of us étrangers there will naturally be a language barrier. But it is not just the lack of a common language that can make visits difficult; some of the Loire’s luddites seem to hide in unseen isolation, their lives unfettered by something so bothersome as email and their telephone is permanently switched onto answer phone. Your beautifully-enunciated messages are never returned, and your letters also go unanswered.

None of this applies to Vincent Carême (pictured below, although on a much later visit when I went to check out the harvest) and his wife Tania, of course. Vincent has spent some time working in South Africa and Tania, who is South African by birth has English as her first language. Language, check! They are pretty easy to track down, as their number is listed in the French telephone directory. Telephone, check! They have no website, but they certainly have a public face online, having opted instead for a Facebook page. Internet presence, check! And while this readiness to be identified, located and contacted might make Vincent and Tania ineligible for membership of the Grand Confrérie des Luddites de la Loire (président Nady Foucault, président-désigné Philippe Foreau), it does mean that those of us who wish to get to know the wines can do so. The Carêmes, unhampered by confrérie committee matters, can dedicate more time to communicating with customers, wine drinkers and – heavens above – the wine press.

And so – having made an appointment by email – I drew up outside the domaine one sunny July afternoon. Unsure where to park I continued up the lane alongside the property only to find it led nowhere useful, and then in attempting to turn my capacious vehicle around where the lane widened very slightly I very nearly ended up straddling a low brick wall, the sloped gate entrance I was using to turn propelling me unexpectedly towards it (or perhaps onto it, or even through it). Fortunately I hit the brake in time and avoided what would certainly have been an embarrassing predicament – and perhaps also an expensive repair – in the process. Returning to the threshold of the domaine I found Vincent who opened the gates and beckoned me and my vehicle within. Had he just seen my acrobatic display of driving around the corner from his house I suspect he might not have been so eager, especially as his limping, geriatric dog – a beautiful, pale-golden labrador – made such an easy target.

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