Of history and wine

Our major trip while we were at Le Pas Opton was an all-day outing centred on wine and history … and a great deal of eating!
We began in the town of Clisson which, on first sight, looked like a backwater. It turned out however to have quite a history, having been named after Olivier IV de Clisson who, at one point, was the second most powerful man in all France.
(The town is also twinned with Cowbridge, just outside Cardiff. That’s absolutely nothing to do with our visit but allows me to get a mention of Wales in!!)

Apart from places to get coffee, and apparently lots of places to buy women’s shoes, there was nothing much to do except visitthe chateau so we did and at 2€20 each it was pretty good value.
The views fro the battlements were excellent, especially of the Eglise Notre Dame on the other side of the river. The town is at the confluence of the Sèvre Nantaise and the Moine so was a strategic point in the Vendeen wars in the 1790s.
From Clisson it was on to Domaine Des Croix, the family vineyard run by Josiane and Joseph Batard not far from Clisson.
Any thoughts of this being a wander along a few vines were dispelled the moment the minibus pulled into the farmyard. The welcome drink was a glass of sparkling muscadet to get us ready for a feast!
We looked at the vines and were given full details on how the crop developed – this is basically a two-person operation with a bit of extra help. Joseph and his employee deal with seven acres and 17,000 vines to produce their different types of muscadet.
It was fascinating to see the care and attention to detail needed to produce high-quality white wine.
Then we sat down to the kind of lunch that farm workers would have. The food kept coming: bread, pate (pork and duck), rillette, saucissions, ham, cheese – and samples of all the other wines available from Domaine Des Croix.
Just when we thought we couldn’t eat any more, out came cake – two types – and jam, followed by coffee and tea.
All the time, as Josiane told us about their life at the vineyard, there was a sense of her total commitment to what has to be done to preserve this way of French life. You could tell it was so important to her.
Martine, our delightful Spring Harvest minibus driver, told us that the vineyard had been chosen particularly because its name – with reference to Des Croix, the crosses, in it – referred to a period of French history when nuns in the area had been persecuted for their faith.

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