La grande dame des “wine critics”, Jancis Robinson, demande publiquement pour des expériences écrites sur les caves à vin indépendantes. Voici ma contribution. On m’a répondu: “thank you for a lovely and unusual wine shop review”. hm.

If wine were a seasonal symbol of life cycles – as in: 4 seasons in a lifetime or 4 seasons recurring over periods of time – then the knowledge about this extraordinary juice, about the workforce devoting their lives to it, about professional critics and most importantly about the wine world networks, is part of the “where and when” desire of wine itself. You mature, and as you do, some wines start tickling you. Make your tongue acquainted with taste and vocabulary. Make your conversation with experts worth the sweat. Make you at ease with what you yourself have to offer.

I had jumped into my parents’ car, in the hot spring of 2011, for a five-week tour in France. My wine career was 2 years old and I had been swallowing so much theory in my Brussels apartment that I had gotten deadly thirsty to see, to feel, to smell vineyards. After 7500 kilometres and 66 bottles in the trunk of a car without airconditioning, I arrived at a wine shop in Montpellier, where Agnes, a friend of mine, had invited me to discover the job of her life. Frédéric Jean-Jean (not the namesake who is president of the Languedoc interprofessional syndicate) welcomed me with open arms. I had never met him before. After he had put his hand on my forehead to take my temperature, he asked me how many bottles I had been collecting during my trip. “We have to get them out! They’re burning!” he shouted in such an irresistible French that I didn’t stop him taking all of the boxes out, to put them in his tiny backward cellar. Frédéric allows his bottles to live in the best possible conditions. His shop must have been the cosiest, most filled “cave” I have come across ever since.

That evening – coincidentally the wine shop celebrated its 10 years existence – I met some of the people I got to admire endlessly. Chefs-sommeliers, producers, wine journalists, clients and amateurs of “fine Languedoc wines” which is the speciality of the shop. The wines I discovered that evening thanks to the people I was introduced to… I had matured, it seemed, and ready for a step beyond what I had been doing so far.

The shop is called “Cave des Arceaux” and is located on Rue Marioge 7, 34000 Montpellier, France.