Early in our life in France we stumbled upon the Chemin des Rêves and the then new winemaker Benoit Viot. At that time he and his wife Servane and their children lived in Grabels north-west of Montpellier. Now he has acquired vines in the little village of Saint Gély du Fesc, a bit further north with a view across the vines to the Pic Saint Loup and the magnificent cliff face of l'Hortus. Here he has built the caveau and cave, and also their family home in the middle of the vines, all to the highest ecological standards. When I saw him today he told me that he'd just completed their large sheltered terrace. A perfect spot at the edge of a fast-expanding village.
Benoit used to work for Boots (pharmaceutical company and pharmacy chain) in England and Spain, and made his first wine (of which he is not proud!) from one of their kits while he was living in Nottingham. His fairly short English experience has left him with a useful command of the language, so if you don't speak French, don't be put off visiting him.
His vineyards straddle the AOC areas of Pic Saint Loup and Grès de Montpellier. The name 'Chemin des Rêves' comes from the ancient footpath alongside one of hhis fist vineyards in the neighbouring village of Combaillaux. He makes excellent AOC wines including an inexpensive Côteaux du Languedoc called Bois-moi ('drink me' from the bottle of potion Alice used to change size in her adventures in Wonderland). Its lighter style reflects his love of his native Loire valley, and is unusual for a Languedoc red. Then there is a lovely trio of wines called Abracadbra - the red (one of my favourites today) and rosé are AOC Pic Saint Loup, as is the more sphisticated Gueule de Loup. But like many top winemakers in the Languedoc his most interesting wines are vins de pays, either because they include grape varieties such as cabernet sauvignon which are not in the Appellation Controlée regulations (Utopie 1, 2 and 3), or because they use a cobination of local varieities but in different proportions (The Saltimbanque is pure carignan).
We first tasted his wine at our favourite retaurant l'Authentic in Lunel, whose owners share our enthusiasm for these wines. When I met him yesterday Benoit had just heard that he is invited to England in July among a small group of French winemakers selected by Jancis Robinson as examples of excellence. He deserves it!
Rue du Grand Plantier - 34980 Saint Gély du Fesc
(Postal address not yet on GPS: 218, rue de la Syrah )
Phone 04 99 62 74 25 • 06 85 73 29 33