Wine and Tapas at La Maison du Rire

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Through both Languedoc Living (great site by and for anglophones in Languedoc) and friends who live in Quarante, we learned about Emma Kershaw’s wine and tapas tasting event. On a pleasantly cool July day we drove about an hour deep into the Corbières mountains to the tiny village of Coustouge. There we found La Maison du Rire (The House of Laughter), and a smiling and laughing Emma at its front door.

She welcomed us all (we from Carcassonne and our friends from Quarante) into her house. Outside, the house looks like a modest stone village building. Like the Tardis (for the Dr Who fans), it is much bigger on the inside. She told us that she and her wood-working (ebéniste et menuisier) husband, Chris, had gutted all three stories of the 19th-century building. They reconstructed it with large airy rooms, massive renovated exposed beams, and beautiful wood bannisters, windows, doors, tables, cabinets and countertops. Emma welcomed us to a handsome set table next to her open kitchen.

She started by orienting us to the Languedoc Roussillon region (in which we live!). Languedoc Roussillon is a formidable producer of good wines. We also learned about the earliest history of the region, as well as the ups, downs and ups in the 19th and 20th centuries.

After a bit of history, Emma turned to our mouths. Simply and elegantly, she helped us experience the taste zones on our tongues and in our mouths. We have to be more conscious about how we taste in order to optimize our enjoyment of the wines and tapas to come.

Emma’s humorous and energetic style made all this information more than palatable. Happily, she didn’t delay too long getting to the wine and food. I won’t and can’t describe the tastes and aromas of the wines and foods she shared with us. (You’ll just have to come experience this yourself!). With each wine (one sparkling, two whites, one gastronomic rosé, three dry reds, one sweet red), Emma helped us articulate the aromas (nose) and tastes. She explained how the wine was made, where it came from, and the goals and passions of each winemaker.

Then she brought in plates of tapas that she had prepared specifically to demonstrate how the food can marry well with each specific wine. For example, the tart and slightly salty plate of local lucque olives, conserved garlic (l’ail confit), and tapenade enhanced the citrusy sparkling Blanquette de Limoux. (By the way, if you have a source for sparkling wines from Limoux, you will find delightfully fresh and affordable alternatives to Champagne.)

Here are the wines we tasted.

When Emma said that there are over 21,000 wine producers in Languedoc Roussillon, we asked for her advice about how might approach such a daunting quantity of sources and wines. Sensibly, she said that we can take advantage of the numerous wine festivals, dégustations (tastings), wine walks (events during which you hike through vineyards from winery to winery, enjoying food and wine at each stop), and talking with our local caviste (wine shop person).

This is the kind of homework that like to do!