Château de Sainte-Mère and Lectoure Pastel

After their AGM, members were taken on a tour of the Château de Sainte-Mère by its owner, Piers Killeen (centre stage above). Already widely known by music lovers for the quality of the concerts he arranges every year on the site, Piers is working hard at the restoration of the 13th century building, discouraged less by bad weather than by the seemingly endless and often contradictory hurdles put in his path by bureaucrats. A paradox, when you think of all the fine buildings we admire today and which, over the centuries, have been restored, added to or even completely rebuilt on the foundations of previous ones.
After lunch, a smaller group visited the Bleu de Lectoure, a revival of the medieval technique of producing blue dye from a plant known in the south of France as “pastel”,and in northern climes (including Great Britain) as woad. As a surprise bonus, Chris Boddington gave us a rousing version of The Ancient Britons’ Woad Song.

Domaine du Garinet Visit

On a hot 21st July, a group of over twenty members and friends assembled to visit Mike and Sue Spring’s vineyard at Domaine du Garinet in the north-west Lot. This is a 2.5Ha vineyard with distinct parcels of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and the classic Cahors Malbec. Walking through the tall vines, Mike and Sue explained how they had carefully researched their project before acquiring the vineyard and the challenges they face to produce wines. These obviously met with the group’s approval (without any pressure on their part). This year’s vendange will be late, but we were tasting still the 2003-5 reds, so it will be some time before the 2013 Malbecs (100%) come on stream.

No OUS event is complete without a lunch, this time a convivial,  inexpensive and filling five courses in St. Matré. Thanks our due to Sue and John Baylis (our chairman) for organising the visit.

Lherm Lavender Farm

A number of members and guests recently visited the Lavender Farm at Lherm. After a warm welcome and presentations in front of the lavender from both Suzie and Ian, we sat down to a fine tea whilst watching Ian complete the distillation process. Recommended – do call in advance, though. You might also consider a visit to the nearby restaurant, La Recréation, at Les Arques, if the weather is good enough to sit outside.

Ian demonstrates his harvesting machinery
Ian demonstrates his machinery (photo Pip)

What’s It All About, Albi

Richard O’Neill (Treasurer) kindly organised our visit to Albi on 17th May. Given the dismal May weather, our group of 16 were blessed by a sunny, rain-free day, starting inside, of course, with a fine lunch at La Temporalité, itself sandwiched in between the Cathedral and the newly-extended Toulouse-Lautrec Museum. We were detained longer than perhaps expected by this artist’s extraordinary draughtsmanship. The massive exterior of the Cathedral (supposedly the largest brick building in the world) didn’t seem particularly beckoning, but the interior is as rich as the exterior is austere. It has a particularly compelling representation of hell (and above) and amazingly well-preserved 16th-century painted vaulting and chapels. The boat-trip on the Tarn would have been positively dangerous given the state of the river after our May rains, but it didn’t really matter. A splendid day out: see our snapshots below.



The Cathedral from the Museum


A Stern Warning to all Transgressors
The uninviting Tarn from the Museum

Madrid 2013

Our Chairman, John Baylis, and Treasurer, Richard O’Neill attended the European Reunion for alumni in Madrid. Photo courtesy of Jo Whiting. John is also seen at the Trinity College dinner. This was hosted by Greg Timofiejew (Oxford and Cambridge Society of Poland and Oxford and Cambridge Dining Club of Geneva), seen to the right of John and left of Jackie Hruby, the Alumni Office organiser.

2013 European Reunion - Friday Dinner (1)


Alice in Wonderland

Friday 19th April saw 18 OUS members and guests assembling at Château Pierrail, near 33220 Margueron, for a tour of the well-designed gardens, the winery and tastings of the fine Bordeaux Superior wines produced here. Alice and Jacques Demonchaux took on this beautiful once-baronial 17 C residence with 70 hectares of vines in 1970 and today it is a magnificent private estate producing first-class wines sold to restaurants throughout Europe.

Among the party was OUS Branch Secretary from Perth, Australia, Roger Winwood, seen here with our Chairman John Baylis and Secretary Marion Tempé.

Lunch was enjoyed at the Relais de Monestier before most of us drove to Allemans du Dropt, there to be suitably impressed by the 15 C frescoes in the church of Saint Eutrope, then relax with a cup of tea chez Pip & Sue Kirby, whose house is but a stone’s throw away in the village.

OUS samples Bordeaux for a Day

On 3 July 2012 a group of 22 intrepid (if not sprightly) OUS tourists met for a day in Burdigala (as it was first called in 300 B.C.) to sample its delights by land and from the water. We enjoyed perfect summer weather as we toured the city by open-top charabanc, lunched in a shady square, and sailed (well, motored) beneath the seven Bordeaux bridges while receiving a comprehensive commentary in French and English.


Sun hats were issued for the follicly challenged

The day was immaculately organised by Marion Tempé, to whom we extend our appreciation for a difficult job well done.

One pier of the new lifting bridge under construction

OUS visits St. Emilion’s Best

On 23 May 2012 a group of 14 OUS wine-lovers enjoyed a visit to three of St. Emilion’s best and most interesting châteaux and chais as well as sampling the local nectar with a splendid lunch at the Hôtel Palais Cardinal. The day was perfectly organised (for no reward other than our thanks) by our own John Allsop.

We started at Chateau Soutard, recently acquired and restored to glory by an  assurance company which has invested millions to make it both a beautiful château and a modern state-of-the-art visitor experience. We were able to taste and compare three vintages, of which the 2007, with its lower acidity and earlier maturity, was perhaps the most approachable.

We progressed to probably the finest of St. Emilion – Château Figeac – sitting as it does on the edge of Pomerol and therefore able to sustain a more cabernet-sauvignon-rich blend, distinctively different in taste and ageing properties from its peers. Here we enjoyed a 2003 (on sale for only 95 € a bottle) which I shall add to my cave in serious quantities when I win the Euromillions.

After lunch we finished at Château Beauséjour-Bécot, (not to be confused with Château Beauséjour next door) and marvelled at their cave formed from kilometres of tunnels left by quarrying limestone – the idea of open cast quarries having been rejected because the land above was so valuable for le vin.

Thanks again to John for his immaculate organisation.

Pip Kirby

2011 AGM Moissac

Those of us who attended the recent AGM at the Hotel Pont Napoleon in Moissac were treated not only to my relaxed style of chairmanship at short notice, but also to an after dinner talk from our distinguished guest Dame Gillian Beer, a friend of Lindy Beveridge. A leading expert on Darwinism, Victorians and especially Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson) Dame Gillian explored the subject of Carroll’s paraxodes with time and space in a charming way. If you missed it see this link – she starts 5.30 minutes in.
– pip