A few weeks back Chuck came home from work with a beaming smile, a cute package full of movie gift cards and a bottle of bubbly – Sieur d’Arques Toques et Clochers Crémant de Limoux to be precise. It seems he was nominated by his peers at the office for doing good work (no surprise) and so his name was put into a monthly drawing. Once a month, a name is pulled from those who have been nominated and the winner takes home the prize – in this case, my husband with the gift cards and the bubbly.
Not being familiar with Sieur d’Arques Toques et Clochers, I went straight to the internet to check it out. (After, of course, a congratulatory kiss for my prize-winning husband.) As it turns out, the estate of Sieur d’Arques lies in the outskirts of Limoux, France – the town where the Benedictine monks of Saint Hilaire abbey created the world’s first sparkling wine in 1531. Thanks to my four years of grade school French classes, I knew that ‘Toques et Clochers’ translated to ‘Chefs and Steeples’ but I hadn’t known that this referred to an auction sponsored by Sieur d’Arques and held in the Limoux appellation every year on the Sunday before Easter. A leading chef (toque) invites wine makers from around the world to come and purchase barrels of wine. A share of all the proceeds from the auction go into a fund that is used to restore the steeples/church bell towers (clochers) in the appellation in an effort to retain the charm, character, and heritage of the area. What a great idea!
By now, I was fascinated with the bottle of crémant and was about to sign off of the web when I saw the map locating Limoux in its surrounding area. It is just north of the Pyrenees at the southern border between France and Spain and just south of the next largest city in the area, Carcassonne. Wait, is that THE Carcassonne?! The walled city that is the inspiration for my favorite board game of all time that bears the same name?! So it is! Now things were getting really interesting!
You can probably figure out what happened next. Carcassonne was pulled from the game closet and the bottle of Crémant de Limoux was opened while we played. A good time was had by all! What started as a simple gift for a job well done turned into a wee lesson in oenology, history, charity and geography as well as some game-playing fun. I’m sure I’ll never place another game piece in a Carcassonne cloister without thinking of the Benedictine monks of St Hilaire. And now there are a few more stops I want to make the next time we are in southern France. Perhaps we can swing a visit for the Sunday before Easter….?
[By the way, the bubbly was quite enjoyable – crisp with an apple tartness. The perfect pairing with some good cheese and bread on the side. I’m considering tracking down some more for the next time we play Carcassonne with friends. It’s only fitting!] 😉