Picturesque Assignan is home to three fine restaurants, notably the Michelin starred ‘La Table’, and a lovely hotel with 24 rooms scattered around the charming village. Since May 2018, this best-kept secret in the South of France also hosts an organic wine maker- the Cave de Château Castigno. And this is not just any winery! With its atypical shape of a gigantic wine bottle covered with the bark from cork oaks, it is one of the most remarkable ones in France.
As I live in one of the biggest wine regions of the world, it was not that difficult to find the perfect gift for Chéri: creating our own wine at the Cave de Château Castigno. On a gorgeous autumn day, we headed for Assignan, where it happened to be the last day of the grape harvest. And in Castigno, they still harvest old-school, meaning they pick the grapes by hand and have them transported to the winery by horse and carriage.
Château Castigno’s story begins in the vineyards. Founders Tine Claeys and Marc Verstraete started their South of France adventure by taking over Assignan’s castle, including its vineyard of 150 hectares. To celebrate Castigno’s 10th harvest, the exceptional winery created by Belgian architect Lionel Jadot arose above the vineyards and surrounding scrubland. Chéri and I were eager to finally enter the winery and admire its design from the inside.
First, staff member Pauline welcomed us into the very heart of the winery so we could discover the winemaking process. We immediately noticed the classical music played throughout the entire cellar. We asked about it and apparently the grapes are serenaded day and night to create the best possible atmosphere. As the harvest was still going on, the impressive concrete, wooden and inox barrels were still filled with freshly harvested grapes. A window in the wooden barrels clearly showed us the fermentation process, with the juice bubbling its way through the grape skins. Castigno stocks their wines per grape variety so that they can create their own perfect blends. After this introduction, we went into the underground cellar. Here, we collected three samples to create our wine: Grenache, Syrah and Carignan.
Before Chéri and I put ourselves into the shoes of a winemaker, we, of course, had to do a wine tasting. Via several beautiful wines, we arrived at the full-bodied Château Castigno Rouge. This was the wine we had to try to assemble with our three samples. By smelling, tasting and some more smelling, Chéri surprisingly succeeded to find the right proportion of varieties in three goes. Maybe he should change careers?! After this informative and fun morning, we concluded our assembly workshop at Castigno’s restaurant ‘La Petite Table’. Our gorgeous meal obviously included a delicious glass of the estate’s Grâce des Anges!