Every year, my family and I go back to Holland to celebrate Christmas with our loved ones. And, like every year, I like to spoil them with local gifts. As we live in a country where wine flows generously and food is an important part of life, my gifts are mostly culinary-orientated. I have found some excellent addresses throughout my years of living in the South of France. As Christmas is approaching, I thought I’d share some of my favourite ones to give you some ideas for under your Christmas tree.
Love la Forêt
Love la Forêt is a small firm run by a British family that creates wild mushroom and black truffle products. After having travelled the world, Lex and Andy decided to settle in France for a while in the middle of a beautiful forest called the Montagne Noire. The locals knew this very remote site as the ‘coin des champignons’, or the wild mushroom spot. And that’s how Lex and Andy started their Love la Forêt firm by foraging for cèpes, drying them, and then selling them. They have created various wild mushroom and black truffle products, and I love their cèpe powder and dried wild mushrooms. Using these magic ingredients will bedazzle your dishes with a great umami taste. You can buy their products online, including gift boxes, with free shipping on orders of over 50 euros. One tip: the kit to make wild mushroom-flavoured popcorn is absolutely
Domaine de Cébène
Instead of offering a good bottle of wine, it might be an idea to give part of an actual vine. Brigitte Chevalier from Domaine de Cébène has created an ‘Adopt a Vine’ project. This gift-with-a-purpose encourages wine enthusiasts to help preserve this fragile heritage and to connect them with the wine estate’s history. In 2007, Brigitte founded Domaine de Cébène after a career in wine export sales in Saint-Emilion. She wanted to make wine from the north in the south, and so she did. Her organic wines are highly rated, both nationally and internationally. By sponsoring a vine, you will receive some bottles of wine from ‘your’ vines. These adopted vines are some ancient vines, Brigitte’s so-called ‘old ladies’. On top of that, you will also benefit from special, sponsor-only prices for some events like the ‘Discovery Days’ and ‘Open Days & Family Walks’.
Maison du Rire
Emma Kershaw is a wine lecturer, a cookbook writer, and she runs the wine and food school La Maison du Rire- The House of Laughter- in the Corbières. Here, she teaches about wine and how to partner it with food, two of her passions. Emma offers numerous possibilities; from Languedoc-Roussillon wine and food tastings, cooking and quaffing classes, plus Masterclasses on wines from across the globe to a tailor-made event. You can contact her via her website to buy a voucher for Christmas. Or you can order one of her two cookbooks online. ‘A Taste of Le Sud’ is perfect for wine lovers and a great souvenir of the region. And ‘The day that Louis was eating’ is for those who want to improve their French cooking. If you buy both books, Emma offers a very discounted rate. Both her classes and her cookbooks are in English and French.
You’ll need good wine to create a good vinegar, and it happens that the South of France has plenty of it. That’s how Granhota saw the light in 2013 when ‘vinaigrier’ Laurent Faure decided to go back to his roots near Narbonne. Following the three steps of the ancestral ‘Orléans’ method, it takes years to create Granhota’s beautiful artisanal vinegar and balsamic. This is a natural process, without added sulphites, colours or preservatives. Upon reservation, you can visit the workshop in Coursan for an informative tour and tasting, also available in English. The complete range of Granhota, including various surprising flavours, can be bought at the workshop. Some of the vinegar and balsamic are also for sale in local shops. Or you can order in their online boutique. The stylish black bottle is a gift in itself, but Granhota also offers gift boxes online.
Annette Morris Art
Ok, I’m also sharing a non-food-related gift idea. A while ago, I followed a Sketch France class with Annette Morris. She offers these fun and creative workshops for every level of sketching in different locations in the South of France and even beyond. It can be 2-hours workshops to work on drawing techniques or a day out, including a picnic, at the Château Canet near Carcassonne, for example. It’s a great gift for someone interested in learning or improving to sketch, draw and paint in watercolour. Another option besides a voucher for a sketching workshop could be a piece of art by Annette herself. She is a very talented artist with a passion for colour, particularly watercolour, and she also works on commission. In her online art shop, you can also purchase beautiful Christmas cards and a 2023 art calendar.