Every month, we introduce you to an interesting woman living in Languedoc. Curious as we are, we like to find out why she lives in this beautiful region, what she does for a living and some of her Languedoc favourites. This month we would like you to meet Emma Kershaw as Ramoneta of the Month. She is a wine lecturer, runs the wine and food school La Maison du Rire, is a cookbook writer, and besides all that, she is a great storyteller!
When I was living in the UK, where I come from, I was a freelance wine lecturer at the Plumpton Agricultural College. There, I taught all about the world of wines and spirits at a high level (Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Diploma). It was- and is- important to me that my students learn to use the correct language for wine and understand wine-food pairing. Via the South African winemaker Marc Kent, I was invited to help establish a wine school with Domaine Gayda. So, in 2008 my husband Chris and I made the move to the Haute Valley de l’Aude to start a new adventure.
Settling in Languedoc
During my work as a wine lecturer, I of course knew the Languedoc area, and I have always loved this region. To me, it is the most diverse and interesting wine region in the world. Besides, it’s the oldest wine region in France. Already the Greeks and the Etruscans planted their vines here in the 5th century BC.
In September 2010, Chris and I found an old winery in a tiny village in the Corbières. The neglected house needed a lot of love and attention. And over six years, we transformed it into the wonderful family home and workspace it is now. As Chris is an artisan, qualified joiner and cabinet maker, we did all of the work ourselves in as environmentally friendly way as possible. By finding this house, it all fell to place. I felt a strong desire to create my own business teaching about wine and food.
La Maison du Rire
While renovating our home, we realised that our budget was too low to do too much work. However, we remained positive and continued building and working at the same time. So, when I was looking for a name for my business, I thought of our happy home and translated it into ‘La Maison du Rire’- The House of Laughter (1 & 2). It also reflects my rebellious nature, being a young woman in the stiff upper class world of the male-dominated wine industry.
La Maison du Rire combines my passion for wine and food with sharing my knowledge with both professionals and amateurs. It’s more than a wine school, as I also teach about food and how to prepare and pair it with wine. I offer numerous possibilities, from a tasting with tapas or a masterclass, to a tailor-made event or a private tasting. With my tastings, I make you travel the region and the world without moving.
Besides running La Maison du Rire, I also wrote two cookbooks to share my favourite recipes. ‘A Taste of Le Sud’ (3) displays my discoveries from the great region I live in. This cookbook was born thanks to the students I have trained over the years. Many of them asked me for the recipes of the food I served during the tastings. And here it is!
‘The day that Louis was eating’ (4) is my second cookbook and is a collection of our son Louis’ favourite dishes. Being born and raised in France, he is an adventurous eater and likes many types of food. It is a family cookbook, not necessarily just for children, and because we live in France, I have written it both in English and French. (Tip from La Ramoneta: these cookbooks make a great gift for Christmas (5). Just saying…).
Living in the South of France
My family and I live in a small village of 125 inhabitants. Over the years, we have seen it change from a dying village to a lively place to live. We now have about 20 children under 14 years old living here. No need to say that Louis absolutely loves it here! And so do Chris and I.
When moving to France, or anywhere really, it helps to make an effort to blend in with your new French life. It’s important to learn the language and integrate into the community by going to events, village parties and local shops. Don’t live on the surface, you have to get out. Also, do your research before you go, as it is not the same living here as being on holiday. I love the fact that the French spend three times more on food for their Christmas dinner than presents. Sitting around a table with dear friends and good food and wine is what sums up living in France to me.
Best Languedoc wine
Paul Old, a former Australian professional dancer, started Les Clos Perdus in 2003 with Hugo Stewart. They now have 20 hectares of organic and bio-dynamic vines. Their wines are a great champion of the unusual.
A young couple runs La Domaine des Deux Clés in our neighbouring village Fontjoncouse. Gaëlle and Florian make the most beautiful wines by respecting nature and using traditional methods, and they pick all the grapes by hand.
Another incredible and fascinating wine estate is Bramaventu in Banyuls. I discovered them completely by accident, and I’m glad I did. They have Italian origins, and they make outstanding sparkling wine from 100% grenache. It comes in a tiny quantity and is a high-end wine that is worth every penny.
La Vielle Dame in Saint-Laurent is a fantastic grill restaurant. Their welcome is warm, and the setting simply sublime. I love that they use local produce and even serve whiskey from the close-by Black Mountains.
Perfect day out in Languedoc
I would bring my family on a hike in the Pyrenees (6). Chris, Louis and I love the fabulous views of this region and being one with nature. When the night falls, we would finish the day with a delicious dinner cooked on an open fire, together with a great bottle of wine, of course!