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 the enthusiastic Emmeline as Ramoneta of the Month. She is an ‘ostréiculteur’- which means oyster farmer- at the Étang de Thau. Since way back, women have always played an important role in growing oysters. And without them, and now women like Emmeline, there wouldn’t have been oyster production at the Thau Lagoon.
I was born and raised in the South of France, near the place where I work now. Being an avid horse rider, I studied to become a riding instructor. And then, I left home for nine months to teach horse riding to kids in New Caledonia. Little did I know how my life would change after meeting Quentin, the love of my life. He comes from an oyster farmer’s family in Mèze (1) and has been part of it from childhood. When things started to become serious between us, Quentin taught me all the ins and outs of this interesting profession.
Quentin & Emmeline
As Quentin’s parents are still in business as oyster farmers themselves, Quentin and I decided to start our own farm in 2015: Quentin & Emmeline (3 & 4). So, at age 25, I officially became an ‘ostréiculteur’! And I absolutely am passionate about it, being a nature lover. It allows me to be outside daily, and I feel blessed to see what nature gives us. It’s an extraordinary profession that involves working with the elements. And I can work with Quentin every day. We have nine oyster beds in the Thau lagoon (2), where we grow flat (‘plat’) and cupped (‘creuse’) oysters. In the Mediterranean region, the baby shells are fixed to ropes with a dot of cement to let them grow in the water for 1.5 to 3 years.
We have won several gold medals with some of our varieties. Like the ‘Moana’, an oyster that we grow using traditional techniques. Its flesh is more developed- and therefore more crisp- because we let them hang out of the water once a week, contrary to our other varieties which stay in the water all the time. Our dog Goku has a nose for quality, as he only eats Moanas.
Another part of the job is to promote our oysters and make the profession of ostréiculteur known among people, especially youngsters. There used to be 800 oyster producers at the Thau Lagoon, which has been reduced to 400 nowadays. Quentin is doing a great job on TikTok (over 60,000 followers), and I manage our Instagram account (over 7,000 followers). Somehow, people are really interested in our profession and like Quentin’s live videos a lot. It’s great to see that using today’s communication tools helps a younger public to get to know our products and our profession. Some of them have even contacted us for a work placement.
Besides selling our products directly at the farm and at several regional markets and shops, you can also taste them at our ‘Mas de Dégustation’ Dégus’Thau. With a view of the lagoon and between other oyster producers, you can try our fresh goods ‘au naturel’ with a local beer or wine. Although our seafood doesn’t need much tralala, I also prepare gratinated oysters and mussels and a brasucade (mussels in a secret sauce grilled on a brazier, called brasero in French). And our guests appreciate the original touches I add to my seafood platters using wildflowers and herbs. Dégus’Thau is open from Easter to September from Thursday evening to Monday noon (both lunch and dinner), and reservation is a must.
Living in the South of France
Having travelled all over the world, I have seen many magnificent places. But you don’t have to go far if the Étang de Thau is your workplace. The sunsets at the Thau Lagoon are breathtaking and hard to beat! And now, I call this magical place my home, together with Quentin and our dog Goku, an American Akita.
Best Languedoc wine
The best wine to go with our oysters and seafood is the Picpoul de Pinet, of course. This white wine has its own appellation (AOP) and is produced in villages around Pinet, near the Étang de Thau. Only one grape variety- the white piquepoule- gives this dry white wine a refreshing and vivid taste. Piquepoule literally translates into ‘lip stinger’, which can be explained by the grapes’ high acidity level.
Our friend Jordan Yuste runs a superb restaurant in Sète: L’Arrivage (5). You will find creative dishes made of mostly organic ingredients on the menu. And our oysters! We’re very honoured that Jordan chose our oysters to work with. Also, I’m very grateful for his recipe suggestions at Dégus’Thau.
Perfect day out in Languedoc
As I’m on the water of the Thau Lagoon almost every day, I like to go hiking when I have some spare time. The Occitan landscapes are stunning, and I love going to the Lac du Salagou or the Pic Saint Loup. But of course, I can’t help it, my favourite spot includes water and is around the corner. Domaine de Bellevue is an abandoned but beautiful estate that stands in the middle of pine trees and vineyards. The view over the Étang de Thau is amazing (it’s all in the name: Bellevue). You can cycle to it via the Voie Verte between Mèze and Marseillan.