Saturday, 8 August 2015

Pianos and fine wine

We are coming to the end of yet another week of intense pianistic activity at Music at Ambialet, the piano summer school run by my dear friend and former teacher Paul Roberts. I have had the pleasure of being part of this operation for many years now, and I have always felt honoured to be invited to teach alongside Paul in this lovely inspiring atmosphere that he manages to create. There are hundreds, possibly thousands, of summer courses for young pianists all over the world, but almost all of them are exclusively for young pianists at conservatoire level or similar. Music at Ambialet offers something different in that we have an advanced class of mainly young music students alongside an intermediate class of people all ages from all over the world. This eclectic mix clearly creates a really different and most stimulating environment and many participants keep coming back year after year. In my case I have been coming here for so long - first as a participant in the late 90s, then as a helper (I used to run the bar!) and finally invited as Paul's co-teacher - that it has started to feel like family and almost a home away from home.

The main difference for me this year is that I have my car here (and as of a couple of nights ago Karna has joined us too) and so I thought that as I am in the south of France with a car it would be a shame to miss the opportunity to buy some nice wine. The summer course has changed venues a few times over the years and as of last year it takes place on a small farm in a very remote corner of the Tarn region. The place is owned by Michel Berger, a French wine merchant who lives in Belgium during the year. Good news for me in my search of some good wine, as Michel was able to point me in the direction of a very interesting winemaker. So yesterday I punched an address into my GPS and drove off past the striking medieval town of Albi and another half-an-hour into the countryside beyond, and eventually ended up at a small vineyard called Domaines Plageoles. The surrounding area is littered with vineyards with small shops for dĂ©gustation et vente and the hills are covered with wine as far as the eye can see.

Domaines Plageoles turned out to be a very exciting winemaker indeed, with a special focus on old grapes of the Gaillac region with exotic names such as Ondenc and Prunelard. I spent 25 minutes tasting some absolutely wonderful wine and came out of there with a dozen of bottles as well as feeling immensely proud of having dealt with it all in French!

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