St Quentin is home to a score or more working potters and is the centre of the European ceramics industry - we've just hosted the annual Terralha, le Festival Européen des Arts Céramiques, a four day exhibition which takes over not merely the potteries but many private houses and attracts visitors from all over the world. But, despite the name, there are probably more people making wine in the village than there are making pots, and within a few kilometres one can find vin de pays Duche d'Uzes, vin de pays d'Oc, vin de pays Cevennes and, of course, Cotes du Rhone. We're also pretty close to Costiere de Nimes.
So, are we spoilt for choice? Well, yes and no. The wines from the local co-operative are ok, although for everyday drinking red we will head for the nearby village of St Dezery, where the traditional Duche d'Uzes blend of Syrah and Grenache has delicious vanilla undertones that come to the front of the palate when slightly chilled. (For our rose, it is always Jean-Marc Floutier's Gris from the foot of the Cevennes in Savignargues.)
This year, however, we've discovered two vignerons who are - and have been - right under our noses all this time.
The first is Agarrus, named after the Provencal word for the small kermes oaks of this region. The wines are a blend of Syrah, Grenache, Carignan and Cinsault. The cheaper of the two is a VdP Cevennes; the better and only very slightly more expensive is VdP Duche d'Uzes. Both are good, honest wines, with no pretension.
But what makes them notable is that they are made by our postman, Serge Scherrer. I usually have a glass of his wine in my hand when I hear his scooter stop outside our courtyard gates around lunchtime as he delivers the latest bundle of junk mail from Carrefour, Intermarche and Mr Bricolage.
Serge is from Alsace originally, and was transferred to the Uzege ten years or so ago and discovered that he was at last financially able to fulfil his ambition to make wine. Although he grew up with Gewertz, Pinot Gris, Sylvaner and so on, he has embraced the culture of this area totally and the distilled essence of the Uzege can be found in every bottle of the vintage I'm currently drinking, the 2009.
My second vignerons have come from farther afield even than Alsace. Amy Lillard and Matt Kling are American, and they live and make their wine almost opposite the (iconic for me) vineyard in St Quentin la Poterie. Their vineyards, however, are in Castillon du Gard, which makes them part of the Cotes du Rhone appellation.
The wines are organic and biodynamic and have serious structure. They are very good. Currently, we're drinking the 2008, which is the year that www.garagistewine.com discovered them, and I can see and taste exactly what attracted Jon Rimmerman to the wines. It's not merely about small volumes, it's about terroir and authenticity and honesty and love. La Gramiere has all these things in its 2008 manifestation.
I have a glass with me as I write. It's full of fruit, but not fruity. It's actually quite tart, with a good balance of soft, fully integrated tannins and enough acidity to keep it honest. It's gorgeous - my kind of wine.
(My only complaint? I've just noticed an errant apostrophe in the copy on the back label.)
This year, Jill and I have volunteered to help with the vendage at La Gramiere. Despite our love of wine and residence down here all these years, it will be our first. And we are honoured and privileged to be allowed to get up early and hand-pick those beautiful grapes and, in this way, contribute to another excellent vintage.
Today's listening: Has to be Amy Winehouse. She never produced anything as good as those other 27 year olds, but she might have done, one day, had she got clean and lived.