TO KNOW | LA RAMONETA OF THE MONTH
Every month, we introduce you to an interesting woman living in Languedoc. Curious as we are, we like to find out why they are living in this beautiful region, what they do for a living and some of their Languedoc favourites. This month we would like you to meet Christine Bertoli as Ramoneta of the Month.
When people ask where I come from, I genuinely have trouble giving a simple answer. I was born in England, raised and educated there, but my mother is French and my father Italian.
First time in the region
I left England after graduating from Cambridge University in 1989 to work in Paris. My work then took me to Florence in Italy, where my second son was born, and brought my family and me to the Languedoc in 2003
Settling in Languedoc
Now, at 51 years old, I have been running our beautiful organic wine estate in Pézenas, Domaine Sainte Cécile du Parc (1), for the past 14 years. Although I never imagined I would become a winemaker, nor live in the South of France, it feels strangely appropriate. Above all, because my maternal grandfather came from a tiny village near Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert.
My favourite place is Pézenas (2). It has all the charms of a small town and yet feels like a melting pot. Here, people from many horizons live and work, enjoying the cultural and historical delights it so generously offers.
Living in the Languedoc
One of the joys of living in this beautiful region of France is the quality of life, which, in my mind, is invaluable. Without fail, the landscape is truly breathtaking and diverse. For example, you can swim in the Mediterranean, relax on one of the more isolated beaches near Sérignan, or go for an energetic bike ride in the « arrière pays » near Castelnau-de-Guers, with its striking red soil and rock formations. When in need of more of an urban buzz, Montpellier is only a 45-minute drive away. On top of that, we have easy access to several regional airports and the TGV (express train). The Languedoc really enjoys the best of both worlds
My decision to live and work at Domaine Sainte Cécile du Parc was primarily a lifestyle choice, driven by enthusiasm, optimism and a certain degree of naïvety. It was important for me to raise my three sons to love and respect the countryside, to appreciate the nobility of farming, the value of hard work, the joy of creating. Our days do not always correspond to the idyllic vision sometimes associated with winemaking. It is genuinely hard work, all year round. Although we are vulnerable to the whims of Mother Nature, the Languedoc is blessed with an exceptional terroir and a fabulous grape-growing climate.
I am also thrilled to be involved in the Mirondela Dels Arts (3), a non-profit association which has been organising summer arts festivals in Pézenas for over 52 years – in fact, it is one of the oldest festivals of its kind in France. I encourage all the Ramoneta followers to come and visit the art exhibitions and enjoy the theatre, dance and music programme held in Pézenas’ charming open-air theatre in the Parc Sans Souci.
© Eric Brendle
Best Languedoc wine
It is so difficult to choose my favourite wines, but these three are definitely worth seeking out. And as a bonus, they are all organic reds from the Pézenas area:
“Chez Paul” in Pézenas is my favourite restaurant. The food is unpretentious, sourced from local producers and delicious. And on top of that, the service is warm and professional.
Perfect day out in the Languedoc
My perfect day in the Languedoc would be to go for a hike with my family, my favourite being a historical trail between Neffiès and Vailhan (4). This trail takes you into the heart of the garrigue, past a dormant volcano, through the rolling hills of the lower Cévennes offering spectacular views of the Hérault valley. There we would have a picnic with local goats’ cheese, bread and fresh fruit and invariably a delicious glass of my rosé wine, Notes Frivoles.