The Fellowship of the Rhône Wine Aromas…

To celebrate spring – and the wines of the Côtes du Rhône (& Villages) – I had the pleasure of inviting a small group of sommelier friends for a Wine Walk & Talk in a place of my choosing. The opportunity had come at the right time: I’d been waiting for an occasion to work around food pairing with the Rhône Valley’s aromatic wine styles, focusing on how herbs work as aroma bridges between food and wine. So this was my chance…

The location too was an easy decision: I would go back to the part of Flanders where I grew up, to the beautiful rural surroundings of Kruisem. Not coincidentally that’s also where my favourite herb grower is located, and there’s a small nature reserve just a stone’s throw away. So this is where the first ever Rhône Wine Walk & Talk took place.

We started the spring morning exploring the sights and scents of the Kordaalbos nature reserve. These woodlands in between fields and around a brook showcase the typicity and diversity of our Flemish rural landscape well. Even though it was still early in the season, there were plenty of local flora (and even some fauna in the form of a farmer’s horse with a horse blanket 😉 ) to smell and/or admire. And of course we’d taken a few Rhône wines with us to taste at strategic spots along the way…

Around noon we returned to Kruiden Claus, our host for the day. There, in the greenhouses and scattered over the entire terrain, we had hidden six more Rhône Valley wines. With the much-appreciated help of the food & wine fairies (a.k.a. Julie & Marie of Alice Bown PR & Events, who are organising these wine walks).

At each of the bottle hiding spots, we could sniff and nibble on matching herbs and flowers, and I had a chance to share some inspiration for classic as well as creative food and wine pairings. After the white and rosé from our woodland walk, we tasted another white and rosé here, followed by four very different styles – and price categories – of red Rhône blends.

Needless to say we’d worked up an appetite by then, so we were happy to continue our pairing experiments – and animated conversations – over lunch. With pots of the herbs we’d talked about as table decoration. This way we would not only smell them while we were eating; we could also try them with the food – a flavoursome buffet, lovingly made by Bunch.

My main takeaways

  1. It’s once again proven: Rhône wines match so well with flavoursome, herb-rich food.
  2. Bringing together a group of wine folks is the perfect recipe for good fun and worthwhile conversations.
  3. Good wine, food, herbs ánd friends make life better, any day of the week.

And finally… a personal reflection

This has been an event I will also remember fondly for personal reasons. First and foremost because it gave me an opportunity to honour my roots and spend time reconnecting with the lands, feels, sights and smells of my childhood. But also: this was part of a series of events that are helping me to ‘connect the dots’. To better understand where the course of my life has brought me so far, and where it will lead me next.

Photo by Renske de Maesschalck,

I’ve always been very much a general learner. And because of my wide and often-changing interests, I used to have this nagging worry that I would never be really good at any one thing. That I would never stick with anything long enough to achieve expert-level knowledge in it. But what I’ve come to understand in recent years is that exactly this ability to dive into so many different topics, to explore them with exuberant enthusiasm, and to share them with a rainbow of wonderful people along the way, is my true superpower. My specific expertise. And it’s all settling down and taking root in what I’m doing now.

So, surprisingly, what I always thought to be my biggest weakness, has turned into an infinite source of motivation and strength. The meandering path I’ve taken so far has given me a very personal and unique skillset, with nature, wine, food and people at its core. And in activities like this wine & herbs aroma walk, the patterns shine more clearly than ever.

So here’s a toast, with one of these deliciously diverse Rhône wines, to walking your own unique path and living your own life, unapologetically. To valuing where you come from and how everything you’ve done since adds up. To trusting that, looking back, the dots connect, and one by one they reveal more of your one-of-a-kind, fascinating self.

A heartfelt thank you to InterRhône and the Alice Bown team for making this event happen; to Lode Claus and family for their warm hospitality; and to our Wine Aroma Fellowship for their openness and sunny enthusiasm! 🌞🙏

Photos © Alice Bown


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