My holiday romance became a way of life
When Foxrock native Neasa Corish Miquel arrived in France in 1995 at the age of 18 to study French, the last thing on her mind was probably finding a husband. But it's funny how things work out.
On that trip she met Laurent Miquel, an 8th generation winemaker from the Cazal Viel estate in the Languedoc, and fell in love. The relationship continued while she studied for a degree in physics and chemistry at Trinity, and then worked for Andersen Consulting in the IFSC.
"But after six years of going backwards and forwards," says Neasa, "meeting up in the places that he travelled to selling wine, like London and New York - which wasn't so bad - I realised that he wasn't going to plant vines in South County Dublin so I moved to France in 2001."
With little in the way of management consultancy jobs in the wilds of the Languedoc, Neasa joined the family business on the sales and marketing side. The couple married in 2007 and now have two children, Sean (4) and Alaina (5 months).
During the week the family live on the Cazal Viel estate, spending weekends and holidays at Les Auzines, a second estate that they bought in 2009 located near Lagrasse, officially one of the hundred most beautiful villages in France and about half an hour away from Carcassone. Laurent has re-planted the vineyards with the albarino grape, associated with Galicia.
"The house is what is known as a metarerie," says Neasa. "It was built in the early 19th Century as an outpost for the monks from the 12th Century abbey in Lagrasse. They kept sheep there and made wine. The house had been renovated and we did some decorating work before we moved in, but in 2011 we were flooded in a freak storm and had to redecorate the whole place again.
"The main house where we live has six bedrooms and is decorated in French country style. Most of the furniture was handmade in Provence, and we have a beautiful hand-painted kitchen made by De Tonge. The house has big thick walls and old-fashioned small terracotta tiles known as tomettes on the floors. We've tried to keep the interior style in keeping with the house."
Outside in the garden there are fig and olive trees, and the family keep chickens and grow their own fruit and vegetables.
"Our job is making and selling wine in 40 countries," says Neasa, "and one of the big parts of the job is entertaining customers. We are not in a very fancy part of France and so rather than taking people out to restaurants, we invite them to share in our lifestyle, and entertain at home. The other day we had 26 Japanese for lunch in the garden. I do most of the cooking and I wouldn't claim to be Nigella, so I keep it simple with maybe a tomato salad and cassoulets and grilled meat from the barbecue. When you have great ingredients, it's easy to produce great food. We have local goat's cheese and charcuterie from the mountains and we shop in the Saturday market in Lagrasse."
Words by Katy McGuinness
Photographs by Bryan Lancaster; portrait by Trevor Hart