An immersive Call Me By Your Name style trip to the south of France to explore the elderflower liqueur brand.
Any moment now, I’m expecting Timothée Chalamet to stroll around the corner in a sleeveless shirt. I’m not a red carpet correspondent, nor am I trapped in a frenzied paparazzi situation. I’m just finding it hard to believe that my current surroundings haven’t been scissor-snipped directly from a scene out of Luca Guadagnino’s picturesque 2017 film Call Me By Your Name.
Blazing sun, plush rolling hills and charming rural towns. The setting isn’t 1983 northern Italy, but instead Château Clement – a 19th-century manor overlooking the valleys and sleepy town of Vals les Bains in the south of France. And to be fair, they both score equally for almost painful levels of quaintness and idyllic pastoral scenes. We’re guests of St~Germain, and here to witness the once-a-year process that goes into cultivating a bottle of their elderflower liqueur.
There’s no denying the millennial revival of elderflower and our insistence on its inclusion in our food, drinks, candles. Everything. We love the stuff.
On arrival at Chateau Clement, run by a woman called Marie Antoinette (no joke), it’s welcome aperitifs a-flowing: a fresh spritz, rooted with the sweet and ever-so-slightly herby liqueur.
Once a year, for two weeks in spring, elderflowers are carefully selected and handpicked while the aroma of their plants are at their peak – with no less than a thousand going into just one bottle of St~Germain. We spend a day harvesting the flowers, later witnessing the maceration process at the cooperative – taking in the intensity of the smell and taste at various intervals.
And the return journey back to the chateau? A veryCall Me By Your Name style cycle ride through Vals les Bains, later followed by more aperitifs, culinary workshops, performances from a live band and a cocktail night. The dream.
“The elderflower harvest is a very special time of year for St-Germain, because it defines the fresh, aromatic character of our unique liqueur,” explains Gabriel Valentin, the Global-EU Marketing Manager at St-Germain. “We use one particular variety of elderflower and only the highest quality of these are handpicked at the end of spring, while the fragrance and aroma of the blossoms are at their peak. The blossoms are then transformed into an infusion in a matter of hours, ensuring that their vibrant, sunny flavour is captured in each bottle. While the harvest season itself is fleeting and passes in a matter of weeks, we don’t take any short cuts when it comes to upholding the high quality of our liqueur!”