Certain words somehow don't seem to be ever able to fit together, who knows why, supermarket chains & natural wine, mainstream media & honest reporting, France & low taxes and so on, but never say never, and on my side I'm not dogmatic and always ready to aknowledge a change if I see one :
I found this other wine again on the shelves of a retail chain, a juicy easy-drinking southern red (Syrah) with a fancy label so as to be in line with the rebel style of natural wines. This was also a good surprise to see a wine made from hand-picked grapes vinified without added sulfites come out at this price, 6,9 €. Doesn't say if it's farmed organic but it comes from the Corbières where the weather makes it easier to be light on chemicals (and I later discovered the vines behind this wine don't get herbicides). It is made by a young and innovatice Coopétative, the Cave d'Embres et Castelmaure (named from two villages close from each other). I'll take a closer look at their other cuvées for sure.
here are some of their other cuvées with the retail prices, It's not just because of the cool labels but I have the intuition that I'd certainly enjoy several of them.
I found this profile on the wine and the coop work style (no herbicides) on the Web (in French, sorry) :
Terroir : sol aride composé de schistes noirs et de calcaire. Vinification/Elevage: Macération traditionnelle. Egrappage de la Syrah pour favoriser les arômes de fruits noirs et limiter les notes végétales. Macération pré-fermentaire à basse température. Le vin: fin et soyeux avec des arômes de fruits dominants (groseille, myrtille), des notes de violettes et d'épice. Tanins volontairement très discrets pour préserver la gourmandise de cette cuvée. Beau volume en bouche et longue finale. Temps de garde : il est à consommer sur la jeunesse. Le domaine :A Embres & Castelmaure, le mot NATURE trouve toute son expression. Les vignes sont choyées depuis des décennies, désherbées sans herbicides, uniquement à la force des tracteurs ou à la pioche, vendangées à la main, à pleine maturité. Et pour exprimer dans notre vin tous les efforts réalisés à la parcelle, nous avons décidé de ne pas ajouter de soufre, juste du raisin et quelques levures pour la fermentation. Bref, un grain c'est tout.
Here is a Le Monde selection with wines found in several supermarket chains and their prices.
Here is the fall 2017 schedule for all these supermarket wine promotions (Foires aux Vins) listing the weeks during which the selection was available in the different chains. No need to say that certain cuvées were sold out quickly. this helps you have an idea and plan for next year (I think I'll give it a try myself for a change).
Morgon Nature 2016, natural fermentation (no added yeast) from hand-picked grapes, no added sulfites during vinification, 6,5 € retail price.
When I spotted this bottle in a Carrefour Market in Paris (again in a Foire aux Vins), I was dumbfounded, a cuvée nature Morgon in a Carrefour [supermarket] and at 6,5 € ? Never say never, I bought a bottle, it's made by a vigneron with 3 generations of growers behind him,according to the label it's hand picked and naturally fermented and vinified without sulfites. There's only 0,036 gram/liter added at bottling, the label saying that the authorized norm is 0,150 gram/liter. Well, I didn't really like much the wine, but I can't but laud the try and hope there'll be more, from this domaine or others, so that ordinary people who shop there at least can drink low-SO2, unfiltered wines at 6 €. And man, I like so much when a label says precisely how much sulfites they added, you have so many heavy-handed winemakers out there who don't even know themselves the tons of SO2 they've put in their wines and anyway would never tell their customers...
Domaine Centenaire in Beaujeu, vigneron Martin Louis. The domaine bottles its own wine since 1966 and today the parcels have all a minimum age of 50.
La Résistance, Côtes du Rhône 2016, no added sulfites, organic vines (no herbicide, no pesticides) 6,9 € retail.
Stop, I can't handle it ! And I've only visited 2 retail chains for these autumn wine promotions (Foires aux Vins), that gives you an idea about the many I missed, scattered in the other chains... The tide is indeed turning, this one was also at the very-reasonable price of 6,9 € and I found it at a regular-size Carrefour supermarket on the outskirts of Paris. The bottle label follows obviously the steps of the left-wing or revolutionary agitprop favored by my friend Antonin (that's why I used a glass from his Salon Rue89 wine tasting event, also known under the name Sous les Pavés, la Plage). These labels help us a lot spot the rebel wines on the shelves, and even when they're not labelled as a table wine (like this one which is a Côtes du Rhône), the AOC remains in the back seat and in small print.
The wine is made by the Maison Louis Mousset, a big nécoce house from the Rhône which is based in Tulette. This négoce (which is in the same group as Celliers des Dauphins) sees the potential market of buyers wary of sulfites and wants to get its share. The Maison Mousset is among the handful of French big players (with Gerard Bertrand and the Coopérative of Buzet for example) who try to position themselves in this niche market. I can't but laud the move, we had already Estézargues and if just a few more big Négoces and coops begin to make these sulfites-free wines AND from organic grapes AND at these prices, many more will follow, including among the family wineries.
Carl Coignard from the maison Louis Mousset explains that these sulfites-free wines are interesting because they're alive, the tasting experience may be different from one day to the next, this can be destabilizing, that's why they launch them during the Foire aux Vins, when there's usually a sommelier in the wine section to explain it all to the consumers (source).
Maison Louis Mousset [email protected] +33 4 75 96 20 31
I recently stumbled on a relatively recent interview of Jeanne Moreau (who passed away this summer at the age of 89) on France Musique recently that made me think about similarities with what I'm looking in real wines. Did you realize that the grain of a voice can be akin to some great wine experiences ?.... I usually don't listen much to France Musique, I love classical music but this taxpayer-funded station has lots of talk for its little circle of specialists and also often airs lots of boring (among which "contemporary") music that cater to 1 % of potential classical-music amateurs in France, so usually we "basket-of-deplorables" who just want to hear beautiful music without endless lecturing have to switch to other alternatives on FM but there aren't many here in France. Whatever, I was driving back from the countryside, there was not much choice on the FM bandwidth and I switched on to France Musique in the middle of this long interview, there was this lady whom I didn't recognize immediately but I was seduced immediately by her voice and ultimately recognize her. There are voices with which you feel immediately at ease, in sync, and Jeanne Moreau has such a voice, this isn't a "perfect" voice, and in her interview she spoke about smoking having altered her voice, but it's a voice without makeup and there's a similar emotion when listening her to the one when you drink a natural wine, there may be faults here and there but there's a real thing behind, not the clever work of an oenologist, there's an emotion, an energy which you just can't fake. We say a voice speaks by itself and that was what I felt when listening to her, you felt the truth and authenticity, no makeup here. Speaking of makeup I remember another comment heard a couple months ago about her early years as an actress, from what I remember she was considered as having somehow a disgraced face for the canons of beauty of that time (the 1960s') and during a shooting of a scene in a movie by by Louis Malle, she arrived late on the stage, wet from the rain outside and Malle did something unthinkable in the movie business of that time, he saw her so beautiful this way that he had her play right away without makeup. No makeup, that is the word, and her voice expresses that so well.
This song "Le Tourbillon de la Vie" was written (years before appearing in Jules et Jim) by Serge Rezvani to illustrate the separations and reunions of Jeanne Moreau and her first husband Jean-Louis Richard, all of them being friends and part of the Bohême move of La Nouvelle Vague
The 4th Salon du Saké in Paris was a success, the 2017 edition received more visitors, more sake professionnals and more sake producers, from Japan and beyond. The tasting event which took place in the 15th arrondissement was organized by Sylvain Huet (one of the rare French specialists, author of La Passion du Saké) and his Académie du Saké which does a lot to introduce the French public to the traditionnal Japanese beverage. According to Japanese government sources the sake exportations grew in value by 11 % in 2016 and for France itself it grew by 40 %, hinting that something is going on with the French consumer.
The Salon du Saké got 4091 visitors in 3 days 16 % more than last year), with monday beings the day devoted for professionnals. 350 different sakes were on the tables for tasting, incuduing cuvées that are not yet imported in France or Europe. There were also a hundred beers, whiskies, shochus, teas to taste during these 3 days, very complete approach of Japan and in a festive way. Several side events and workshops were focused on pairing sake with food. I had time to visit the event just a few hours on monday, and B. joined too. We met a few acquaintances including Haruko (pictured on left, center, looking at me), who now works for Issé Paris, one of the pioneers for their choice of quality sake.
I was pleased to see that Shirakashi-san of Kenbishi was taking part too, B. had not arrived at the sake fair yet and I tasted the few sake of Kenbishi alone. Kenbishi is an old lady among the sake houses, it started to produce in 1505 and is located in Kobe, Hyogo prefecture. Its easily-recognizable logo is a plus when you look for a reliable nihonshu in a Japanese shop,
you won't take risk with them, and the soft water they use there at Kobe yields particularly-subtle sakes. More affordable when purchased in Japan or Tokyo. They also had this 180-ml bottle that made it easier for us French, and I guess in Japan it fits perfecrly with the bento lunch on the train, they sell this small bottle 9,5 € here in Paris. THe good side of it for the Japanese travellers is that they can wash it after use and use it again with a refill for the following trip or picnic. Plus, you can take the cap off and warm it in the microwave if you like to drink it hot.
There were 3 bottles to taste from on the Kenbishi table that day.
__ Kenbishi Kuromatsu, an entry-level sake, 17 % alc. poured from a traditional 18-liter bottle. Room temperature (I prefer that, to be frank). Delicious, intense feel, super vibration in the palate, plus length. And it's entry level... Costs 72 € with 7this size here in France at Workshop Issé. Made with indigenous yeast, blend of 5 vintages.
__ Kenbishi Mizuho Kuromatsu. Junmai. I was generous for my first glass, here with this 2nd sake I feel another dimension, there's an extraordinary velvety feel, both subtle and bewitching. Blend of 5 vintages from 2 to 8 years old. 17,5 % alc. 42 € in 720-ml bottle.
__ Kenbishi Zuisho, Junmai. A very interesting type of sake with kind of oxydative notes like Jura wines, and a bitterness that envelops beautifully the mouth, very nice. 89 € in 720-ml bottle.
Speaking of Workshop Issé which played a central role in bringing a wide choice of quality sake in Paris, We can have a thought fot the founder of Issé, Toshiro Kuroda (pictured on right, 2 years ago) who passed away early 2017. He had been living in Paris for more than 40 years, arriving in France in 1970, studying in Jussieu University, then working as a journalist after 2 years in Africa. in 2004 he bought a Japanese restaurant rue Saint Anne (the Japanese quarter of Paris), reinventing himself in the gastronomy trade. He bought/founded several restaurants, Bizan (the 1st), Momonoki, Izakaya, Bis, and Workshop Issé. Mrs Sumiko Kuroda (pic on left, with Haruko holding a bottle of Kenbishi) is now heading the company.
I tasted a few sakes from Inata Honten (Tottori prefecture), a brewery established in 1673 under the name of Inabaya. At the beginning they were making sake as well as soybean sauce, and the latter is also a very complex product derived from a long fermentation. By the way in the Japanese universities you learn in the same Department of Brewing and Fermentation the Art of making and knowing scientifically these Japanese fermented foods, be it sake or soy sauce. Inata means paddy field in Japanese.
Pictured on left : Shinji Tsukutani, general manager at Inata-Honten.
__ Inata-Honten Genshu Inatahime, Daiginjo. 9 % alc. Very aromatic sake, almost like grape juice. They did that, from what I understand, by blocking the fermentation temperature at 7 C in order to get stronger aromas and preventing to make more than 9 % in alcohol.
__ Inatahime Junmaishu. Maturation, sake de garde we would say. Interesting nose. In the mouth, lovely, intense. Lots of umami here, they take risk to develop these sake but they're atypical and it's worth because this type of sake is very different from the daiginjo you find everywhere. They use the Goriki rice, an older variety of rice that grows long stems, which "modern" growers don't like too much because the wind lays them down (they selected short-stems varieties for convenience - that's reminds me what has been done for wheat in the West). But Tottori growers are intent on replanting these old varieties on a large scale again because it's part of the region's indigenous varieties. It is more complicated to grow than Yamada Nishiki rice but makes a big difference for the sake.
__ Junmai ginjo. Velvety, full mouth, very nice.
__ Junmai Daiginjo, the grand Cru sake, with 52 % of the rice pulp polished away. Very refined, very subtle. Sold at Kioko, the Japanese grocery store in Paris.
I then went to a long table at the bottom of the large room where a selection of sake havin won the Kura Master, the Grand Concours des Sakés Japonais de Paris, it was organized recently in Paris for the 1st time with a jury composed of chefs and gastronomy professionals. Beyond the sake competition this event promotes other activities like conferences about sake pairing and visits in sake breweries in Japan. Here are the award-winning sakes that were chosen after the blind tasting.
__ Mizubasho sake; Junmai Daiginjo. Nice, intense, literally gives a shining feel down the throat, great sake.
__ Kinokuniya Bunzaemon sake; Junmai Daiginjo, Nakano Kabushiki Kaisya, Wakayama. Wow, that's exceptional, so onctuous, with a magical feel in the mouth and throat (how could you taste that without swallowing ?!?), very very nice. Costs ¥ 5000 in Japan (37 € or 44 $). Goes through 3 years of maturation under 5 C (41 F). Haruko tells me they might sell it at Workshop Issé in Paris.
__ Hakucho (Hiroshima), Junmai Ginjo (green bottle). Super smooth & onctuous, very refined texture with an almost-tannic touch, a real pleasure. Another excellent sake indeed. 30 € at Issé, go for it !
Bunkajin, Kochi Prefecture. Very aromatic, flowery notes, very interesting. A bit too aromatic maybe though, like I wonder if they interfered and/or used special yeast to get this.
__ Sake from Hananoka Shuzo (Kumamoto Prefecture in Kyushu), this was the jury's selection. Junmai Daiginjo.Relatively neutral in its tasting characteristics after the others, but good velvet feel with a bit of welcome bitterness at the end of swallowing. Not bad.
__ Shichida, Tenzan shuzo, Junlmai Daiginjo, Omachi 50 %. From the Saga Prefecture (Kyushu). Black labels on the bottles. Nice balance feel, velvet, presence in the mouth, and length. 35 €.
__ Tenzan, Shichida, Junmai Ginjo, light-green bottle. Nice impression overall, nothing more or special, but goes down easy (came here with my motorbike but I never went through a breath check in Paris...).
__ Kihotsu Junmai Ginjo, Saga Prefecture. Pouring temperature is milder (warmer), very nice, silky feel, intense, I like it.
B. joined me around that time and we tasted a few sake made in France by a brewery named Les Larmes du Levant, it is based in Pélussin in the Loire département at the eastern end of the Massif Central (this is actually 45 kilometers south of Lyons), in the vineyards of Condrieu and Côte Rôtie. The area is known for its pristine water especially in
the Pilat, and Pélussin has its own water known since the Antiquity. They had the water analyzed by several sake breweries throughout Japan and it is a very good water to make sake with few minerals. Right now they're making 3 different sake but there'll be more soon, like 12 different types next year. They have been working for 3 years on the project and this is their 1st production year. Grégoise spent a year in Japan learning the skills, then 6 to 8 months building the brewery, renovate the buildings and get delivered with the machines & tools. They made a first batch of 9000 liters and at the end of november [like in Japan they work in winter] they start to produce again, this time for 25 or 30 000 liters. Regarding the sales they've been just beginning to sell their sake here at the fair, as the labelling of their first bottles was finished just 2 days before. They'll sell through Osake as well as through their website/facebook and will find distributors soon.
Richt now they work with 2 types of rice and next year there will be 4 types of rice, all imported from Japan.
They're 3 people in the company/brewery : Grégoire himself who is the owner of the brewery, the Japanese Toji, Wakayama Kenichiroh (was in Japan at the time), an experienced brewer in his mid-40s who worked in breweries in the Hiroshima region (10 years as assistant Toji at Taketsuru) as well as Shikoku. The 3rd person is young man on the picture, Tanaka Kohei, he has a 12-year experience in sake making in Japan (he worked at the Hanagaki brewery in the Japanese Alps). Like in Japan, the production will take place in the fall/winter months and the Toji will work only during these months. I asked what brings exprerienced japanese sake brewers in the middle of France, Grégoire says that there are very few sake-brewery creations in Japan, they tend to just preserve the existing ones, so his project was an opportunity for them to take part to a new venture, they could designs the plan, choose the machines, set up the process, everything.
__ Le Vent, Junmai Ginjo made with a Yamada Nishiki (rice variety) polished at 50 %. Just lovely, fills beautifully the mouth, delicious. Grégoire says that there's more presence in the mouth, it's round and it's on purpose, he had his brewers tour te Condrieu and Côte Rôtie before starting the production and they rasted the wines around so that they could understand the region and the wine styles, not to try make the same thing, but just to keep the notion of what people drink here. This sake makes 16,4 % in alc. The retail prices (75 cl) are between 25 & 28 and 35 to 38 depending of the cuvées.
__ La Vague, made with Tamasakae rice (Tottori Prefecture).17,2 %. Love this one too. Grégoire says that's in Tottori that he learnt to make sake.
gregoire.boeuf [at] gmail.com
phone +33 6 58 80 22 60
We tasted the sake of Tsukino Katsura brewery that is located in the Fushimi neighborhood south of Kyoto. B. & I visited a brewery in this area outside Kyoto, this was Saito Shuzo, was quite an experience for us. Tsukino Katsura is said to have brought back to life in 1964 the Nigorizake, an unfiltered and sparkling sake, making thus the 1st Junmai Daiginjo Nigori.
Guillaume Ozanne is a French guy who works there in Japan. The brewery makes 20 different sakes, Guillaume says half of their sakes are unpasteurized, so they sell lots of sake directly to restaurants in japan and particularly in Kyoto, they deliver also unique cuvées which you find in just a particular restaurant or venue. The sake can be found at Kioko, the most well known Japanese grocery in Paris. At the Salon du Sake they presented 5 of them.
__ Junmai Tsukino Katsura ¥ 1100 in Japan (8,3 €) for 72 cl, which is very light, easy drinking he says. En entry-level sake from what I understand. Very enjoyable and very affordable.
__ Asahi Junmaishu, organic farming but they don't tell it on the label (and local, the rice paddies are in Fushimi). He says they've been selling this one for 2 years in Paris (Kioko). They use yeast from Kyoto. Got an award (Platinum) at Kura Master. More intense and smooth in the mouth. Not distributed in France yet. ¥ 1500 (11,3 €) in Japan, very good deal.
__ Yanagi Junmai Ginjo (the bottle Guillaume holds on the picture). Sake typical of Kyoto, he says. Refined Yamada Nishiki & Yume Nishiki rice from Hyogo Prefecture. Served on Lufthansa (business class).Nice intensity and tannic structure, I would say. Good aromatic tension in the mouth. 16 % alc. acidity 1,7. Sold at La Maison du Saké and at the Japanese grocery Kioko. ¥ 2000 (15 €) for 72 cl in Japan.
__ Kasegi Gashira Junmai (a blue bottle). Since 2011. Guillaume says it's for the working father who wants to enjoy a well deserved drink, it's only 8 % in alcohol, very close to wine. Very strange and atypical I would say, with a saline feel in the mouth and something like menthol notes. acidity 6.
__ Nigori, turbid and perly sake. Quite impressive volume in the mouth, interesting, even though I'm not a fan of nigorizake (at least the basic ones you find in the shops in Japan). 17 % alc. acidity 1,7.
Next, we stopped at the table of Miyake Honten, the Sempuku sake brewery which is located in Hiroshima. The brewery was founded in 1856 and from what I understand opened lots of subsidiaries with different names along the years. In 1920 they had a load of Kuretsuru sake embarked on the Japanese Navy ship Asama for a trip around the world, the sake went through just fine, got a quality award and was shipped to all the nation's naval bases... And recently in 2011 they opened Dapan Shutei, a Tachinomi (standing bar) in Shimbashi, Tokyo. Certainly a venue I'll try to visit next time I go to Tokyo...
__ Sempuku Kimoto Junmai, 85 % remaining rice (15 % polished away) which was the rate during Meiji and Taisho. Needed time to be made because of the Kimoto-zukuri manual process. They use a variety of rice that had disappeared, named Shinriki, bringing it back to life and sake production. Nice aromatic identity, glows on the palate. 19 % alc. ¥ 1500 (11,3 €) in Japan, will be at about 30 € here in Paris, but still good value it seems to me (Kioko).
__ Sempuku Yamahai Daiginjo Kurakaori. Honeyish side. Made the old way along the Yamahai Shikomi tradition, 10-year maturation. 47 € at Kioko. They make 14 different types of sake of which 7 are imported in France, and this for 10 years.
Whenever there's a sake fair in Paris, I'm almost sure there will be Atsuhide Kato, the colorful and cheerful CEO of the Born brewery. Born, founded in 1860 and located in the small Fukui Prefecture (north of Kyoto along the Sea of japan), uses pure groundwater from a 180-meter deep well, they use their own yeast and do low-temperature aging (from 1 to 10 years).
__ Born Gold Junmai Daiginjo. Very smooth. We speak about where these sakes can be found in Paris, he says K-Mart (Rue Saint Anne, a grocery with lots of Japanese & Korean food), also Midorinoshima
__ Premium sparkling, a sake with a 2nd fermentation in the bottle. Junmai Daiginjo. They're mak1st fermentation.ing this sparkling sake for 8 to 10 years. The sake spends a year maturing at 10 C (50 F) after the 1st fermentation. Super umami feel, love it, very good. Costs ¥ 7000 in Japan (53 €), will be sold at the end of this year in France as well.
__ Dreams Come True, Junmai Daiginjo, this sake went though 5 years of aging under cold temperature. He pours me from a 1,8-liter bottle. Coats beautifully the palate, very smooth. This sake was poured at the engagement of Princess Mako, he says, that's why she is displayed on some posters. The 1-liter bottle on the linked page was designed by himself. ¥ 12 000 (91 €) + tax...
I like to see old tractors in the domaines including these thin, light straddle tractors from the 1960s' but this old lady was a first for me, this is a straddle [enjambeur] trailer for draft horse or ox cating from 1920 and specially designed for spraying Bordeaux mix (copper) against mildew. It isn't that high for a straddle, hinting that the vines weren't that high, and in 1920 it's even possible they were standing on psts, not trellis.
I saw this well-preserved straddle at the interesting Musée des Arts et Métiers de la Vigne et du Vin a museum showcasing the different artisans and vineyard professions a century ago. I remember that Oronce de Beler, when he was heading Equivinum had set up a modern equivalent of such a spraying trailer for biodynamic sprays which can cover 8 rows at a time (see this video, beginning at min 3:18).
We happened to see this scene by chance early september as we were driving from Bordeaux to the sea; The vineyards of Chateau Haut Brion are right in the larger city of Bordeaux in Pessac when you leave Talence where several universities sit, or it's the other way around, suburban sprawl has almost engulfed all the agricultural land except a few blocks of vineyard. The news recently is that Parisians that can afford it flee Paris (blame it in part on the disastrous management of Mayor Hidalgo) and settle in Bordeaux instead, bringing a construction boom and sky-rocketing real-estate prices. This city including its suburb is indeed much more liveable (in spite of difficult traffic), relatively crime-free and pretty clean.
This was the very first days of the picking and this was Merlot. Jean-Luc soulié, the guy in green on the picture is overlooking his team of pickers and basket carriers. You can see that they don't use boxes but a gondola, which is surprising for a domaine this prestigious. On this story published around the time we were there you can see the gondola unloading the grapes on the sorting table and destemmer (watch the videp). Only one hectare has been hit by the frost from the 55 hectares of reds at Chateau Haut Brion, compared to the 50 % hit on the Pessac-Léognan Appellation area.
To feel what can yield the vintage 2017, no better way than read Jean-Marc Quarin (here his pre-harvest analysis), a Bordeaux based analyst with extensive knowledge of the wines and Chateaus of the region. In this attentive analysis of the weather conditions along the season, he notes that the drought stress which is so important and needed for the vines (in order to make great wines) only settled in the region from august 21 which is pretty late (should have come at the veraison). The summer was not that sunny and the leaves remained green when comparatively they'd turn yellow in other years, but at times the temperature was quite hot and also the grapes tasted beautifully. And at the end the ripeness came early, something you often have on good vintages in Bordeaux.
If you're in Paris november 17-18 don't miss Jean-Marc Quarin's Le Salon des Outsiders which helps spot wines and domaines of the Bordeaux region that stand out regardless of their AOC status. Pass for 1 day costs 20 €.
This is a vintage tractor designed for the vineyard (tracteur vigneron) which stands on the lawn at chateau Maucaillou (there seems to be protective side panel missing on this side of the engine. This "Brandt Vigneron" by Tracteurs Edgar Brandt type V2-2 #10, was manufactured in Versailles by Emile Regnier under licence Ballu. Interestingly, Vincent Ballu is the inventor of the straddle tractor, it was a new thing, most growers would still plow their vineyard with a draft horse right after WW2. See on the left his very fist model of straddle tractor during a demonstration in the vineyard in 1947 (in Champagne). According to this short bio, his 1st straddle tractor was used for 25 years on the vineyards of Moët & Chandon and is now exposed in the museum of the Maison Moët & Chandon. the company founded by Vincent Ballu still lives under the name of Exel Industries.
This yellow tractor above has a feel like it was made in the 1930s', so I don't know, it may have been made in the 1940s' but, because of WW2, from designs dating from the previous decade. The engines (Moteurs Edgar Brandt) that had either a 20-25 horse power or 12-15 were also made at the factory in Versailles.
Source for the information on this tractor.
On our way to the ocean we stopped in an oyster farming village 50 km west from Bordeaux, this was so nice, first the air is good (and you kind of already feel it in Bordeaux, this city is very healthy, people look like they live in a thermal town). This was in Lège-Cap-Ferret on the Baie d'Arcachon, this looks like a fishing port with small structures (often wooden cabins) all along the docks where they process the oysters, and here and there a couple of these places are serving fresh oysters, like La Cabane 57 (cabane means cabin) which offers a dégustation les pieds dans l'eau (a tasting _oysters & wine_ the feet in the water). I'm never indulging into going in tourist traps and this venue is not, there's a nice feeling here, simple decoration, good products and cheerful waitress (a student from Bordeaux) and the owner (picture above) who was working as a scientist in her former life and reconverted in an oyster farm plus this restaurant shack.
This was a weekday and the place was not overcrowded, we could sit and order under the mild sea breeze.
Here were the formulas when we went there : 6 oysters with a glass of wine, bread, butter & lemon for 11 € or 12 oysters, glass of wine, bread, butter, lemon for 14,5 € (size of oysters depends of what they receive the same day). Shrimp plate (120 grams) 5 €, plate of whelks 5 €, Paté (130 grams) 5 €. We opted for several plates including generous plateau of oysters and a bottle of white (12,5 €) which made a good job with the sea food, it was a Bordeaux white, Chateau La Freynelle 2016 (Sauvignon, Semillon, Muscadelle) made by a vigneronne named Véronique Barthe.
And the owner of this great venue has written a recipe book about oysters with lots of pictures, Mieux Vaut Tartare Que Jamais (not available through Amazon apparently but you can find it at Cabane 57....
Map location of the Cabane 57
Call ahead to reserve : 06 13 29 87 60
Pic on left : the view from the tables outside
3 stories in one...
Here is another great venue located in Ardèche in the village of Valvignères, A la Tour Cassée (pictured on left, means the broken tower in French). It's been a hotel/bar/restaurant since 1910 and it's now a magnet for the people of the region (and further) for their wine list and their exquisite food. When I stayed there a few months ago earlier this year I asked the owner (the lady on the picture) how it all began. Claire Bouveron was living in Lyons back then in 2004 when she discovered the place with her husband, she sent an email to her daughter who was in Australia then (her daughter is an enologist and she was training in a winery in the southern part of Australia), telling here to come in this wonderful place they had found. The owners had stopped managing the place themselves in 1992 and they had rented it to managers who didn't do a good job. And guess who the owners of this place were ? this was the family of Gerald Oustric, and Claire even showed us the room where Gerald was born... The wine list is terrific at La Tour Cassée, especially if I give you this tip : there's the official wine list (already mouth watering) and if they feel you're into this kind of wines, they have more bottles in store to propose...
Another interesting story was when she met Aurelia Filion and her boyfriend Alexis Fortier-Lalonde who were just at the time travelling in Europe and happened to be picking grapes (near Bordeaux if I remember, where Claire's daughter was studying), she remembers they were'nt too much knowing the natural wines back then, she remember when Aurelia brought a bottle for a party that she had bought at the grocery shop, not precisely natural, and Aurelia is very thankful to Claire for having opened her eyes (and her palate) on these new (and ancient at the same time) authentic wines. Aurelia and Alexis have been running Oenopole for quite a few years now and import great artisan/natural wines to Canada.
Asked how she herself discovered these wines, this was when she moved in Lyons in the 1980s' she was tired with her former of job and decided to quit and do something else like cook and do restaurant things, so she managed to work in a wine bar (a bistrot à vins named Mon Père était Limonadier, this place isn't any more even if this name is still used) in Lyons at La Croix Rousse, a venue which she knew, in order to learn the skills. They were the ones that made her know wine because before that time basically she didn't really drink. She really awakened to wine and to food also, this was extraordinary. At the time her daughter who was a teenager then also came to eat with her at this wine bar, speaking with the vignerons and getting maybe the spark that would make here later become a winemaker herself... She told here mother that was the work she's pursue because the people were looking so happy, balanced et al.
Now you may wonder if Claire's daughter Clémentine is making wine somewhere ? Yessss and not just in a random place, she's the feminine half of the couple behind the terrific wines of Le Coste (Gian Marco Antonuzi being the other half). I tasted a few of their wines a year ago at Vini di Vignaioli in Paris (scroll down almost to the bottom) and they were so good, I didn't know who the woman on the picture was at the time (here is a link to a page with their cuvées). Gian Marco himself in his youth was supposed to become a lawyer because of his family pressure, but he kept learning about food and wine while studying and when he ended graduating in Law he decided to drop this career and embarked in a tour training in different domaines including in natural-wine farms in France... and Gian Marco & Clémentine met at Domaine Gérard Schueller in 1999 where their paths crossed, isn't that a cute story ?...
A few bottles (75 cl) & prices at the bar & restaurant of La Tour Cassée (so affordable):
Whites :La Clef des Champs 2014, Chardonnay Jérome Jouret 20 €; Faux sans Blanc, Chard/grenache Blanc 2012 Sylvain Bock 18 €; La Vrille et le Papillon Z Blanc Viognier 2014 22 €; Gérard Schueller Muscat 2011 20 €; Axel Prüfer La Peur du Rouge, Chardonnay 2011 20 €; Opidaqui Pique Poule 2014 25 €; L'Anglore Sels d'Argent Grenache Blanc 28 €; La Bohême tHe Blanc Chardonnay 2011 30 €; Reds : Gilles Azzoni Frigoula syrah-marsanne-merlot-grenache 2014 18 €; Les Deux Terres La Reboule, cab-merlot-grenache 2014 14 €; Le Mazel PLanet cab-sauvignon 2013 16 €; Gramenon Sierra du Sud (syrah) 2011 25 € ; Mouressipe cacous Grenache-syrah 2015 18 €; Casot des Mailloles Poudre d'Escampette gre-car-mourv 2012 26 €; Jérome Saurigny Au Suivant Cab-franc 2010 20 €; Le Coste Rosso Greghetto 2009 25 €. You'll discover by yourself the unofficial wine list that dwarfs this one....
The Cave des Papilles had another great outdoor event last september, La Fête, with hundreds of natural-wine lovers coming to the shop in the 14th arrondissement to enjoy the good company and the generous wine pours in the street in front of the wine shop. As usual there was live Jazz music and good food, and in addition to these free pours all along the day you could walk in the shop, buy a bottle and enjoy it with friends in the street. At the time of the year you're just back from vacation and try to readapt to the big city it's a good help to face the coming months of autumn and winter. I had almost forgotten about the date although I had been emailed by Florence, happily Aaron texed me asking if I would be there, and as I was in Paris that weekend of course I'd come...
That was great to see Aaron again, he's in Paris permanently again although I understand he travels back to Beaujolais now and then, he knows the milieu over ther certainly better than many specialits. As said you could add pepper to the experience by buying a bottle and (no cork fee) enjoy it in the street. His choice was this Arbois Pinot Noir by Jean-Baptiste Menigoz, cuvée Néo. I don't remember how much it costs but on the Papilles' Jura page there are several wines by this vigneron including another Pinot Noir, la Pépé at 21 €. I loved this Jura red, and look at the color, that makes you salivate even before touching the glass...
You stumble on other natural-wine people in this even, I don't recognize everybody but I saw Ewen (left) of Saturne restaurant and Michel Tolmer who makes these great disrespecting comics about natural-wine amateurs.
I bought after that a bottle of Nicolas Carmarans Mauvais Temps, you know this former owner of the Café de la Nouvelle Marie who brought back to life terraced parcels in the Massif Central and make gorgeous unfiltered, so2-free wines from them.
I also met Yuko Kuwahara through whom I discovered the first sake brewery that made real sake again after WW2 in Japan, Shinkame shuzo (I'd later visit the brewery during a trip to Japan). She told me the sad news, Yoshimasa Ogawahara the inspired founder passed away recently, but the good news is that the brewery is continuing his work, producing real sake, pure sake like it was the norm before corrections and alcohol addition became mainstream in the mid-20th century. Yuko had brought a bottle of Shinkame and it was good to have a glass of real sake among all these real wines, I had noted the cuvée but can't find my notes... Here Yuko poses with Gérard Katz, the man behind the Cave des Papilles.
I didn't visit Laurent Saillard during the harvest but someone sent me this group portrait shot during the picking of his Sauvignon, makes me regret not to have dropped there...
THe reason I hadn't drop at Laurent was probably that I was busy scouring the woods and picking mushrooms, this season 2017, although not very rainy, yielded good volume of mushroms, both cèpes (boletos) and pieds-de-mouton (Hydnum repandum), the latter being found now in november with dropping temperatures. It's also a pure pleasure to walk randomly in the woods (leaving the grass roads is better) in a landscape covered with falling leaves (the trick being to distinguish them from the smart mushrooms...).
Picking mushrooms should be taught in the schools, it's a great experience that bears many fruits in life, in Russia picking mushrooms is part of their mystical connection to Mother Nature and next time I go there I want to feel the excitement again to walk through these endless forests. By the way I brought back from there a soviet-era system to dry fresh mushrooms an an oven, it's very simple to use and it's like drying sliced mushrooms in the attic (the old Russian way) except that it's faster.Didn't use it yet because we eat them all in a matter of days and give the rest.
But beware : there are lots of ticks in the woods, and always walk with high boots, wearing bright cloth so as to be able to spot them before they reach your skin (stop from time to time to look at your pants). This one (picture shot on my pants this october) will never harm anyone else, be sure of that, my rules of engagement say no prisonners. This story is not a trick of my part to discourage potential mushroom pickers but these ticks can carry the Lyme disease which is hard to detect at the beginning and hard to treat later when its symptoms become obvious. To avoid getting ticks on you, my tip is to never touch with your cloth (pants, shirt, wathever) any plant or high grass, same for low-hanging branches, that's why the high boots and use a stick to spead aside the leaves, grass or branches that come your way. That's pretty sad (not sure it's been always this bad) but nowadays that's the safe way to wander through the woods... Now I'm quiet, none of you will try to find my mushroom mines...
Those of you who follow my Instagram account are familiar with this cute meal scene encountered during one of these mushroom walks. On the whole, I can't say I love slugs, they're the one who try to eat my young shoots of pumpkins in the vegetable garden or which I find eating the boletos, but in the woods at least I respect them, they're at home and here they were so kawaï both of them on this fallen mushroom... And here I don't think this mushroom was edible, or at least it's not among the ones I'm looking for, so keep having a good lunch in these peaceful underwoods...
Someone gave me this wine to try a few months ago and I opened the bottle recently, this is indeed a very strange wine, almost out of this world. It is made by Philippe Viret who farms on biodynamics and does "cosmoculture", meaning they work with the energy of the world around, magnetic fields and so on, something that I see more and more (like at Leclerc-Briant or at Franck Pascal in Champagne for example) and the wines respond beautifully, and beyond that of course, no additives are used. This red was almost tickling with energy on the tongue with a vibrant acidity, the only thing I'd say against (for my own preferences) is that it was a bit too much in terms of aromatic expression and extraction. This web page in French details the vinification for the 2015, 3 weeks of maceration with hand-picked Mourvèdre, Merlot, Cabernet-Sauvignon, Caladoc, Marselan, no added sulfites but a light filtration. The wine costs only 8 or 9 €, good deal for such demanding conditions. THe 2015 which I tasted was made with Grenache, Syrah, Carignan & Mourvèdre.
Yet another wine i found at Monoprix, the otherwise overprice food store, during its september-october wine fair (Foire aux Vins), this is truly a rebel wine, a table wine made from grapes grown on an island on the Garonne, and the name of the cuvée Bord'Eaux Inférieur, hinting humorously at its location (bord de l'eau in French means along the water) brought the ire of the appellation system which viewed the thing as an attack on the AOC Bordeaux Supérieur (read this article in Decanter about the issue).
The wine is made from 5 varieties but 90 % of Merlot, a very enjoyable wine with a truth feel and lovely acidity for about 9 €. Dominique Léandre Chevalier is a real rebel, he says he can't take seriously the threat from an AOC (Bordeaux Supérieur) that plants at a density of 3000 or 4000 per hectare when in his own parcels of Blaye are planted at 10 000, 11 000 or even 33 000 per hectare (and these are ungrafted vines...).
My illustration picture is just my pumpkin harvest 2017 I'm so proud about, but the story is about using seeds found on archeological sites and reviving them, putting them to grow squashes (pic on left) hundred years after their seeds were left buried. That's what was done by students using seeds found by archeologists in a clay vessel in an Indian Reservation in Canada. We know there are already hundreds of ancient vegetable varieties surviving here and there in oldtimers' vegetable gardens but here with the combination of archeology and science there's a potential to recover many more varieties until now resting six feed under. This would be such a healthy alternative to our anemic authorized list of varieties here in nanny state EU. As you may not know, the EU in its wise overreach to protect the seeds industry, has edicted that for any seed to be sold on the market, it has to be registered on an EU list (I'm not kidding) which is comicly named (again, I didn't make this up) Catalogue Officiel (here is the English version of the seeds catalog, named more discreetly "National List"), we're in a world between Orwell's 1984 and the old-days Soviet Union, and organic seed-exchange groups like Kokopelli were heavily fined for selling unregistered ancient-variety seeds a few years ago as a warning to ancient-variety-seeds to cease and desist.
that's why I appreciate to read such stories from areas not administered by the EU bureaucracy and I like hese last words from the linked article : "Thanks to the ancient indigenous person who put those seeds in a clay vessel hundreds of years ago, this squash varietal won't be lost to history. And thanks to more modern seed savers, we're reviving and preserving other fruits and vegetables." We do need seed savers and the more people exchange local-variety seeds the less appeal the generic type of vegetables found in the supermarkets or in the industrial agriculture will have.
Source : http://www.wineterroirs.com/2017/11/wine_news.html