Annual Burgundy French Wine Festival 2015

If you know me by now, wine and I are more than just friends.  So, when you live within 3 hours’ drive from Paris to Burgundy, the Galettes des Rois have been baked, tried and tested, and good friends ask you to join them for the annual wine festival, what would you do? So I missed Burn’s Night again this weekend for this…

Le Chateau du Clos de Vougeot Bourgogne

According to the New York Times, Burgundy is one of the top 15 destinations to travel to in 2015.  I say Burgundy, but let’s say Bourgogne, darlings. If you follow the blog, you’ll remember about the Fête de Saint-Vincent Tournante in Saint Aubin last year – so I’ll not repeat about the festival’s history and background.  This year the 71st wine festival took place in two tiny villages of the Côte de Nuits: Vougeot and Gilly-lès-Cîteaux between Dijon and Beaune.

Before the Fête started on Saturday, we kicked off the weekend for dinner.  Last to arrive at the Château Tailly (that’s what happens when you leave at 4.30pm from Paris – it takes an extra hour just to drive out of it!) our lovely friends thankfully saved some Crémant de Bourgogne apéritif and we quickly dumped our bags in the Hemingway room.  Oh, to drop everything and live like a lord and lady for the weekend… Château Tailly is a Gîte de France (details on previous blog post) and a wonderful, welcoming place to stay in Bourgogne.

Chateau de Tailly Gites de France Burgundy

Like last year, our weekend was organised by our good friend, Hervé, who is Master of Organisation Extraordinaire and thrives on it.  Toma Le Courbe, our talented chef, prepared a meal around a lobster theme: starting with a lobster claw risotto to accompany a Rully 1er Cru.  This was toe-curling!  I am definitely adding more sauce from now on to my risottos. His secret?  A dash of Cognac, tarragon and nigella seeds.

Main course was lobster tail and scallop with lightly spiced bulgur and a velvet crab (étrilles) sauce.  The best wine with this was Jean-Pierre Guyon’s Nuits Saint-Georges white (pinot blanc) – a rare occasion to enjoy this, as it’s normally a red wine.  The cheese course was a typical speciality of Burgundy – more on this with a recipe to come soon.

gourmet French menu by Toma at the Chateau Tailly Burgundy

Next morning the Ceremony officially started at 6.30am –  Chefs Toma and Marie were already bravely serving for the festival.  As the procession took place amongst the winemakers and the red-golden-robed Chevaliers de Tastevin, we visited our high profile but down-to-earth winemaker friend, Jean-Pierre Guyon.  He took us through his legendary wine tastings directly from the cellar in Vosne-Romanée.  It’s not that his winery is on the national road (la route des Grands Crus – D974) and only 20 minutes walk to Vougeot, but Domaine Guyot’s wines happen to be some of the best and purest of nectars in Burgundy.

Domaine Guyot Vosne-Romanée Burgundy wines best in France

Starting from the basic of Bourgogne reds, through to other Grand Crus such as Gevrey Chambertin, we finished off with the festival’s stars, the Clos de Vougeot and Echezeaux 2013 – still in barrels and not yet ready but boy, the flavours!  If it was a blind tasting, I was convinced I was drinking a white Mersault rather than a red Clos de Vougeot (although Mersault is not that far away from here.)  The flavours of cream and soft vanilla opened up in the mouth 10 seconds later – and that was only 2013!  Top of the ladder’s lunch was the most exquisite rillettes pâté.  Needless to say, I used the spittoon if I wanted to get through the day!  Although a couple of Grand Crus accidentally slipped down.

Domaine Guyon Ban Bourguignon

Le Ban Bourguignon …

Finishing with hands in the air with the traditional Ban Bourguignon song to thank Jean-Pierre, it was time to walk to the Fête de Saint-Vincent Tournante. Luckily I was wearing long-johns and extra thermal gloves since it was absolutely freezing!

The vines dusted with snow sprinkles, take a look at the rich soil or terroir.  With 100 appellations in Bourgogne, the Côte de Nuits has 13 Grands Crus appellations.  For this event, the Grand Crus stars were both Clos de Vougeot and Echezeaux.  What’s so incredible about the wines here is that the terroir is so different in one area to the next so, even although one appellation can be near to the other, the tastes of the wines can be so varied.

Clos Vougeot Burgundy French vineyards in winter

The history of wines here stretches back 900 years when the monks constructed buildings around the vineyards. Here it wasn’t uncommon to see 1298 like this, written on buildings. The theme this year was therefore, “On the Monks’ Trail”.  Spot the monks propped up around the two villages…

Fete de Saint Vincent Tournante 2015 Vougeot

It takes the villagers weeks to voluntarily prepare for the event, decorating buildings with paper maché flowers. This year I just bought one sampling pack (well, I’d lost Antoine!): 15€ for 7 tasting tickets, a special St Vincent 2015 glass and map.

festive window in the village Veugeot Burgundy

The French postman? Eewah, eewah, ee-always loves dropping in some letters!

The glass comes in a special pochette that hangs around the neck, so you can wander about the villages without needing your glass in hand.  Just as well, as I could no longer feel my fingers!

Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru 2013 for the Fete de Saint Vincent Tournante 2015

Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru 2013 especially made for the Fete de Saint Vincent Tournante 2015

In the end, I only tasted 2 wines: the ordinary Bourgogne and one of the two Grand Cru stars, Clos de Vougeot.  Poured into a chilled glass, fighting off the snow flakes, it wasn’t just that it was over chilled: we were spoilt by tasting Jean-Pierre’s wines beforehand.  So, I just circulated to enjoy the ambience.

The village of Vougeot is particularly picturesque: I’m returning in the summer to appreciate visiting the Château du Clos Vougeot and the neighbouring wineries.

Andouillette sausages

Toma and Marie’s stand were attracting some funny-dressed crowds, as the smell of Andouillette sausages were swirling around his tent.  It reminded me of what Ann Mah says in her book, Mastering the Art of French Eating.  I cannot for the life of me even try it.  The “fragrance” is rather overwhelming. The French mock me, saying it’s the same as our Scottish Haggis. It’s not the same thing.  So roasted chestnuts were my preferred afternoon goûter or 4 o’clock treat.

French roasted chestnuts

Then I stumbled on something, a snow storm took off and stepped back in time – to the Village des Gueux (desgueux means disgusting in French).  I was Asterix in Bourgogne.  Soup, anyone?

Village des Gueux France wine festival

Village Des Gueux

The soup was welcoming to warm frozen fingers.  Let’s say that was about it.  Motivation was strong during the long walk back in the biting winds to the mini-bus, as Toma and Marie had already left their stand and taken off to their new restaurant in Rully to prepare dinner.

Maison Le Courbe French restaurant in Rully, Burgundy

Back to civilisation, after a hot bath to defrost.  I couldn’t recommend Toma and Marie’s new restaurant any higher at the Maison Le Courbe in Rully.  The courtyard is wonderful (sorry, my photos were too poor in the dark) and would suggest you enjoy the view to the château in Rully in the summer, when the weather is more clement.

Menu Maison le Courbe Rully Burgundy

Toma’s culinary skills showed off with his entrée of an Opéra of Foie Gras, smoked duck, pain d’épices and a blackcurrant coulis.  Chicken was stuffed with snails (yes, I eat these too!  Not bad for an ex-vegetarian!) in a creamy garlic sauce.  Cheese?  I must write about this separately!  To finish off was a Paris Brest.  I’d love to do a Paris-Bourgogne soon! Inspiration indeed, Toma.

Domaine Guyon Vosne-Romanée best wines in Burgundy

At the end of the weekend, Antoine surprised me with some boxes of my favourite wines from Jean-Pierre to take back home.  You mean, you went all the way down to the cellars to get it for me? Oh baby, baby you shouldn’t have.  I’m in love…

Cheers from Bourgogne on #TravelTuesday!

Maison Le Courbe
19 rue Saint Laurent
71150 Rully
FRANCE

 

 

A Lazy Gourmet Visit to Yvoire – one of France’s Prettiest Villages

Summer this year was all pretty much last-minute.  On return from our New York visit,  the French parents-in-law were disappointed that us ‘Parisiens‘ hadn’t yet thought of visiting them in Provence in August.  So, with that said, we threw a few bags in the car, leaving plenty of space for eventual goodies from the local Provençal market (my list was longer than a happy sunflower), and headed down the Autoroute de Soleil to Avignon.

As our plans were so last-minute it meant we could aim to follow the sunshine, hoping that the good people at the méteo weather centre hadn’t gone on holiday too.  You see, curiously, the normally radiant August sun in France was playing hard to get and the so-called Autoroute de ‘Soleil‘ was sulking under thick rain-clouds.  As we drove south, our goal was to leave the steely skies in the back mirror and so ended up taking a sunny detour via Haute-Savoie and the fresh air in the mountains of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur.

Medieval Town of Yvoire in France

One of the highlights of Haute-Savoie has to be the medieval village of Yvoire.  It’s right on Lake Léman, which separates France from Switzerland. “Make sure you reserve a table at Les Jardins du Léman and order the local catch”, advised Hervé, a wonderful gastronomic connaisseur and bon vivant friend.  So, not to disappoint him, we parked the car on the outskirts of the town and headed straight to our table.

Lake view from the top terrace of the Jardins du Leman restaurant Yvoire

Our table was on the top terrace where this secret ambience was hiding excited chattering, chilled rosé being poured and long platters of homemade frites.  Such a view was already enticing but the top terrace overlooks the lake and dominant Château d’Yvoire.  (Incidentally, you can’t visit it unless you know the owners: I need to work at networking, as my Mum has already placed her order for a Granny flat.) Back to the lake.  No wonder fish is what to order here.

Lake Leman between France and Switzerland

What a menu!  Julie, who isn’t as fond as white fish as ourselves, changed her mind that afternoon.  With perch fillets sautéd in a creamy basil sauce and served with the thinnest, crispiest, homemade frites, what was not to love?  I took Hervé’s advice and was in seventh heaven with the Féra du Léman, the local freshwater fish with the most exquisitely-cooked vegetables and the best risotto I’ve tasted in a while.

The best fish restaurant in Yvoire France

Dare I say I couldn’t even manage dessert?  I mean, who could resist choux cream puffs, une Réligieuse in her iced crowning glory hiding a light vanilla pastry cream or the freshest of raspberry tarts?  The portions were so ample that I had to pass – but it just means that we’ll need to return to taste them!  Instead, we needed a walk to merit something at 4 o’clock goûter teatime.

Boats in the harbour of Yvoire in France

The views and fresh air from the lake would surely work up a sweeter appetite.

The harbour in Yvoire, France

Classy passenger boats on the jetty go to and fro the Swiss town of Nyon, on the other side of the lake.  I was content just gazing at the sailing boats.  In any case, there were too many clouds on the Swiss side…

View of Switzerland on Lake Leman

The castle certainly dominates the landscape.  Imagine having your home on a restaurant’s business card?

Yvoire castle on Lake Leman

Nicolas here, also dominated this street with his giant gingerbread rounds, or Pain d’Epices.

Gingerbread or Pain d'epices stall

It didn’t need much to spice up my afternoon when I saw this macaron sign on the Grande Rue – with even more exclamation marks than Mad About Macarons!

French macaron tasting sign

The girls and I tasted their chocolate and passion fruit macarons.  Delicious.  Apparently they produced the biggest macaron pyramid last year. On return home, I looked up their website but it doesn’t exist.  And I’ve looked everywhere on Facebook for them in vain.  Never mind.  If you can’t get to Yvoire, you’ll just have to make your own macarons like the French.  Just saying.

bright coloured rows of macarons

rows and rose of macarons!

Back to street meanderings, the girls couldn’t help looking into Crêperies and ice cream boutiques.

pedestrian streets village of Yvoire France

This boutique confirmed the latest trend: mixing alcoholic drinks with Red Bull.  Now there’s an idea for your macarons, my friends – mind-blowing!

French ice cream flavours - fashionable or à la mode

Incidentally, have you tried my Pistachio, green tea and wasabi ice cream recipe yet?  It goes deliciously well with the same flavour of macaron (recipe is in the book).

As we sat under the shade of a giant fig tree, we watched others do like us: exchange ice creams.  Do you do that too?  We also reminisced that over the space of just a few hours, we’d had the most lazy yet gourmet and sunny afternoon.

Fig tree at the church in Yvoire

Speaking of lazy gourmet, have you tried this ridiculously easy recipe of roasted figs with honey and lavender?  As we’re smack bang in the middle of the short fig season in France, go for it!

roasted figs in honey and lavender

A quick fig dessert


Note: We were not guests anywhere here and all opinions are my own, as usual.  I’m just sharing our family holiday highlights.

Le Touquet – where France meets England over Macarons

It’s more likely to be in the Eurotunnel or over a football match.  But this weekend – birthday partying in between – as most normal people were drawn to cafés and bars to watch the World Cup on big screens, I was drawn instead to this pâtisserie window. Well, wouldn’t you if you’re mad about macarons?

macaron window display at Serge's in Le Touquay, Normandy, France

England is closer to Le Touquet than us ‘southerners’ in Paris.  This swanky coastal resort, known as Le Touquet-Paris-Plage in the Pas-de Calais, is only a straight 2.5 hour drive on the A16 from Paris yet it’s next door to Calais to jump on the Eurostar to London, and even closer a drive along the coastal road to Belgium.  So, when Serge Leveau decided to change direction from restaurants and open his own pâtisserie, Arts Gourmands on one of the main streets in Le Touquet, he picked a great location.

macaron vase display patisserie window Le Touquay Normandy France

This may sound weird, but do you also love stacking up macarons, one by one, until it’s in the dangerous falling zone? He manages an impressive macaron tower of 11 or 12! Forget the flowers, this is a lovely decor idea: macarons in a giant vase.

choice of designer eclairs by Serge in Le Touquay, Normandy France

Serge Leveau is also an éclair genius. His lovely wife tempts you with gleaming fondant-coated varieties such as pistachio, Mars, Bounty, Twix, Saffron, Lagavulin (och, who can resist that one, Jimmy?), cherry, Strumph, chocolate, espresso and Madagascar Vanilla.  Incidentally, I also bought the fattest, juiciest looking Tahitian vanilla pods/beans. Tahitian are much subtler in flavour than Madagascan – I can’t wait to try them out at home, even if I do prefer more up-front flavours. 

Guimauves - artisanal marshmallows by Serge, Le Touquay, Normandy

Eyeing the pastel-shade guimauves, I hauled myself away just with éclairs for tea-time and would get the rest tomorrow (well, I was supposed to be celebrating a special dinner so no need to over-do it!). 4 o’clock. On the dot. Goûter time with our éclair picnic on the windy beach. Without the cup of tea. I wish he had a tea salon.

picnic on le Touquay Normandy Beach, France

 As it’s right in the midst of cherry season, I had to pounce on this beauty with its cherry melting on to the brilliant fondant.

Serge’s fillings are generous, light, creamy and flavours extremely subtle. For chocolate fans, his éclairs have a film of either white or dark chocolate as a base.

pistachio eclair filling

Sunday I popped back to the shop to stock up on the macarons, whose flavours were calling.  Check out this packaging for a box of 12 macarons.  La Classe.

Creative macaron packaging for 12

Carried away (why does that always happen in pastry shops?) I bought more than I ‘needed’.  Well, I had to taste the espresso macarons, the violet, speculoos, apricot, rhubarb and one of my personal favourites, coquelicot: French poppy. What would you choose?

apricot macarons by Serge, Le Touquay

Starting with the subtle and sweet apricot and rhubarb, the French poppy had more fragrance as I prefer. Who loves speculoos? I’m saving that until last.

When I asked Serge if he made his macarons using French or Italian meringue, his cheeky, smiling answer was “My own way.”
Well. Then.

apricot macarons and pistachio by Serge, Le Touquay, Normandy, France

I was seriously contemplating attacking these fresh cherry guimauve marshmallows with my café-crème and croissant breakfast but luckily, Serge let me taste a little beforehand so self restraint ruled.  I also bought a whopping 85% chocolate spread – this one is for the adult squirrel corner and well away from any of the kids’ sweet Nutella!

cherry marshmallows handmade in Le Touquay, Normandy

Four éclairs for er, three of us.  To be honest (ok, I’m lying), I forgot that our eldest is on a German exchange and it was reflex, Sir. Honest it was.  Caribbean 66% chocolate (which was very low on sugar for the chocolate to shine through), Poppy, Espresso (this was our winner as it was slightly stronger in flavour than the others) and Lagavulin.

gourmet eclairs

And this is how the sweet weekend ended on Father’s Day: a Lagavulin Whisky éclair with its extra syringe of Scottish Malt (a double whisky?).  Ah, the Auld Alliance!  Where France meets Scotland over an éclair.  For a Franco-Scottish macaron, don’t forget I have a MacClair (Coffee and Whisky) macaron recipe in the book on page 84.

A touch of Lagavulin Whisky eclair by Serge in Le Touquay Normandy

Cheers!

Let’s just say I may just need another dose from Le Touquet-Paris-Plage. There’s still a chocolate factory and the Tarte au Sucre to discover next time…

Arts Gourmands
80 rue de Metz
62520 Le Touquet-Paris-Plage

street pianist playing in Le Touquet, Pas-de-Calais, France

Have a tuneful week!

Normandy Summer Sea Festival, Veules-les-Roses

This week Paris has been drenched with April Showers in May.  Just to be confusing, in France it’s supposed to be March showers. Good for the shrubs perhaps but even greater for the travel companies, as we’ve been instead turning our thoughts to the summer holidays.

I realised that I’d forgotten to share the rest of a Normandy short break we made last summer. Remember the visit to the watercress beds in Veules-les-Roses?  It’s not surprising that this Normandy village, with the smallest river in Europe, was voted as 6th most preferred village in France by the French in 2013. The locals also host a Watercress Festival on 20 April.  It’s a date to note for 2015 but it’s not too late to mark this fun festival in your diaries for this summer.

Normandy tractors decorated for the festival

La Fête de la mer, or Festival of the Sea, takes place on 15 August. It’s a popular date as the 15 August is always a national holiday in France (and this year it falls on a Friday, making a ‘pont’ bridge for the long weekend). For those of you who prefer to take off earlier, then on 14-15 June there’s the Rose Festival for budding weekenders and on  5-7 July 2014, Veules-les-Roses will run the Linen festival for the very first time.

veules-les-roses sea carnival boats in the Normandy village

The sea festival kicks off with a religious ceremony at the Church of Saint-Martin in the village centre. Then, driven by decorated tractors and jeeps, boats carrying light-hearted, proud youngsters clad in nautical stripes and sailor’s berets form a procession through the main street.

carnival of boats in Normandy

We follow them to the beach, so popular with Russian artists at the end of the 19th Century, inspired by the likes of Monet and Eugène Boudin.

It’s a procession with a difference.  Yes, the boats are going to sea with the Mayor and a couple of priests.

mayor and priests walking on the beach, Normandy

They give their benediction to protect the boats and throw a wreath in memory of all sailors lost at sea.

blessing of the boats and benediction in Normandy, festival of the sea, Veules-les-Roses

Time for some reflection.

bonnet de marin or sailor's beret at the sea festival in Normandy

At the end of the procession, the town hall laid on a splash of Normandy cider, before most visitors headed off for their oyster picnics on the beach or grabbed a table at the numerous seafront restaurants for a plate of local fish and seafood with a view of the cliffs. We already had a super gastronomic meal at Les Galets the night before; this time we found a more light-hearted table at Le Petit Veulais crêperie.  Luckily we booked a few hours beforehand!

normandy oysters

Eye-aye, Captain.  I see their prizewinning oysters (gold medal winners 2013 and 2014 at the Concours Général Agricole) on the horizon, plus watercress beds, rosebeds, oyster beds, seabeds. For sleeping beds, we loved staying a few years before at l’Hôtel Douce France when Julie was just a baby.  This time we stayed in the neighbouring market town of St Valery-en-Caux and thoroughly recommend the Hotel du Casino which is great value.

A great dose of fresh sea air is guaranteed: overlooking the harbour with excited seagulls and tinkering boats for extra ambience, all included.

 

 

French Wine Festival of St-Vincent Tournante, Burgundy 2014

I should have split this long post up into episodes. Instead let me share with you a bumper wine edition from Burgundy.

This past weekend  the vineyards around Burgundy’s Côte d’Or were alive with the sound of visitors trying desperately to park their cars.

St Aubin vineyards January

Nearly 50,000 visitors turned up to the 70th edition of the Festival of Saint-Vincent Tournante in Burgundy this weekend, over 25-26 January.  It’s the first time the wine festival was held in the tiny village of St Aubin (with 260 habitants) in the Côte de Beaune.

Traditionally celebrated over 2 days in January, each year the wine growers around Burgundy get together to pay homage to their patron saint, St  Vincent.  It’s a festival that originated in 1938 but not until 1964 was it opened up to the public and, ever since, each year it has become increasingly popular.

St Aubin Burgundy

It’s as if we’re stepping back in time. Early morning at sunrise – following a glass of the white nectar with breakfast – there is the traditional red and golden robed procession of the Confréries des Chevaliers du Tastevin with the wine growers (vignerons) through the chosen village, followed by a religious ceremony – all under the protection of Saint Vincent, held high above the vignerons’ shoulders, represented as statues amongst the various wine growers’ banners.

We witnessed the St-Vincent procession four years ago in the neighbouring host village of Chassagne-Montrachet. I’ve hunted for my photos from the ceremony in vain, but for images of the religious procession in St Aubin, click here.

Confrererie des Chevaliers de Bourgogne St Vincent

We missed the ceremony this year, as an invitation to a tasting of Jean-Claude Ramonet’s legendary Chardonnay whites in Chassagne-Montrachet was one of these you-only-live-once opportunities.  The only wine bottles we saw were ones without labels, replaced with white abbreviated markings of type and year, not yet ready for the public.

Starting with Bourgogne Aligoté (the dry, even tart wine that traditionally is used in the kir apéritif), we went through young wines such as Le Montrachet (I took me years to realise not to pronounce the ‘t’) and concluded this exceptional white tasting with a monumental Bâtard-Montrachet.  The sophisticated aromas were either already full of butter and dried fruits or slightly closed, like under-ripe peaches. What’s astonishing is that a couple of minutes later after tasting, the most immense flavours of buttered toast, nuts, cream and peachy fruits start dancing in the mouth.

With these kinds of wines, you don’t use the spittoon.

Burgundy wine tasting Domaine Ramonet

Having my modestly petit wine diploma from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust a hundred years ago (the first that takes you on to the ultimate Master of Wine), it gave me a lame excuse to swirl the golden drink of the wine gods around the tasting glass. What I hadn’t learned in my student days was the traditional hand-twirling, clapping song, le ban Bourguignon: lala, lala, lalalalalèèère, lalala, lalala, la, la, la – a signature appreciation to end off the event.

Next stop, St Aubin. As you can see from the dazzling sun bouncing off my huge frozen nose (now developed into a lovely sinusitis, or is it turning into a French nose?), St Vincent also protected us with the weather. It may have been just above zero degrees but the sun made up for the numb fingers and toes.

Jill Colonna Fete de St Vincent St Aubin Burgundy

For the festival, 6 wines (cuvées) were made especially for the occasion with a 7th ticket for the day used as a glass of your chosen wine-maker. Glasses sporting Saint-Aubin logos are THE designer glasses that you’ll need for the weekend; apparently the glass idea started in 1973.  There are 130 hectares with 30 Premiers Crus in St Aubin, with reminders throughout the village.

St Aubin Burgundy 130 hectares of premier cru wine

Every house and balcony are decorated by the village residents with realistic-looking flowers, made from colourful crepe paper.

St Aubin wine festival St Vincent France Burgundy

We were so wrapped up with the convivial atmosphere, with musicians and eating stands (my idea of the perfect lunch was a bowl of oeufs de meurette, not pretty to photograph but exquisite poached eggs oozing in a red wine, garlic and bacon sauce mopped up by a crusty baguette), that it was quite easy to forget about the wine tastings themselves!  I ended up tasting only 2 whites but then, after Ramonet’s exquisite wines, it’s no surprise.

Ambience Burgundy wine festival St Vincent

 The village is traditionally decorated according to the four seasons.  Spot the tree humour and crêpe paper effects on this summery deck-chair.

burgundy wine festival St Vincent

Another reminder of St Aubin’s Premier Crus…

Do you know your Magnum (1.5l) from your Rehoboam (4.5l) or Balthazar (12l)?  Perhaps useful to have up your sleeve if you’re playing ‘Who Wants to be a Millionnaire’?

wine bottle quantities quiz burgundy France

This is when I got lost from our group members by taking photos.Suddenly there were a few people wearing red hats like our friend, Hervé.  I just happened to follow the wrong one.

st vincent wine festival burgundy france January

Hot oysters this way, red wine tasting that way, or what about this way for a wine aroma experience?

learning all the different wine aromas burgundy france

This was my girls’ favourite part. They’d already worked it out: touching the buttons below each vase circulated the air inside and the aromas wafted around in the giant glass.  Let’s face it, as French children, my girls don’t drink the wine yet but can appreciate their aromatic qualities and practise with Mum and Dad…

varied wine aromas to learn in France

Stick your nose in there. Do you get white flowers, fresh fruits, citrus, butter or cream? What about dried fruits and nuts?  Each aroma family is more powerful than meets the eye.

One of my favourite wine games is blind tasting using black glasses (sometimes you can get caught out with water!) but this was a blind aroma test.  We all debated but I’m sure this one was honey.  Time to move on, as it’s a sticky subject.

For red wines in particular, perhaps you discover the animal side: do you get the leather aromas, or wooded vanillas and spices such as cardamom, pepper or coriander?

My daughter, Julie, pushed the button on the sous-bois jar.  How many times have you had an earthy red wine, recognising the natural wafts  of the leafy, moussy undergrowth?  It was so realistic.

Now, repeat after me, ‘Empyreumatic‘.  Fancy, eh?  This is a family of aromas that cover anything burnt, smoked or grilled, which includes coffee and chocolate.  It’s a sign that wines were aged in wooden barrels rather than just inbox cylinders.  Do you get that toast, reminiscent of a white Burgundy, like Mersault?  Hm. Try and pronounce that at a wine tasting.

The red fruits and candied fruits were definitely to be sniffed at.  Again; and again; and again.  Who feels a lightly toasted strawberry gratin coming on?

Before night was upon us already, we headed back to our gîte at the Pavillon de Chasse, or hunting lodge.  The only hunting we were doing was checking out the rest of our wine friends next door at the Château de Tailly, where dinner was laid on by our chef à domicile friend, Thomas Le Courbe aka Toma, who has worked with chefs including Pierre Gagnaire.

Best gites in Mersault Burgundy

The glasses on the table were preparing themselves to be thrilled with our friend, Jean-Pierre Guyon‘s nectar for the evening. Another legendary wine-maker in Vosne Romanée – covering the Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune – he took us through his delicate feminine wines from whites such as Savigny-les-Beaune, Nuits-Saint-Georges (pinot blanc) to the purest reds such as Chorey-les-Beaune, Gevrey Chambertain and Vosne Romanée Premier Cru. All tasting samples, you understand.

By the end of it all, who could forget the customary appreciation of such an epicurean weekend by singing le Ban Bourguignon? My Cod, it was wonderful, Jean-Claude Ramonet, Jean-Pierre Guyon and Toma. With special thanks to our good friend, Hervé, the prince of organisation!  I give you vin sur vin (20/20). Just next time, please don’t wear a red hat.

Before I ask you to sing it and wave your hands in the air, what kind of wine would you prefer to go with this cod dish?  It has a touch of chorizo, saffron, butter, potato, mussels?

I’d thoroughly recommend where we stayed. It’s a 3 hour drive from Paris, 1h30 from Lyon and 35 minutes from Dijon.  For more information, contact info@chateaudetailly.com.

Château de Tailly
Gîtes and Chambre d’hôtes
Tailly
21190 Meursault
France

A New Year Kir Royal from Normandy

Happy, bubbly New Year to you! It’s good to be back.

Do you have resolutions for 2014? I don’t, but this morning I realised the need to resolve the online photo chaos before I move up to the new attic office when it’s ready.  Making a start – trying to cut out the distracting but fun cacophony of sawing, whistling and drilling interspersed with some singing hilarity of French-Romanian renditions of Amazing Grace upstairs- I discovered a number of photos I’d completely forgotten about, taken on a long weekend in Normandy last August.

As the sawdust flies around my nest, this is a welcome impression of fresh air on a desktop – although I can imagine with the ferocious winds this week that it’s not quite the same serene scene along the French coasts!

This shot reminds me of a typical Normandy beach scene by Eugène Boudin, where the sky dominates the canvas. Eugène Boudin was one of the first French landscape painters to paint outdoors – Claude Monet was his biggest fan. I picked that up at the Boudin exhibition in Paris last May at the Jacquemart André museum, before devouring a magnificent fraisier in the museum café, which inspired my strawberry and pistachio tart. But I digress.

Taken from his hidden grotto, this was Victor Hugo’s last view of the sea in 1884, according to a tourist information sign nearby.

This grotto was made towards the end of his life, as he often visited his friend, Paul Meurice, to work and contemplate the sea at his house, just metres away in Veules-les-Roses. I bet they supped plenty of watercress soup together, as this is also where the watercress beds are plentiful at the source of France’s smallest river.

Normandy beach huts

Mid-morning, the row of beach huts in Veules-les-Roses nestled into the cliff’s terrace like a drowsy audience before the sea show. By midday, the ambience flipped to bubbling.

Their weekend occupants had opened the shutters, brushed down the canvas chairs inside and laid out platters of local oysters on picnic tables while sipping on a Kir Normand apéritif: a cocktail drink of local Normandy brut cider mixed with crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur). In some restaurants they also add a touch of Calvados liqueur. While I tried the Kir Normand, I prefer Normandy cidre on its own, to let the flavour of the apples shine through. However, what about just the cider and Calvados?

blackberries Normandy coast

The hedgerows of wild blackberries (or brambles) that line the coastal path in Veules-les-Roses best echo my kir sentiments; my favourite is a kir à la mûre (made with blackberry liqueur), which has something warming and festive about it at this time of year, whatever extreme, crazy weather we’re having.

(Psst: most people call them blackberries, I know, but we call them brambles in Scotland – that way there’s no confusion with the other Blackberry, or hubby’s ‘ex-mistress’ – I always had this strong desire to accidentally drop his Blackberry in the swimming pool as he answered emails on holiday!)

When I first arrived in Paris – as lost as French francs were to finding my purse – I was amazed at the rows of enticing-looking cheap bottles of wine at our local Leader Price supermarket. The wines, however, were just as dry and acidic as the smile-less faces at the cash desk.

As I’d discovered the fabulous classic French kir apéritif made with Bourgogne Aligoté and crème de cassis, it was the happiest solution to disguise the rather sour-tasting white wines. Then, as I started to work, I was introduced to the cassis’ fruity cousins in Paris bars and restaurants: I could mix Aligoté or Chablis wine with framboise (raspberry), pêche (peach) or mûre (bramble).

The best ratio of crème de mûre (or cassis, pêche or framboise) to white wine in a kir is about 1:5, as it’s just enough to give a hint of fruit without overpowering the flavour of the wine.  Let’s face it: you don’t want something overly sweet for an apéritif before a meal. In Burgundy, I was surprised to be served at least double the dose by our friends from Dijon – so it’s just a matter of personal taste.

For festive occasions, the kir’s decadent big, bubbly sister is the Kir Royal made with Champagne, but traditionally and best served with a Crémant de Bourgogne, dry sparkling wine from Burgundy. When I followed Georges Lepré’s wine conferences in Le Vésinet last year, he told us that while he was chef sommelier at the Ritz until 1993, he was asked by Joan Collins for a Kir Royal with Roederer Champagne. Say no more. Don’t ruin fabulously expensive Champagne; enjoy it with a good dry brut without too much character – unless your character is stronger than the wine.


Laughter is sunshine that drives winter from the human face”

– Victor Hugo, Les Misérables.

CHEERS!

to
laughter, health and sunshine in 2014!