On goat cheese, wine, garden shoes, crashing birds....and Wal Mart
As soon as I came to the Loire, back from my trip in Israel, I rode to the old farm lady who makes goat cheese from only two goats (remember this goat-cheese story on Wineterroirs), with the idea to visit her and buy a couple of goat cheeses. As I was parking the bike in front of the farm, I could see her in the far coming in my direction as she was coming back from the field with her two goats (picture]. Alas she hadn't any goat cheese left that day and I stopped at another goat-cheese farm that I have never reported on until now (could come up one of these days) and bought one of their raw-milk goat cheese. I had it that same evening with a bottle of Sauvignon that I had just bought in bulk to André Fouassier for 1,5 Euro a liter and bottled myself. Unfiltered wine (you can really see it), without the usual sulphur-addings of the bottling. The sticker I wrote on the bottle neck says Fouassier A. 08, vif (means vivid) because I bought him Sauvignon from two different vats, one being more rich (gras) and the other being more fresh and vivid. The cheese was a 8-day cheese, at the beginning of its elevage, already a bit refined and dry but not yet very expressive in terms of aroma strength. I paid 2,2 Euro for it. It was 8pm when I took the cheese and the bottle out to the garden, but still so hot with the sun, and I had to find a shadowy place near the hedge and the cloth line to enjoy this treat.
Being back home is one of the pleasures of travelling, you digest your experiences and put them in balance with your home surroundings, it's so different. On my way to the Loire (on the motorcycle), I rode part of the way on the Nationale 20 behind three guys on Harleys (actually, I saw later that there was a woman biker among them). Great experience, the sound and everything... Two of them had license plates ending with 34 (34 is the administrative number of Herault, a departement in the southern France) and the 3rd had British license plates. The way they were riding together had an Easy Rider feel, I just missed the music, this was a great thundering experience... It gave me the will to try one of those machines one day, but I wonder if they're reliable (I'm not a mechanic and hate having to fix my machine).
Another strange thing happened to me that day. I'm used to watch for wild animals on the forested roads of the Loire, roe deers or wild boars, but didn't see that one coming : while riding as a relatively high speed on a deserted forest road in the Sologne, I saw in a millisecond a white thing coming from my right that struck me on the chest. Destabilized a moment, I kept my way, wondering if I had any thing broken, like my collarbone (that's were it struck me), but everything was OK, except the bird (that was a bird), I stopped and went back looking on both sides of the road and found the poor thing laying dead on the ground : a jay. Lesson of this story, if in the future you don't see a new post in, say, a month, that could be a wild boar instead of a jay...
One of the pleasures to be back home, after sharing my adventures with B. (well, the non-censored ones...) was to try my Israeli garden shoes. Garden shoes are among the things that I like to bring back from my travels, in addition to wine and seeds. I found these green garden shoes (made by the brand Golan) in Tel Aviv; they're ultra-light, well aerated and extremely well insulated from the ground (obviously made for the hot grounds of Israel), ideal for summer while protecting a bit the feet against the morning dew (trust me, I checked that). The other pair of garden shoes in the background are Russian. Definitely the best garden shoes I ever had, ultra-light material, rigid enough to be put on without the hands, and very good protection against mud and morning dew, and also easy to wash with the water hose while wearing them without having water sneak inside. The down side : you need socks because if you walk a lot with them bare foot, the fabric rubbers the skin. I always look for garden shoes abroad because I make a high use of them. In the US I looked for them at Home Depot and Wal Mart but either they were not that different from the French design or they were too expensive but I didn't buy any. Speaking of Wal Mart (where I always check the shoe, camping and bicycle-gear aisles), I know that this company has many foes in the US [pardon me this rant, but the Sauvignon begins to have its toll on me and my lawyer told me anyway to fault the wine for the following], I want to say something to these people who harbor bad thoughts against Wal Mart : Don't ever, never, try to mess with my Wal Mart or you'll find me in your way. I'll cross the Atlantic to defend my Wal Mart (I'm aware that this suicidal stance makes me loose half of my readership...). I remember spotting an anti-Wal-Mart book at the cashier desk of an organic food store in California in 2006 and joking with Ken about writing a provocative pro-Wal-Mart pamphlet, I'm pretty sure it would be a top seller, and not only among the working-class consumerist crowd. Let's stay out of the crowd sometimes and not be afraid of taking flak for that...
When I saw this picture in Aujourd'hui, a major French newspaper and national version of le Parisien (a popular large-distribution daily), I couldn't believe my eyes : I kept thinking, I must be wrong, don't tell me they wiped away Clint Eastwood's cigar on this picture...they did ! Compare with another picture shot in the same scene [pic on right] as I didn't find the base picture on which this poor doctoring was done.
How can they think we're so ignorant about Sergio Leone's movies and Clint Eastwood having a cigar in his teeth on this particular shot ??? Is a cigar an offensive scene ? Are we going to hide or photoshop all portraits even from long ago where people are seen smoking ? Same about wine ? Welcome back to France, the pre-sharia European country where you already can't have an ad glorifying the vertues and pleasures of a simple glass of wine without being sued by whatever anti-alcohol lobby and victimization group preying for retribution money. Time to leave, buddies, now the media seems to be applying this weird self-censorship to be safe from hostile suits, relying to photoshoping cigars (or cigarettes) away from historic pictures, like it happens in Amadinejad's Iran (hide me this ankle and this neck !) and happened in the late Brejnev's Soviet Union. At the time of the USSR, they didn't use photoshop of course but excelled at doing the same directly on film negatives, wiping away bottles of wine and vodka from diner tables attended by dignitaries so as not to anger the deprived masses (even without photoshop they did a much better job than this lousy photoshoping btw). Anyway, spotting the same thing happening in your own country, a western country that you still considered as free is bewildering, especially that Le Parisien/Aujourd'hui is not the most politically-correct newspaper around. The reason behind this self-censorship maybe that Le Parisien was comdemned last year for articles about Champagne, after an obscure, subsidized anti-alcohol group (ANPAA) sued and found complacent judges to impose heavy fines on the newspaper for "incitation to alcoholism" [sic]. Note by the way that this activist association (non-profit group) employs 1266 persons which are de-facto state employees (95% of its budget being financed by the tax payer) but are not counted as such in official statistics. And there are dozens such activist organizations in France, a country where the number of state jobs is already one of the highest in the world (wonder why the economy is faltering in France ?)... Speaking of the suit against Le Parisien for this article on Champagne, Molière would have loved this story for sure (you know the famous line from Tartuffe "cachez ce sein que je ne saurais voir"...), but there could be political reasons behind that sentence, the French judges being often highly politicized, and if Libération or Le Monde had published the same article they might have been more lenient or drop the case right away. Whatever, it is possible that Le Parisien/Aujourd'hui might have decided in regard to that costly affair thay they won't take any chances again and chose to erase cigarettes along with wine glasses.
But the appaling thing here is that nobody seems to have noticed this gross photoshop exercise and what this means for the freedom of expression in France...
What needs to be said is that this appalling state of affairs has nothing to do with would-be-teetotaler, newly-elected rulers but with:
__first : non-profit, subsidized anti-alcohol lobbies and victimization-groups who are preying for whatever easy case that passes by. In France, subsidies by the state are viewed as compulsory by many activist groups, and attempts to remove these subsidies are considered as a threat to freedom, that's why France ends up subsidizing them for ever in spite of the nuisance .
__Second: irresponsible judges who give these lobbies and suing parties free hand at exorting money from people and harrassing companies.
__And third : a French civil society at large which doesn't dare to speak out to defend its way of life against the two later who threaten their culture and way of life.
If you want to check yourself, find a copy of the French daily Aujourd'hui en France, from saturday june 27 (this was a big-printing issue with the death of Mickael Jackson). This doctored picture of Clint Eastwood is on page 29.
When I saw the packaging of this product, I thought that our chemical companies had suddenly got the Egyptian syndrome and decided to get rid of all our pigs because of the so-called swine flu. This determined farmer with his hunting gun seemed resolute to finish off his pigs, but there's something in the picture which was obviously décalé and ironic, and when I read the fine print I saw it wasn't a "kill them all" rallying cry [sigh of relief].
I discovered this chemical product made by France Fluides (a company specialized in pest-control treatments) while perusing in a tool, garden and farm equipment store in the Loire. Chemical companies are not usually known for their humoristic side but this one seems to stand out for this particular product, even if it states on its home page "Spectacular, the chemical applyings of the industry to the garden" [sic, my translation]. I shiver just thinking to it...
The 5-liter chemical is intended to help the farmers limit the ramblings of their pigs to avoid that they ruin everything in the farm yard. The back label says something like "efficient and secure, our products are professional products useable by the private individuals". Private individuals do indeed make a high use of useless chemicals in their garden, polluting what could be a haven for diversity and insects.
What I didn't expect too was to have some one bring wine from Croatia and Serbia here, and these out-of-place wines somehow fit in this strange setting. The Croatian wine was a Grasevina Krizevci 2007 (link to a previous vintage), a 11,2°
white wine. Actually a bit corked I think, but it got my curiosity excited and it let itself drink. It's imported in France by Globus, an importer I remember having visited through one of their shops to buy a bottle. There's a Globus shop located 14 Avenue Claude Vellefaux 75010 in Paris where they sell a dozen different wines from Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro, in addition to meat products and other edibles. I went to this Globus shop thereafter to check again the wines and bout a couple of bottles. Here are potential wine countries where we could see nice thing coming up, even if today the wines reaching Globus are not really satisfying. The cheapest bottles go for 2,75 Euro in this shop, that is cheap indeed, even worryingly cheap, you wonder what sort of doctored crap will jump at you in the glass at that price. I just opened a bottled of Croatian white that I bought after this evening, a Posip Smokvica 2004 by Korculansko Vinogorje (paid 6,75 Euro for it), a woody white, pleasant for an aperitif on these hot days of june, a bit head breaker after 2 or 3 glasses to be frank but, well, let's keep an eye on this wines, they're in the unchartered territories of Europe, not even on the map but there are probably nice things made over there.
It came when B. and the Japanese artist with whom she co-rents this atelier in the nothern suburb of Paris decided to have an open-doors weekend. Visitors kept dropping in this former industrial site (another one) during these two days and I cancelled my weekend in the Loire to share the event and help. Bungen's wife prepared some great dishes that we could pick when hungry. Many Japanese artists living in Paris came, also some Koreans and Chinese,this was indeed sometimes a very North-East Asia atmosphere. Bungen is a Kyushu native and paints with concentration on the weekdays in his side of the atelier. When B. is also there, they can share their respective approach to life and Art, Bungen being still puzzled by many French ways even after many years in France ...
That was all we needed to open this chilled bottle and enjoy the sake in small cups also offered by my visitors.
That was a delight, a delicate, silky sake with a perduring feel in the mouth. This Junmai Daiginjo sake has been made by the Takasago brewery in the middle of Hokkaido in northern Japan in february 2009, in Asahikawa. The Japanese who were present said the place was reknown for its sake. This brewery has a wide range of sake types that make you want to explore Hokkaido.
Here is what you can read in John Gauntner's precious Sake-centered website about the Takasago brewery.
There were a few wines at 2 Euro a bottle (if you took a 6-bottle case), among which : a red Côte du Rhône “le Chemin des murettes” vieilles vignes 2007, bottled by Caves Saint Romain, a Négoce in Nîmes , at 2 Euro (if you took only 1 bottle : 3 Euro) with 17050 cases on sale throught France; a red Buzet (south-western France), Terres d’Albret 2001 at 2 Euro (otherwise 3 Euro) with 5100 cases, and a Bordeaux Chateau Marquis de Lapeyrade 2007 at 1,95 Euro with 95 900 bottles available (that’s mass bottling !).
A few other prices spotted in the flyer, the quantity of bottles or cases dispatched among the Carrefour stores allows to figure out the volume that the vigneron sold in a block :
Alsace Sylvaner Bestheim 2007, 2,95 Euro (17 050 bottles); Picpoul de Pinet (Coteaux du Languedoc) Perline 2007, 3 Euro ( 14 750 bottles available); Côtes du Ventoux Domaine les Rouquettes 2007, 2,95 Euro (12 300 bottles); Fitou (Languedoc Domaine Cazals 2003, 2,9 Euro (11 050 bottles); Bordeaux Premières Côtes de Blaye, Chateau Haut Brignon 2007, 2,20 Euro, (9050 cases); Bourgogne Aligoté Domaine Bissey 2007, 3,5 Euro (13 000 bottles); Bordeaux Blanc (white) Chateau de Laborde 2007, 3,5 Euro ( 7500 bottles); Macon Jacques Delorme 2007, 3,3 Euro (9100 bottles); Minervois (Languedoc) Domaine Pech Viel “Cuvée Jugie Vieilles Vignes” 2005, 3,4 Euro ( 8900 bottles); Faugères (Languedoc) Mas Olivier “Grande Reserve” 2007, 3,9 Euro (21 700 bottles); Saint-Chinian (Languedoc) Col de la Serre 2007, 3,5 Euro (13 850 bottles); Chinon Domaine Eric Sourdais La Buscaudière Cuvée Préstige 2007, 3,5 Euro (10 050 bottles), Alscace Riesling Henri Ehrart Réserve Particulière 2007, 3,95 euro (16 850 bottles); Corbières les Ollieux Romanis 2006, 3,5 Euro (19 500 bottles – I missed this one, a “good” winery I think; Rosé Vin de Pays des coteaux d’Enserune (Cinsault), Augustin Florent 2008, 2,4 euro (8750 bottles); Bordeaux Lussac Saint-Emilion Chateau Verdu 2007, 3,83 Euro (5000 cases); Fronsac Chateau du Bergey 2006, 3,75 Euro (9650 bottles);Saumur Champigny Les Marnes 2007, 3,3 Euro (5150 cases). Rosé de Loire, Domaine de la Chenardière 2007, 2,9 Euro (9550 bottles); Rosé Coteaux d'Aix en Provence Moncigale, 1,97 Euro (53 100 bottles); Corse Rosé, Domaine Luccioni 2007, 3,95 Euro (8200 bottles); Bandol Rosé les Hauts de Seignol 2007, 6,8 Euro (8100 bottles); Rosé Cabernet d'Anjou (Loire) Domaine Delmaunay 2007, 3,35 Euro (12 500 bottles.
andré Fouassier offered me two bottles he said could be interesting for us to taste back in Paris. One of them was this label-less Chardonnay 1992. After a week or so resting in the wine fridge, I opened it. Good surprise, although he said he wasn't sure about the standing of the wine. Nice golden and hay color. Aromas of dry fruits, apricots and figs for example. Macerated fruits, says B, with crystallized orange peel. Refined wine. In the mouth, B. says it doesn't folow up. I think it does. Balanced, nice touch on the palate, a very mature but elegant wine with still things to say, with just a few Savagnin undertones. Looking closer at my glass, I realize that the wine is unfiltered, it's quite crowdy there, but it all came unharmed through all these years and it even probably helped.
I discovered rehov Bugrashov while strolling randomly in Tel Aviv. It is a nice street with a San Francisco feel, up and downs and restaurants with terraces and shops. I found there what concentrates in a single location two interesting venues : a wine shop on the street level and a dancing bar in the basement. The first time I visited the place I thought naively that I would come back an evening and have a glass at the bar, but I didn't know yet about the dancing-bar culture of Tel Aviv, which transforms ordinary-looking bars into wild night spots. I came at maybe 10pm onze evening and from the top of the stairs I saw this crowd of twentiers dancing on Israeli hits, that was really an experience, except that with my camera bag and being alone I didn't see a point to staying, even less order a glass of wine. But I took note, Tel Aviv is a wild place to dance and have fun on almost any evening, and I'm surprised I didn't hear about it before flying to this country. I came back several days later an an earlier time and ordered a glass of Niederburg Chardonnay Reserve 2007 that I paid 34 Shekel. Nothing to say, not a memorable Chardonnay and again overpriced.
The other thing on this place is that it's a regular wine shop with quite a good choice of bottles where you can buy your bottles and go or pay a 90-Shekel cork-fee (100 Shekel make about 18 Euro or 25 USD) and drink the wine downstairs at the bar. Quite expensive foe a cork fee, but well, it's a dancing bar in the evening...The up side is that this wine shop is open quite late.
Here are a few wines and prices seen on the shelves. The wine shop stores wines from different countries (Italy, Australia, US, Spain, South America, France) and also a good selection of Israeli wines:
Sagramoso 2006 Valpolicella, 52 Shekel - Leonardo 2006 chianti, 49 Shekel - Farnito Carpineto 2001, 153 Shekel - Picate Toscana 2004, 119 Shekel - Masi Venezia 2006, 60 Shekel - Chapoutier Belleruche Côte-du-Rhône 2006, 70 Shekel - Marc Bredif (negoce) Chinon 2005, 80 Shekel - Comte Lafond, Sancerre 2006, 130 Shekel - Israeli wines also like : Petit Castel 2007, 109 Shekel - Castel Grand Vin 2006, 215 Shekel - Flam Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2006, 135 Shekel - Tulip Syrah Reserve 2007, 93 Shekel - Yarden Gewürztraminer 2008, 55 Shekel - Yarden Viognier 2006, 72 Shekel - Saslove Aviv, Marriage 2007, 65 Shekel - Saslove Adom, Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, 87 Shekel - Tzora Judean-hills Merlot 65% C.S. 35%, 65 Shekel - Yatir Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, 115 Shekel - Several wines from Vitkin (written in hebrew only) from 94 to 115 Shekel, and a late harvest at 78.
This was shortly before my trip to Israel, but while in Tel Aviv, I learned of another spotting and prestigious paper : wineterroirs was listed by Alice Feiring in no less than the Wall Street Journal (actually the WSJ magazine) along with Joe Dressner's Captaintumorman, Drinkster, Decanter and Amy Lillard's la Gramière (American vignerons from the Rhone valley)... Quite a nice company and heartening, thank you so much Alice...This made my day and I even sent a few emails with the link to the WSJ page. While you know I'm not too much into self-promotion, I've added a notice about it in the sidebar, you don't get the priviledge to be in the Wall Street Journal everyday. Same for the NY Times and for Eric Asimov's The Pour who links to Wineterroirs. With references like these I feel more obliged to do my best...
Here is a link to the Wall Street Journal magazine page.