This is a bottle of Riesling from Alsace with an undetermined age, I estimate it to date from the 1960s and possibly from the 1950s if I look at the state of the cork (pic on right), only very old bottles manage to have such nearly-fossilized corks. I found it on a street sale ( or attic sale, vide-grenier in French) in a village in inland Provence and decided to risk the 3 € the elderly man asked for it. It happened to be quite a good surprise when I opened it a month later (alas too late to buy the rest of the bottles, the old man had 4 of them when I stopped at his stand). It missed only a centimeter or two of wine (some of the other bottles missed more wine) There was first this golden color and nice viscosity when poured, the nose was generous and complex, emanating something in the range of ripeness. The mouth had notes of cristallized compote, maybe of pear, then dry grapes, and the whole thing was intense in the mouth and particularly long. You wouldn't drink that Riesling like a normal Riesling, it was obvious that it was not exactly in its ideal time, but it was like making an experiment with shadows of an interesting past. Great experience, believe me, I had bet my 3 € on the right horse. There so much mystery behind this wine : From the label, you learn that it was bottled by the Union Viticole Divinal, Négociant à Obernai, and that the wine was made by the Société Coopérative Vinicole d'Andlau à Barr. This is indeed an old bottle, because ir hints on the fact that this coop didn't even have a bottling line and relied on a négoce for that.
Speaking of German beers, my sister who lives in Burgundy made repeated trips to Munich during the last 12 months as her daughter spent an exchange year there, and she was kind enough to bring me back a few unknown beers from there, like this Augustiner Hefe Weiss Bier on the side. Remember that if natural wine is at home in France but with only a small proportion of the output, beers in germany were until recently (until the European Union dismantled the Reinheits Gebot purity law) all made naturally, that is without additives or preservatives. Brewers still keep making beers the ancient way, from what I know, and this Augustiner beer is made along the Bavarian Purity Law which is at the origin of the German beer law at large.. She brought also a Hacker-Pschorr Münchner Hell (also "Gebraucht nach dem Bayerischen Reinheitsgebot von 1516"), and this 0,5-liter bottle was closed with one of these old-style articulated closures which allow the bottle to be re-used easily.
Anyway, I love having drinks coming from the blue, it’s like if drinking and tasting leads to travelling, makes me think I got to go back over there one of these days....
The Chateau de Vins was a ruin in the 70s when Jean Bonnet (pic on left) purchased it and decided to restore it. The village council was not of any help and he struggled to repair the castle. The cultural revival of the place was to bring people in summer for live concerts, augmented with a joyous dinner on the Chateau grounds. My parents have been going to these summers feats for years and I ended up doing it too with B. this summer. Very nice experience, and speaking with Jean Bonnet who at 78 still manages the place with his son, I understood that strong-willed individuals can change things for the better.
Now, this wine : There were a few wines you could drink freely during this dinner, and I chose the red, served in unmarked bottles, obviously bulk or bib wine, I thought. Ichose to drink the red, and it happened to be a delicious, lightly-tannic red wine which was breathing the truth of a wine made naturally. It's too bad there was the concert afterwards and that I had to restrain, because you really drank this wine with ease and pleasure. As Jean Bonnet passed near the tables, I asked him about this wine, and he nonned with a smile, he had chosen the wine himself and this one was a bulk wine from the village of Correns, from the local coopérative, which works from organic vineyards only. For the information, the two reds on sale in bibs in this Correns coop this summer were a 10-liter bib, a red Vin-de Pays-d'Argens at 25,2 € and a 5-liter bib red AOC Côtes-de-Provence at 18,7 €. This concert with dinner was at a cost of 40 € per person, a great deal for the experience (and with wines at will). Reservation and payment in advance, see the website for infos and schedules.
make sure to attend a concert with dinner, some of the concerts (on certain days) don't have dinner with it.
When you're in vacation a couple of weeks, you don't always want to spend days and energy from winery to winery to select your bulk wine, so there's room for chance and luck, with a bit of intuition maybe. We were in the middle of a disappointing bib of rosé this year (they're often a bit heavy and sugary in Provence) when we visited Cotignac, a cute village of inner Provence (pic on right). It's in the vicinity of Correns, the 100 %-organic village, but you'll find here many more cafés and restaurants to relax. As we dropped there, sitting at a café terrace, I happened to ask for a glass of white and was served something that I found refreshing (pic with the kitty on the left), the wine was fruity and hadn't this heavy alcohol side of many cheap rosés around here. I asked to the waiter about its origin and he told me that it came from the local coop, the Vignerons de Cotignac. So, right after our time there, we walked to the wine coopérative on the lower side of the square to enquire and possibly buy something. We tasted a few interesting things in bottle, rosés at respectively 4 €, 4,8 €, 5,3 € and 7 € a bottles (didn't take notes though). But for my volume wine, they had what I wanted, a 5-liter bag-in-box of white, the very one that I had at the local café, a blend of Rolle and Ugni-Blanc for a mere 13,9 €. I think that Provence whites are a good alternative to rosés for easy drinking occasions, and I'll try to look in this direction next year too.
Cotignac is a good visit destination by itself, it's obviously being colonized by urban types and parisians, but it retains a cool, relaxed side, like some sort of Saint Tropez of the interior. There are indeed a few Art galleries and other visitors-targetting shops, but it's not yet a tourist circus like Saint-Paul-de-Vence (yet). It is sitting at the foot of impressive cliffs which you can climb along a trail.
There are a handful of other wineries in Cotignac.
I shot this picture in Chalon in Burgundy when we visited my sister on our way to Provence. We don’t have TV in Paris and I didn’t want particulary to watch TV that day but others in our party did... The wine featured here is a Domaine de Rimauresq 2008 (an English-owned estate in Provence), an intense wine with spicy notes and a bit of oak that goes tather well with meat.
Isn’t this almost-soviet-looking young revolutionary farm woman convincing ? The message is clear : use our wonder products and your apples will be healthy & beautiful and the market will love them. No need to say how similar this situation is with the additives companies lobbying in the backstage to have commercial wineries use their products for their standard wines and pave the way for a smoothly-running business. But unlike fruits and vegetables about which the average consumer's awareness is now real, the reality behind the wine image is still very hazy for most wine consumers who ignore in the first place the existence of all these additives being used to enhance their favorite wine. Just walk into a viticulture-products shop anywhere in the world to have an idea of what you're been served unsuspectedly when you drink commercial wine. Most of these purchases are now made online though, which allows more confidentiality for a potentially very-sentitive issue.
Here are well-formatted apples with all the same shades of color following the same design, and a cute stamp to add a touch of seriousness. The inside of the apple has been samely formatted, nothing below, nothing above the chosen norm, just to be sure that you get always the same product. The parallel with the majority of wines that are being made in the wine industry is almost visual, here; instead of taste & aromas, the engineering has been working on color, surface aspect and crispness. Make no mistake, most of the wines we find in shops and supermarkets are the liquid brothers of these apples.
I don’t know why, but I feel that they rewarded me for my patience...
If you're wondering where to buy a few good wines on sunday(until 1pm), remember that there's this stand at Place des Fêtes (until 1pm).
Oparin was born in 1961 in Nizhnyi Novgorod where he became a civil engineer, he then went to the military and worked in different wine businesses from 1990. He set up his Semigorie winery some 4 years ago, planting his own vineyards on selected slopes above Novorossyisk. He still can't sell his wines because of the Russian administration and relies on his restaurant at the winery to make it know by Russian amateurs. This is one of the top tables to go to if you pass in the area. Now read or google-translate this passionated and well-documented Komsomolskaya-Pravda article (in Russian) written by Nokolaï Krivomasov in may, you'll learn the challenge faced by people like Guennadi in modern Russia to be able to make and commercialize their artisan wine. they're obviously Russian wine as its best, and they're fighting an uphill battle just to keep working because of the administration, when the booming Russian economy could put them into orbit very quickly.
I'm proud to read at the end of this article what I already wrote a year ago in this post (first story, last lines) : two very important politicians of this country have invested personally in land and vineyards on two locations of the area, respectively Anapa and Gueledjik. We all know who these two people could be, and like the article implies, it could mean a change in the way the administration deals with artisan winemakers, as these persons of importance will see the issue from close now that they've sort of joined the trade, and first of all, they'll understand how much Russia could gain by letting artisan winemakers work and sell.
I’ve heard on the radio recently (late august or early september I don't remember) that following some legal action, bus/coach companies would be allowed to open routes between a few French cities to transport passengers. It’s quite a revolution in France where the state-owned rail monopoly SNCF has been blocking the setting of ANY private bus connection between cities , using for that purpose a law dating from 1982. This retreat will not ease the situation for the struggling SNCF, which relied in part on this trick to keep part of its customers captive. Few French know that, although as a result they’re offered no choice but to pay outrageous prices for transportation for inter-city connections. Somehow the bus companies in Europe must have sued the French administration or lobbied in the European bodies because after resisting European-imposed freedom of trade, France (and the SNCF !) began to allow recently a few routes for bus connections, allowing prices to drop dramaticly compared to train (with prices only a fraction of what train tickets cost). It began with 6 bus routes earlier this year and seems to extend by te end of 2011 (see this article in French). The mainstream media was very discreet about this change (like it has been for years about the SNCF-inspired blockade--I myself discovered it quite recently) and what I heard myself was a short sentence on the State radio network, France Inter or France Info I don’t remember which. Amazing discretion for news which should have received extensive coverage and commenting, the journalists there were probably too busy bashing Sarkozy or maybe it was some solidarity-motivated silence to take the heat away from their fellow job-for-lifers of the SNCF. There was more coverage on some independent blogs like this one, but on the whole, the media was looking the other way. Foreign travellers have complained for years on forums about the issue (see here on Lonely Planet), as travel costs were so high because of this.
There’s almost only one bus company able to set up routes overnight on the French domestic routes : Eurolines, a company which was previously allowed to serve international destinations from inside France, but not sell tickets between cities within France, even though the buses would drive through many of these cities en route to other European destinations. Until now, you can check on the Eurolines website that it’s impossible to view the schedules between the French cities, even though many of them are serviced.
Now on, it seems that there could be more companies setting foot on the French market, to the benefit of the travellers with lower revenue, or just of the people who prefer road travel. International travellers (young people or families) who are often shocked by the rates of the SNCF will also have here a much cheaper alternative, with also the advantage of fewer strikes and a better guarantee of service (almost all the strikes take place in the public sector, in France).
I also remind the young (and less-young) travellers of the great share-a-car schemes which allow you to find very easily a driver going from a major French city to another (and this, for evey day of the week) and pay very decent prices for a travel in good company. I’m thinking for example to covoiturage.fr which I use from time to time. Registration is free and when you’re logged in, you often have access to the cell phone of the driver, which helps a lot.
This particular comics story depicts a scene of friends wine amateurs beginning to taste a decanted wine they think to be a Bonnes Blanches 2007 (Anjou, Loire) by René Mosse, from what the guy pouring announces. The two friends of the host begin to marvel at the typical mosse Chenin, until the host realizes that he made a mistake and poured another decanted wine, a Savagnin by Jean-François Gavenat (Jura)....
When I listen to her, I feel like there's a perfect alchemy between her melodies, the lyrics and the way the instruments interact, and that's also something you find about great wines, everything is there, but with a plus, a magic of some sort. I looked several times to websites with the lyrics of her songs to try to understand some of the magic, not easy, but I'll try again. There's a French singer in my opinion who has a secret talent for that alchemy too, Alain Souchon : you find in some of his songs like Le Baiser or also Tailler la Zone, something very compelling, with an almost visual aspect. Alain Souchon also lives very close from great vignerons : Puzelat and Villemade.
He was a passionate, energetic winemaker, fully involved in the biodynamic management, and not just for lip service, going as far as investing in costly architecture modifications in the cellar so that the wines could benefit from the best energy. His wines are examples of what biodynamics can make on wines, and during my last visit I was particularly impressed by them, including by his two Pino-Noir wines.
Having been myself what I could call a convinced Steinerian since the age of 24, I saw in him an authentic follower of Rudolf Steiner who had gone deep into the understanding of the esoteric side of the world.