Here is a show by two comedians which is centered on wine, it is named Entre deux Verres (between two glasses in French), it's humoristic and it sharpens the mind and the tongue. On one side there is a man who likes the high-end wines with prestigious pedigree, on the other side a woman who buys the wines with medals in the supermarket nearby. She loves to drink, he loves to taste, and this hour-long show is like fireworks of words where all the facets of the wine experience in a couple and in the social relations are dissected and listed, this show is like a mirror of our contemporary culture of wine, as this culture has changed so much over the last 60 years. The way we speak and behave around wine today will certainly be looked upon as very exotic and marked with the faults of our 20th/21st century. That's why it's quite delicious to go see this show, but you better be at least a bit fluent in French, because it's a lot of references and litterature intertwined with the vinous beverage.
As we were sitting waiting for the start of the show,B. and I spotted a man a few rows in front of us, and we immediately recognized Bernard Pivot who was there alone, he is both a man of words and a man of wine. Foremost he is known for having run for many years in the 1970s and 1980s a popular literary program named Apostrophes (see some archives here) where he'd debate about books with writers. Then he also wrote a couple of books o wine, beginning with the have we have at home, le Dictionnaire Amoureux du Vin, it's a very humoristic and searched where you'll find many surprises and learn unexpected things about wine.
The comedians/artists Pascale Vander Zypen and Christian Dalimier are from Belgium, a tiny country where the love for good wines is inversely proportional to its size, and that's why I'm not surprised that this show was created there. They played this show a lot throughout Belgium (about 135 times), for corporate events, private parties and cultural centers. The show needs very little decor out of a couple of spotlights and their talent, they can do their show at a wine tasting or also at a winery for a special event. This show in Paris was a test run to meet the publmic and possibly companies or organizations interested of having their show.
I asked Pascale about the creation of this duo show, she said they wrote it in a way that it is easily enjoyed by both wine connoisseurs and newbies, some scenes being more entertaining and others, while samely entertaining, dig their roots in more elaborate vinous references. There are a few jokes about the vin bio (organic) and the vin naturel, and it's fully non-judgmental so that every body can love it. Actually, she says, she was having dinner at some friends' restaurant in Tournai (Belgium) where they served lots of natural wine (the restaurant which closed since, she says, was named Vins Par-ci Vins Par-là) when this idea popped up about this show. You'll find some of the vinous literature of Bernard Pivot plus lots of their own.
Here is a wine that you sip and can't really stop asking for more while trying not to show to the rest of the party that you're waiting for the next fill. Beyond its creamy character of Burgundy chardonnay this wine has the typical gentleness of the wines that have not been sped or violented through their vinification, they seem to render the grace that they received. The domaine has been organic for ever and on biodynamics since 1998. The back label says that this wine is alive (I'm sure of that) and that it is better to carafe it (we didn't carafe and this was already so nice). We had it with a visiting Japanese friend from Osaka who undoubtely loved it too as I saw her drink more than usual. B. bought the wine at the domaine when she visited it a few months ago while on a work trip.
Macon is often considered more affordable compared to the more "noble" parts of Burgundy but this bottle was not among the cheap ones. the Domaine des Vignes du Maynes is farmed with biodynamics, and sorry to say that again, but when you get biodynamy in the vineyard the wines yield an energy that stands out. The terroirs of the domaine (a one_block clos making 7 hectares) were first planted with vines in 1000, they belonged to the Cluny monks then to the counts of Montrevel in 1557, the Guillot family geting them recently in 1954. The chai work is very traditional and rustic, with low pressing using a press dating from 1895.
Given the quality of this white I'd be curious to have a red, although they're not cheap, I'm pretty sure they're terrific. You can see the price of several of their cuvées on this page.
This is winter, read, cox-tail season for me and I don't miss the opportunity when I spend a weekend in the Loire to indulge in my fave winter dish, cooked with some dark, tannic wine that I keep on the side for that effect. Right now I still have a few bottles
from the Spanish wine of François Chidaine for that purpose.
B. isn't as fond as me of this cox-tail thing cooked for hours on the wood cookstove, but as I often come alone here I can get the treat without restraint, which is more comfortable : the best way to eat that dish is with your fingers and you get this holy grease all over your mouth, it's better that no witness sees that...
This time I had another very fine wine from the Languedoc to drink with it, a Domaine Sainte Croix Magneric 2009 (Languedoc Hautes Corbières), it has everything you dream of, 100-year old vines, deliciously full of dry herbs aromas and ink, it's made from organic-converted vines of Grenache, Carignan ans Syrah with yields of 20ho/ha. Destemmed, wild-yeast fermentation with 30-day skin contact, the élevage is part in old casks, part in tank. It's 14,5 % strong but with all the gentleness of a well-made wine, this was a nice discovery. the wine is made by Jon and Elizabeth Bowen, a British couple who made wine in the New World before landing here.
Now, this was a memorable wine, we got that around Christmas in Burgundy, this was brought by B.'s brother, when we saw it we asked, really, you sure you want to open that one ? Happily he said yes, we'd have been so disappointed if he had
changed his mind : Thierry Allemand Cornas Reynard 1996.
The wine was a supreme treat, both in refinement and elegance, there was also this unctuously-integrated tannic fabric with also this freshness, or was it the blanket of minerality ? A wine to savour, thinking you don't have this luck every other day. We didn't carafe it, I just opened the bottle about a hour before we had lunch, I think this was wise, carafing would have been to violent.
Les Reynards is a narrow micro valley going down from the high plateau to the Rhone valley, Thierry Allemand worked hard to put the small terraces there back in production at a time mainstream producers were favoring parcels that were easy to work, either on flatland (on the plateau for example) or on moderate slopes. To renovate these terraces years ago he had first to clear all the trees and bushes that had taken over the area and to build again the low stone walls that prevent the erosion, having tons of stones hauled up there to build these reinforced walls anew. This canyon-like micro valley is hot in summer, with I guess cool nights because of the altitude and the breeze flows between the plateau and the Rhone valley.
Another chapter about the hidden gem of Alsace, its pinot-noir wines : this one was a delicious surprise with an exciting nose of sour cherries, the aromas of which you could find also in the mouth. The color by itself speaks volumes, with this etheral turbidity. In the mouth the fruit and generous chew are carried by a vivid acidity, that's what i'd call a very nice wine that you swallow with ease. Costs 20 €, only 2000 bottles annually.
The domaine is managed by Fernand Engel & sons in Rorschwihr. The earliest mention of this domaine is said to go back to 742 A.D. and from the 12th century to the French revolution it was the property of the Moyemmoutier Abbey. the vineyards are farmed organic and on biodynamy, with lots of weeds sowed between the rows and herb teas being used to keep the vines healthy. The pinot noir here has been replanted in 2008 on high density (7500 vines/hectare). Right now this wine is exported in Holland.
I tasted this wine at Pain Vin et Cie.
Another recommendation, this Chateauneuf du Pape also stood out among the several wines I tasted that day : here is a CDP with both freshness and a beautiful refineness of its tannic touch in the mouth, in spite of its posted 14,5 % in alcohol. Very good drinkability here too, even by itself, as I didn't eat with it. Kudos to the people who did that.
Chateau Mont-Redon is a 100-hectare strong domaine which grew from a mere 2,5-hectare surface back in 1923. The winery was apparently the first to use an optical-sorting machine in order to let in only the best quality grapes (video here, although I didn't really understand how this optical system does the sorting, it looks more like they're using the centrifuge inertia to separate the undesired elements).
The Quercy is a nice rocky part of Languedow with medieval villages hanging on the cliffs among beautiful rivers, at least that's the image I keep since I travelled through the region years ago on
my bicycle loaded with panniers and camping gear. There's an appeal in the name of this region, and when I saw this modest bottle on the tasting table, I gave it a try. The Médaille d'Or Paris 2013 is usually a red flag signaling an uninteresting wine, you find these medals everywhere on the supermarket shelves, it's a real inflation competing with joblessness figures in France...
I was right to give a try to this petit vin like we like to say in French, the expression meaning a modest wine that still has something authentic to offer. The wine is well balanced, which was not the case of all the wines on this table that day, the mouth touch was nice with aromas of burlat cherries, and the whole with enough freshness to make you like the experience. 12,5 % in alcohol only, and you're in the Languedoc. And at 5,2 € retail price I found that the wine was a good deal.
The Domaine de Revel has a 12-hectare surface. I'd like to taste their other cuvées, there's something interesting and promising here, although it's not organic and these bottles look very mainstream. I'm sure that's the type of domaine where you could make wonders by changing just a few things here and there.
Choose carefully your map when looking for Israel wineries...
I remember when I was a kid looking at world maps from the Middle Age, I found funny that whole countries and continents were missing, that was no intentional omission, just that the cartographers of that time didn't know the boundaries of the physical world. Today, thanks to the rampant appeasement throughout the Western hemisphere, we've just witnessed an entire country being deleted from the world map by a publishing company, but this time is was intentional : HarperCollins has made the calculated choice to erase Israel from the school Atlas it distributes throughout the Middle East, the reason being obviously to accomodate the genocidal mindset of the population of this region, the mere evocation of Israel putting the people of this charming part of the world on the verge of hysteria, sometimes it takes just an innocent selfie to start a diplomatic spat....
Certain publishing companies would do anything for a bit more money and a juicy market of petrodollars, just erase a country from the map and help get closer to the genocide of jews wished by the masses around the tiny country. On the exact anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz this is quite stunning.
Publishers are very active on the field of appeasement these days : In the more and more sharia-compliant U.K, this was the respectable Oxford University Press which decided to erase the mere mention of pigs, sausage and other pork-related products in its children books by fear to offend a culture we all know is so peaceful and tolerant. And these children books aren't even shipped to the friendly folks over there in the Middle East but they're intended for the young British pupils... what would Churchill say ? Not that we're faring much better in the rest of Europe but at least I still think we have a few years respite, it will be a tough job to take charcuterie and wine out of the public square...
Now, I must say that for some reason there are a few streets that I love in Budapest, particularly in kerület [district] VII, and Kertesz utca [street] is one of them. Like several streets around there in the former jewish quarter, it is lined with very beautiful appartment buildings if sometimes a bit dilapidated (at least superficially) and there is a relaxed feel possibly because of such venues like this beer joint with a weird name, Csak a jó sörök.
I shot this video just a few days ago in this bar at Kertész utca 42, the video is not very good (plus, I forgot to show the wall of bottles on the shelves on my back) but it gives you an idea of the place. To be frank, I was supposed initially to go to a wine bar close from there, the Doblo (on Dob utca, an other nice old street of the jewish quarter), but the place looked very serious and commercial, without this no-fuss vibe, so I changed my mind and when I passed this beer spot again, I walked in and asked for a draft. The last time I had been there it was last september and it was also full with young folks looking for great beers AND good time together. The bar/shop has a large choice of craft beers from Europe (including Hungary) and the USA. The inside is a bit messy but it's not faked and there's a real charm between the bottles on the shelves and the few tables and chairs squeezed here and there.
The name of the place Csak a jó sörök means "only good beers" in Hungarian, and I bet this is true. This venue which is located on Kertész utca 42 looks messy from the outside, first you try to see what's going on in there with all those people and you soon realize by the size of the bottles you guess on the shelves that it has to do with beer. The place was opened by a beer passionate named
Gergely Kovari who followed step by step his passion for beers, even to the length of going study fermention in school. You can here a podcast interview of him in English here.
Last time they had six beers by the tap. Among the several American ones there was this Hungarian which I chose : Deep Throat foreign stout (500 Ft or 700 Ft - 0,25l-0,33l). 8 % alc. very dark, black beer. Nice almost-tannic touch when swallowed, discreet bitterness, with coffee aromas. Very nice beer indeed, my type in spite of the intimidating 8% (you don't feel them that much).
Open mon-sat 2pm-9pm.
Another nice beer place in the vicinity (on Akácfa utca 51, another favorite__ if partly dilapidated__ street) is Fogas ház, an intriguing venue where I go every time I pass through Budapest, a city with quite a few of these ruin pubs (romkocsma in Hungarian) set in dilapidated buildings neglected by years of communist management. Fogas ház (formerly a dental clinic) is everything from a good beer spot (bottles and tap), live music scene, artists exhibitions and there's even a hostel upstairs, I wonder how they can sleep in there but I noticed last september that there was plenty of young Americans there, possibly school trips or something like that. This is definitely a good place to hang out, here on the left is a short video which I shot last summer and where you see a bit of its Biergarten ambiance.
Hungary is a wine country with old roots but you also have great cheese there, like I experienced myself in Eger, east of Budapest. Sándor Tamás started his cheese farm Bükki Sajt back in 2005 in an Alpine setting not far from Eger, another wine region of Hungary by the way. You'll find more pictures on Tamas' Facebook page, and several of the cheeses that I tasted, both from cow- or goat milk, were really great stuff for the taste as well as the texture (an utmost important side of cheese for me), so good that I'd even eat the thick rind along.
Like for the wine and vineyard farming, decades of communism and state economy had erased much of the rich cheese tradition in Hungary and it has been coming back slowly during the last decades, but with Sándor Tamás it seems that things have pretty well accelarated. He worked several years in the past in Germany, Switzerland an Italy in the restaurant sector and this was in 1998 that he met an old man in Switzerland as he was working in a luxury hotel, the man was a cheesemaker and from him he found the inspiration to start a cheese farm one day using traditional methods. Back in Hungary he put his project to work and today his cheese farm is complete and efficient with cheese tasting sessions (with local wines too) and courses. He has good relations too with young promising winegrowers like Bálint Losonci as they share the same ideal of renewal of quality artisanal products. I read somewhere that he sells his cheese in good restaurants, like Gundel in Budapest for example.
Story (in Hungarian) about Sándor Tamás' cheese farm
Other story (also in Hungarian) about Sándor Tamás.
Here is a cooking wine that I'm not sure I'd use really for cooking : this wine was picked by Aaron at Le Verre Volé, the iconic wine shop/restaurant. It is originally a cask that was not fully satisfying for Pierre Overnoy and that he decided to sell as cooking wine, and he had printed in large letters on the label : Vin Exclusivement pour la Cuisine, as if he was afraid some people might consider it drinkable. From what I understand Pierre Overnoy even considered pouring it down the drain.
Aaron and Gladys had it opened for months in the fridge (I guess they use it spartanly for cooking) and they let us taste the thing : beautifully oxydative wine, full mouthed and very enjoyable. These wines are indestructible indeed. It cost 15 € when on the shelves at the wine shop but I presume it's sold out by now.
Here is a pinot noir from Italy made by Podere Fortuna which is located north of Florence (map), this is interesting to
drink this varietal when grown in Tuscany. The color isn't very dark, it's also an exciting color with some turbidity in it, the pinot-noir signature is there indeed. There's certainly a light alcohol feel in this wine (it's 13,5 % alc. according to the label), but still with some lightness through which the pinot shows itself. Small red fruits aromas. Sugary feel too : this is a southern-region pinot, although it's grown at 250-m altitude and the temperature swings are said to be ample in summer there.
This wine seems to have been bottled on the 31st of march 2008.
While the domaine's area has been planted with vines for more than 5 centuries, there was an interruption for 50 years until 2001 when the present owners replanted the vineyard, hinting that the soils are devoid of any of the chemicals used in the second half of the 20th century.
Here are more details on this wine.
Thanks to Aaron who knows Italian wines well, I discovered this excellent red by Maccario Dringenberg : Rossese de Dolceacqua 2007. The domaine lies in San Biagio Della Cima, very close from the French border, you can see on this page how steep and remote the vineyards are there.
I learn that Rossese di Dolceacqua is a rare and refined varietal akin to Poulsard of Jura (read the profile of this varietal and tasting notes by Jancis Robinson).
The nose evoques beautifully the scent of withered roses, and the same aroma bounces back at you in the mouth, very elegant. The label says 14 % but it feels more like 15%. Nice concentration. Aaron says that this varietal is the Poulsard of the region, it is supposed not to age and that's why he was curious to open the bottle and see. It does age well for me.
The bottle on the left is a liquore, this is Fernet, a spirit that cures everything according to Gladys (I used to consider that the Vin Jaune cures every cold as I experienced it firsthand). I haven't taken any notes but this is a very intersting experience, with a tight concentration of herb extracts with also strong zan (liquorice) notes. I don't remember who, Aaron or Gladys sourced this rarity but it might well be Gladys as she is an experienced cocktail bartender and this would fit perfectly in that context.
The bitter beverage is made with concoctions of 19 different herbs, roots or barks. It makes you think to a Chartreuse. This Fernet is not any Fernet, it was made by Leonardo Spadoni.
We recently opened a magnum ov Beaujolais Nouveau by Jean Fouillard that I had bought at Caves Augé in 2010 on their Nouveau day.
This is another proof that natural wine, including of the nouveau type (which is thought to be unstable and made only for swift consumption), can stand the test of time pretty well. The wine had certainly lost part of its original appeal compared to what he could offer on that november day in 2010 but there was still a nice fruit, the robe was still beautifully turbid and with an exciting color. I think I felt a bit of tickling on the tongue at the first sip. Here is a very pleasant and juicy wine, easy drinking.
I kept this magnum (I have another of it) all these years in my Frigidaire botlle-fridge in Paris.
I was used to the sign no icecream/no dogs when I walk into certain shops, but this shop in Berlin had a bit more, I translate the whole thing :
No ice cream
No guns & weapons
One of the surprise was of course to see the no-booze sign next to the no-nazi one... This said, Berlin is a city where you see routinely young people walking in the street of taking the U-Bahn holding a bottle of beer and sipping now and then, and what impressed us was that they often look very mainstream, they weren't dropouts or homeless youth. Given the quality of their beers I understand that, especially that for me these unfiltered beers felt like food, and I don't mind eating a sandwich on the street.
But still, there's indeed a problem with alcohol and while we were having breakfast I read an insightful Artikel on the issue in the health section of the Berliner Zeitung. It tells about a clinic where young people go to get away from their addiction. Google translate isn't perfect but you can try it if you don't read German, it's very interesting.
We didn't visit that many cafes in Berlin but this one we stumbled upon was our favorite hangout, it's located in the DDR part of the city not far from Alexander Platz, this is an old building and by the way I always wonder how these buildings could have avoided destruction in 1945 after so many indiscriminate bombings by the Americans/British and the Soviets. B. and I are not tourist types and usually when we go somewhere it's with a precise goal, but this time we were really like these clueless tourists we often spot in Paris, but I think we were lucky to find this place by chance.
We saw the place on Rosenthaler Straße in the evening with its charming neon as we were walking back from the Volksbühne, where we had watched a show by Britta & Gäste, Britta being an energetic middle-aged woman who seems to be well-known and appreciated here.
The Cafe Cinema is a long and relatively narrow venue, it is dimly lit like often I feel in Germany, very good to relax and chat with a beer. I got a dark beer, my fave treat in Germany while B. had a tea. We heard that the place was kind of the oldest cafe in this part of Berlin (the DDR side I guess), I would have liked to know it back then when I visited the DDR before in 1985/1986 for an undercover photo work.
The cafe sits next to a movie theater and its name is truly deserved. Experiencing the cafe before/after watching a movie must be great, especially that the film selection seems good. There's a deep courtyard next to the cafe with lots of grafitti, interesting sight too, I guess in summer you can spend time there too (see picture). To make it even better, this place is really affordable, I paid 2,7 € for a bottle of dark beer (Kostritzer Schwarzbier), just try to find such a price for a Reinheitsgebot Bier in Paris...They also has a list of Bio Weissweine and Bio Rotweine going from 3,5 € to 4 € for 20cl. Once I took a Bourbon but they only had Four Roses.
Here is a list of cafes in Berlin, the Cinema is listed in the Mitte section. We also went to Belushi (video) near the Volksbühne, this a must-go if you're into football (soccer), the day we were there you could watch a game with Leipzig and Liverpool.
We had a nice tasting of Corsica friends recently with friends and although there was a problem with the glasses (some one forgot the glasses but I love this thing of drinking wine in non-conform glasses) we discovered several interesting wines, beginning with this Domaine Comte Peraldi Ajaccio 2012, a 50-hectare estate located in the south-western flank of the island. The first plantings on this estate go back to the 16th century, the first official owner, in the 18th century being a Peraldi.
Blend of Carignan, Cinsault, Niellucciu and Sciaccarello. Burgundy-shaped bottle, the labelling is not very original. The color of the wine showed some evolution shades, the wine was relatively clear for a southern wine and it seemed to me, turbid. Nose : withered roses. Mouth : sugary feel and nicely powerful. Cost about 18 € in Paris.
I read somewhere that S is the main varietal in this domaine : Cinsault 12%, Carignan 10%, Sciacarello 68%, Grenache 3%, Nielluccio 7%. We don't drink much Corsica wines in the mainland, the price may be an issue, transportation being a factor here.
This one was particularly delicious, this is made by an organic/biodynamic domaine on the AOC appellation Corse Sartene. This Pero Longo Equilibre 2012 offers an exciting nose with among other things aromas of prune.
Grenache, Niellucciu and Sciaccarello. Costs 13,5 € at the caviste les Babines in Paris (good deal).
I liked this sign board, there's something naive that gives the Weinkultur a soft edge. This was in front of one of the shops of Les Caves Weine, a 4-store chain here in Berlin. This particular shop was located in Kreuzberg at Maybachufer #10 along the canal, very close to where B.'s acquaintance had his artist studio.
We didn't walk inside and I don't really know what sort of wines they have there. They do wine tastings at fixed dates for 15 € per person, including from what I understand, Brot, Käse, Terrinen... I don"t know about the wines but I still already salivate.
Don't mind the Achtung !, this Weinbar seems pretty cool, this is the Hermanas Wein Bar which is specialized in wines from Argentina, and if you're not hurried to have wines from south America in Berlin, the Mädchen on the webspage coult tilt you to open the door. We couldn't because it was closed that day. They have empenadas and picadas to go with the wine.
It seems from their Facebook page that they also have some music there as well as poetry evenings.
This wine bar is located in Friedrichshain on the Ost Sektor, at Warschauer Straße 81A, not far from the Grünberger Straße and Simon-Dach Straße, two streets in Friedrichshein where you find lots of interesting restaurants and affordable venues. I strongly recommend the brunches of Elfida on weekends, with an incredible choice of all-you-can-eat dishes including my treat, the Käsekuchen.
You may have heard of this law in Germany forcing the shops to take back all the empty bottles be they in glass or plastic, and here is the secret for why German shops can cope with the task :
I shot this picture in a neighborhood food market (Edeka) and there was this machine in the back in which you put you bottles and it knows instantly what type/number of bottles you put in, delivering then to you a receipt listing the deposits that will be refunded to you when you pay at the cashier desk. They call these machines Leergut-Automat in German and they're made by Tomra, probably one of these Mittelstand companies that excell in their niche market. Even for a newbie like me it was very easy to use (obviously a different software from the ones of the RATP or the SNCF). Frankly when this new law was published I feared the vibrant beer market would suffer or that it would result in a big price hike, but good beer remains surprisingly cheap in this country.
Watch on this video (shot in N.Y.) how such a machine checks the nature of each of the bottles/cans.
And atop of that, this Edeka supermarker funds a hospital for cancer-striken children :
Liebe Kunden ! Dank Ihrer Pfandspende konnten wir der Kinderkrebsstiftung am 10.12.2013 in Dahlewitz eine Spende in Höhe von 25 698,16 € überreichen. Vielen Dank !
To finish this page beautifully I thought this image would do the job : this is the plastic bag in which a canned terrine we bought in Berlin was wrapped, these German pigs areso hübsch....
This was on Karl-Marx Allee not far from Alexander Platz and we stumbled unexpectedly on this modest-but-neat charcuterie shop with diverse products. That's only later that we realized with the prospectus we picked in the place that this delicious terrine complete with pork gelatine was made out of a rare local breed, the Bunte Bentheimer [Schweine].
Finding such a charcuterie shop on Karl-Marx Allee was a surprise in the first place, this wide, monumental boulevard lined with trees remaining very Stalinian in its outlook with relatively few shops and few potential clients walking around (from our impression), it seemed to me that these businesses enjoy a low rent from the city council to keep the area shopping life at a minimum level. The many pensioners who live in the area still look very Osten.
In case you walk in the area, I think the shop was Kaster S Fleischwaren GmbH Karl-Marx-Allee 68. The guy in there is very kind and helpful (speaks only German though).
The restaurant has only 3 wines to offer on its wine list but according to this page they're well chosen. This said, if you're making wine in Catalonia there's room for you in this restaurant I guess, the cellar is certainly not overflowing...