I've got some backlog of "news" to publish, with summer views like this one which date back from already a few months, but who would frown at having a reminder of Provence's sun to start going through the long winter
This picture was shot at Jean-Christophe Comor's Les Terres Promises in La Roquebrussanne, this building on the right which looks like it has been there for ages has actually been rebuilt from existing ruins. To achieve that, Jean-Christophe worked with a gem of a local manson nicknamed Dieu as he can do miracles and wonders in his Art (the guy is Portuguese from what I remember). The old oak tree on the other hand has always been there and certainly witnessed the former life of the farm building, it is sais to be close to 500 years old, and considering its size and diameter I'm ready to believe that (just try to visualize all the local life it saw under its branches...).
We visited the domaine last august and I bought a few bottles after tasting several of Jean-Christophe's great wines. Comor remains for me the reference in the field of true wines and Provence really needs more vintners like him, I hope that more Domaines of the region forgo the easy money made with high-yield, uninteresting wines and try their hand at something of this kind...
Not that I'm disinterested with Japanese whisky but the prices at duty-free shops in Narita (Fasola) or Haneda seem to have spiked recently, so I ordered instead to our visiting friend Junko a bottle of Japanese vodka, namely the one made by Okuhida. B. had spotted this bottle in a liquor store in Tokyo earlier this year (I was too late to tell her to grab one). This vodka seems to be in high demand as it is labelled as sold out on its web page, and I understand : for 2700 ¥ or 22 € you get a smooth & powerful vodka sporting 55 % proof, it was delightful with the very light water addition i routinely add on spirits. Very good value. The vodka may be sold out at the distillery but it is still possible to find it in liquor stores & sakayas in Japan(always at ¥ 2700 apparently), this particular bottle was purchased at Shinan liquor store (also good spot for whiskies), right in front of the Motomachi JR station. Seems that the Japanese are intent on going after the vodka market, which compared to whisky is certainly less challenging due to an easier access to raw material for its making, and if they keep with this quality they are going to seize critical market share in the near future, possibly including in neighboring Russia.
We attended a great little event centered on Duval-Leroy Champagne that was organized by the Melchior communication agency in the beautiful Caves du Louvre (pic on left). I often say that the best way to see if you're dealing with human-sized wineries or domaine is check if the tasting events are manned by tasting clerks or by the owners themselves, you got the proof here : In spite of its size Duval Leroy is a family operation since 1859 working on 200 hectares of owned vines and buying the equivalent of about 400 hectares in grapes with an overall majority of Chardonnay.
Here enologist Sandrine Logette presents a little-known cuvée of the Maison, the Petit Meslier 2005 which counts only 988 bottles, it is made with 100 % Petit Meslier. The Petit Meslier is a local Champagne variety that was the result of a natural breed between savagnin et gouais, it is among the forgotten varieties which many growers discontinued alas in spite of their intrisecal qualities.
The wine is vinified 9 months in old barrels (purchased to Château D'Yquem). The variety can develop oxidative notes and the vinification in wood helped soften the acidity and develop more complexity. Dosage 4 grams. Pairs well with asparagus, Sandrine says.
Carol Duval-Leroy is an nice and simple person, she told us about the Clos des Bouveries 2006, an exquisite Champagne. She said they discovered the qualities of this 3,5-hectare Clos of Chardonnay in 2002 in a year with a beautiful maturity and ever since they vinified it as a vintage, millésimé Champagne (before 2002 it was blended). 2005 is a year with a nice richness in sugar and a lighter acidity. Dosage : 2 grams. Old vines (45) with deep roots, the parcel is farmed organic with also plowing. This is Sandrine's favorite (we tasted it again with the enologist) and I understand here. Sells for about 60 € retail.
We also tasted the Cumières AB Millésime 2005, a Pinot Noir 1er Cru, farmed organic. This was intense and a pure pleasure.
The Bouzy 2005 zero dosage is a 100 % Pinot Noir with a smoky feel. We're told it pairs well with cheese, like dry goat cheese for example (Sandrine said).
I've had another terrific free tasting at Caves Augé a few weeks ago, this was with natural-wine producers from Burgundy and the Jura. Again, considering what was poured on the sidewalk that day I'm amazed that the place wasn't overwhelmed by a thirsty crowd... My first pick was a wine by Fred Cossard (he was the first I saw after I parked the motorbike) who was there in person with also an enthusiastic young guy who was starting something with him. Remind that Fred Cossard works with purchased grapes and rented parcels (fermage), owning basically no vineyard. This year they lost almost half the grapes with the frost. Farming organic one hectare costs about 30 000 € and usually they get the equivalent of 15 to 20 barrels for one hectare and this year they had parcels where they got one single barrel.
__ Morey Saint Denis 1er Cru Monts Luisants 2014; there's no word for this wine, it was excquisite, refined and so gently fruity, the guy is really an a&rtist in the field. The pour was generous and that may be my only occasion to, frankly, experience this wine, as the retail price was 97 € at the wine shop, but if it's in your price range you'll get something very nice here. Made with purchased grapes from a few years. Just a little bit of SO2 added but feels like none, very lively and true.
__ Volnay 2013. Super color, a bit more on the tile range. Less fruity in comparison, nice, thin tannic frame, lovely !
__ Saint Romain Sous Roche 2013. More square and toight, more astringency also with the tannins.
A few tables/barrels away I stopped at the one where Pierre Overnoy was pouring a few wines of the domaine now largely managed by Emmanuel Houillon (who was therre also that day). Another proof that here the winemakers care about their customers and public and don't delegate to sommelier the pouring and explaining of the wines. In a large part that's where you see if you're dealing with a real, human-sized operation or with a business-centered commercial winery, and the wine usually reflect this difference themselves...
__ Savagnin 2011 Arbois Pupillin. Elevage in foudre. Gorgeous wine, turbid whilst so luminous in the mouth...Bright acidity and a lasting excitement in the throat. This Savagnin is topped up, not a veil wine. n
__ Chardonnay Arbois Pupillin 2010. I'm shivering of wonder and excitement, this wine is out of this world, such a vibrant wine, gorgeous acidity and velvety touch at the same time. Certainly the top white that day. There was no mention of prices on the event's wine list, Pierre says that they're sold out at the shop and that this will be restocked next march [with more recent vintages I presume]. Makes tasting a nice pour of these wines even more valuable.
Agnès & Jean Foillard had travelled from their Beaujolais region and were also in town for this event, as well as their daughter who isn't into wine but was helping for the event. I talked with Jean about the weather problems in 2016, he told me they had some hail damages twice including certain parcels of Corcelettes, plus there was this wet, humid spring where mildew had to be contained, and happily there was this nice summer and late season (it was basically a continuously nice, sunny weather after july 20) which helped the vines recover and get healthy again and this
yielded nice maturities for the grapes. Regarding the volumes this year, they're down on the parcels that
got hail but otherwise the volumes are pretty good, for example on the Cote du Py he made between 35 and 40 hectoliters/hectare, it had been a long time he hadn't made such good yields. Last year he made 30 hectoliters with difficulty and this year on certain parcels he made 10 hectoliters more.
Asked if he could spray with all this rain and muddy terrain he said yes, at some occasions he relied on light, back sprayers and otherwise he tried to find the right time window when the soil was manageable for tractor use.
__ Morgon Cote de Py 2010, poured from a magnum (always interesting to taste from magnums for a change). Turbid, exciting color although not brightly red (there are nuances and shades that I begin to be expert about for guessing the treasures hiding behind). Morgon Cote de Py 2014 (75cl) was selling at 20,5 € that day (on a 6-bottle purchase basis). No price listed for the 2010.
__ Morgon Cote de Py 2007, also from a magnum, what a treat to get older vintages like that in a sidewalk tasting... Great wine, I love chatting on a sidewalk of Boulevard Haussmann sipping great wines like that, especially when the pours allow to really enjoy the wines. It's rare by the way that natural-wine vintners pour minuscule volumes like I've seen in expensive-but-conventional wineries (usually poured by obedient clerks).
__ Fleurie 2014 vieilles vignes. Turbid color. Discreet fruit hiding behind the velvet. A treat in the making, that's my impression. Some sugar feel on the edge. My stomach makes yet the usual noise when getting a great vinous liquid. Sells for 24 e when ordering 6 bottles.
__ Morgon Cote de Py 2014. What a class ! But still in its youth obviously, although already on the good road.
__ Morgon 3.14 2013 (are they going to stop one day puring me other wines ?). Yet another top wine here, with an impression of refinement in the mouth with tight acidity, an elegant texture, with tannins and the rest.
__ Morgon Cote de Py 2006. Another treat. No notes here, just that when fully gulped the empty glass smelled divine...
Another tasting barrel I wasn't getting to miss was the one of the iconic Rhone Domaine Gramenon, one of the earliest to work fully naturally and without any SO2. The pouring was done by no less than Michèle Aubery (here picture with the tyrannical manager of Caves Augé Marc Sibard). I didn't tazste eveything though, if I remember. The range of ther wines offered for tasting was incredible for these domaines that are known to be quickly sold out, but you know how things are going, you say you spit or empty the rest of your glass but end up in the real world swallowing more than planned...
__ Sierra du Sud 2015.
A bit high on the alcogol feel, and some astringency. The wine is one year old, too early I guess.
__ Poignée de Raisins 2015. Also a bit tannic at this stage, with forward alcohol.
__ La Sagesse 2015. That's nice ! The tannin feel and the structure fit very well together. Very exciting and enjoyable wine. Different soil here and oldfer vines, the soil has more limestone. 18.30 € with 6-bottle order.
__ La Mémé 2015. I was eyeing the bottle of course, an iconic cuvée... What a nose ! The wine is utterly subtile and feminine, hinting at more to come. The mouth is voluptuously balanced and elegant. A real marvel. Sells for 39 € with 6-bottle order (all the prices listed on this page were valid for one week actually).
__ A Pascal 2015. More austere but obviously a serious, long-keeping wine that knows where it is going. A classy wine you feel will open its wings along the next 10 years. Sells 40 € for 6-bottle order.
__A Pascal 2004 (I can't believe what we're poured here on this sidewalk...). Beautiful, exciting turbid color. Milky texture in the mouth, a gorgeous feel, and with an acidity that keeps all that alive. Really an incredible wine.
Sorry for the quality of the picture, I shot it with my phone. Christian Binner was also there and I tasted a single wine there, a red, thinking I'd come back for the whites and I failed to do it alas (I was in the middle of tasting reds and wanted to keep on reds for a while).
__ Binner Pinot Noir 2009. Elevage on lees for 11 months in foudres and old casks. Another proof that Alsace Pinots are great, this wise is exquisite with concentration, a silk paper feel on the palate and a terrific acidity. Was selling for 29 € if bought by 6 that week.
I was invited at a beer event a while ago, Saveurs Bière was showing to beer lovers all the different beers they're selling directly. This was certainly for many of us the opportunity to discover beers from unexpected origins, as far as from India, Japan, Australia or Peru, not speaking of the close beer paradises of Belgium & Germany. Most bottles were alas 33cl in volume like often on the French market (the Gerrman beers were reassuringly 50cl...). I tasted a few excellent beers like this Burgundy Barrel Belgian Dubbel or this German classic, the Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Weizen with this nice smoky aroma.
I have not room for all thesebeers I tasted but one of them may have been the strongest I ever drank : the Imperial Russian Stout white label made by Brouwerij Emelisse in Holland, this was very concentrated and extracted with a challenging 11 %, good thing it was 33cl here because 50 cl would have been over the top....
Saveurs Bières also promoted its Advent calendar featuring 100% craft beers.
I'm pretty happy with what I grew in the Loire, we're at this date still eating pumkins now and then, B. knows how to make them more tasty. What I love with this vegetable is that it grows by itself without much overlooking needed, and it makes me think to a vine with its never-ending stem crawling wildly in all directions. All it needs, I discovered, is a fertile soil and shade with maybe a bit of humidity. You can store them in the attic but better keep an eye on them because they may begin to rot at one point. And I use the seeds for the following year each time (I got the initial ones from a local elderly woman who farms her own large vegetable garden in the village), making this crop really sustainable and independant from the seeds industry.
In order to secure an even better pumpkin harvest in 2017 I went to a local dairy farm to haul some cow manure. I used for that my good old vintage Citroën Ami 8, which is banned from the Paris streets for being more than 20 years old by the clueless morons who run this city, my cutie being born in this ungrateful world in the year of 1971. I packed 8 large trash bags with the priceless material and brought it back to the garden in orfer to mix it with the upper soil in the lot where I grow these pumpkins. I hope the disturbed earth worms didn't suffer too much with this smelly and possibly corrosive manure.
The farmer didn't want to be paid for such a small volume of manure but he ended accepting 10 € for it (locals usually come with their car trailer to load the manure). I had taken off the back seats and could secure the full 8 bags of manure without spilling any, i just put two bags in the front to evenly distribute the load (you'd not guess cow manure can be this heavy...).
This farmer does different crops in addition to his 40 or 60 milk cows (he told me but I don't remember the exact number), he says the mid-size farms like his are badly pressured by the French & EC norms, regulations and taxes in a context of falling prices. I think the situation could soften for French farmers in 2017 with a possible termination of the anti-Russian sanctions (that are largely self-punishing for the EU) and also because of the planned slashing in business/income taxes by the incoming U.S. administration, something that could push the EU countries to also follow suit or at least noticeably temper their tax pressure.
This is a very nice Sauvignon I had some time ago (I'm still opening a bottle of it now and then) : A Touraine Sauvignon 2014 by vincent Ricard. It had been quite a while since I had some wine from this talented winemaker and this was a happy reunion. The wine is vivid and delicate, not much typically Sauvignon in its aromas, and it's so easy drinking. Great job !
This was at a tasting centered on Roussillon wines, I discovered the Domaine Etxe, a small family winery managed by mother & sister Cecila and Carmen Etcheverry (typical Basque name), they farm organic (4 hectares) and vinify naturally, making a single cuvée every year since 2007 (about 5000 bottles each vintage).
__ Cuvée Bitxi 2013. Long maceration. Eucalyptus notes on the nose, nice concentration on the palate, powerful but elegant, you must try that, a really delicious wine. Old vines on shist soil, vinified in vat and élevage in old barrels. Costs 10 € tax included at the domaine, a steal for the quality.
__ Embrujo 2012. Like the other vintages, made with Carignan, Syrah, Lledoner and possibly some other variety. Mouth : out of this world, terrific : concentration, intensity & extremely refined, plus length, length, length.... And it costs only 12 € tax included (8,5 € for pro buyers).
__ Cuvée Renouveau, Laanode, a variety that resembles Grenache Noir. This wine was a bit too concentrated for me. 2nd mouth is not bad after all. Very atypical in the concentration of aromas, with eucalyptus and similar dry bush leaves.
Contact info : cecilia [dot] etcheverry [at] wanadoo [dot] fr
Another discovery, the Domaine Mas Janeil which has a 27 hectare surface plus 10 hectares of whites. From what I understand this domaine was purchased in 2010 and from that time it started to sell wine directly in bottles (not in bulk). Part of the François Lurton group.
__ Le Petit Pas 2014, Cotes du Rhone Villages, majority of Syrah. Clear color; nice drinkability. The grapes were stored in a refrigerated room for 48 hours, moved by gravity and vinified without SO2. Nicolas Brouse makes so that the wine is used to oxygen, using fermenters with large openings. There's just a bit of SO2 added at bottling. Costs 10 € tax included at the domaine.
__ Mas Janeil Sans Soufre (printed in large letters in diagonal __ bottle on left). 2012 was their first try to make a wine without any SO2 any time. The 2013 try was blended at the end with another cuvée (not fully satisfying I suppose). Nice power feel, well structured, nothing burning. Sugary note. 6000 bottles of this wine, there were only 300 left to sell at that time. Retail price 17 €. He says the secret is to have the fermentation start very quickly.
I also noticed this winery, Domaine Els Barbats, it's located in Tresserre (zip code 63300), managed by Paul Milhe Poutingon, it has a a 10-hectare vineyard surface with a potential of 28 hectares.
__Bouquet des Cistes, Cotes du Rhone 2014; Syrah, Grenache, Carignan, vinified in cement vat. Bottled august 2016. Something a little bit sauvage on the nose, good omen. Nice balance in the mouth with a refined tannic texture. Sells for 12 € tax incuded, good deal. Certified organic.
__ Cuvée Maison 2013. Syrah 70 %, Grenache 30 %.
__ Les Bryuères Blanches, Les Aspres 2012; Syrah, Grenache, Carignan. Very seductive nose, complexity with a milky feel which I like. Powerful in the mouth, but well integrated, will certainly age well. 14 €.
__ Autre Chose, Vin de France made with Carignan 2015 (growing on slopes with only 3 to 4 bunches per vine). Carbonic maceration, 65 days in closed tank. When he crunched the grapes he could feel the substance of the wine. Very enjoyable even if poweful (14,5 %). 6 € only; If I can trust my hand writing, that's a every god deal...
Here is more Provence good spirits and warmth for this beginning of winter months : this was last august and the Domaine de Cambaret, a family winery in Garéoult in the Var département, was having its yearly tasting event with food and fried fish. The owner is the guy on min. 0:28 who pours wine to visitors, it's all friendly and casual in the front of the family home in the middle of the village. The wines are pretty nice and well priced, I need to come back and taste more.
The domaine is among these in-between domaines, not organic but working well, in the matter doing hand pickings and retaining this warmful family style that isn't found so often. You feel that doing just a couple things more (or not doing certain things) and their wines would gain an other level of vividness and truth. The facility used to be a rented warehouse near Brignoles but I understand that they got the permission and the funding to at last build a facility here in Garéoult (Brignoles is 15 km away). Their family shop on the main street of Garéoult is a real place, always open and they also sell local olive oil and honey, great place to visit.
We understand better now why wild boars are overflowing their natural areas in Provence and causing havoc in the villages and cultures, here is the proof. B. and I made several long walks in the woods this summer in the inner Var département (which has vast wild areas of uninhabited hills covered with woods and aromatic Provencal bushes), and we discovered the proof that hunters (or people related to local hunters) were sprinkling corn and wheat grains along dirt roads deep in the wilderness in order to help the animals multiply and thrive beyond the capacity of their natural environment to feed them. The corn distribution was made very discreetly in the sense that except for this picture most of the time you'd spot just a couple of corn grains at a time, you had to keep, your eyes focused on the tracks to realize that that there was intent and hidden volume. As a result there has been a natural imbalance with a steep increase of the wild boar population along the years, pushing them to sneak into the gardens and vegetable gardens in the villages, many locals having in return to fence their lot when this was not necessary at all 20 years ago. Another natural imbalance is the fact authorities don't allow home owners to shoot them in their property, but from the few isolated shots we heard at a distance during our stay (often around 10 or 11 pm when the animals dare approach the gardens at dark) it seems not everybody comply with the law.
I'll not say that we had only great wines for summer, and given the needs of our party (not B. as she's very spartan on this field) I'd regularly fill up like every year at the local Coop (la Roquière). At 1,8 € a liter you can enjoy long apéritifs in the evening sipping rosé in the outside as the temperature cools down. Here I had a 5-liter container filled by the lady at the Coop (they even provide empty containers if you didn't bring any). They also sell bottled wine (red, rosé & white) here, but they certainly sell lots in bulk (which is cheaper), you see guys coming in with several containers and stocking up...
I was invited a few weeks ago to a special event centered on Burgundy with also some spotlight on neighboring region, the event was named L'Afterwork #4 Bourgogne Franche-Comté, it was much about fod, cheese, and spirits with a few wines as well, I'm not sure if Burgundy and Jura really needed this event or if it was an opportunity to do a festive evening in Paris for a few dozen people in Paris, but it was fun and
The woman who was pouring the spirit was from Pontarlier (she is the head of the Tourism Office there), a city in the Jura which was producing lots of Absinthe at the turn of the 19th/20th century. The region, both in the French Jura and in Switzerland is home to the plants used to make Absinthe. Recipes are a bit different from a producer to the other, depending of the tools they use, and this one above is considered as having a higher count of thuyone, the plant extract that gives the special properties to the famed beverage, including the exagerated ones of making drinkers crazy, a theory certainly largely made up by the wine producers and the tax authorities at the time in order to resurrect the ailing wine industry (after the phylloxera disaster). The Absinthe of François Guy for example can't be exported in certain countries (like New Zealand) because it contains too much thuyone. François Guy's Absinthe is not much exported and is mostly sold locally (or in France through online sales). The Absinthe Bourgois (pictured on right) which I tasted also (I drank more than tasted of course) is also very nice, it's hard to figure out at once the difference in thuyone counts. It is made by the Distillerie Les Fils d'Emile Pernot and is exported in countries like the United States, Australia and New Zealand.
The Absinthe is quite easy to drink, it's very similar to Pastis actually, turning also yellow when you add water.
I learn that at the time (a century ago) there were a few Swiss Absinthe makers who moved to the French Jura because of punitive taxes on the other side of the border [these were indeed different times, investors taking refuge in France for more lenient taxes....]. In Pontarlier, Absinthe is made through distillation, compared to other Absinthe from the south of France for example where it is made through maceration. That's the same issue with the Pastis, most being made through maceration and the best ones through distillation. There are today 5 Absinthe producers in/around Pontarlier, with a couple of farms having started production, and you have 20 of them in Switzerland.
No, this isn't yet another hyped tribute to a defunct exotic cigar-smoking dictator, this is just about a small event centered on cocktails made with several iconic whiskies of the Japanese distiller Suntory : Yamazaki, Hakushu and Hibiki. This was taking place at the Forum Classic Bar (29 rue du Louvre in Paris), and the cocktail master for the event was Xavier Laigle. There were three coktails offered, Chôwa, Shizukesa and Nihon Alpsu. The cocktail bar is said to have had a long relation with whisky and in 1970 there was already a Japanese whisky at the bar...
I had the three of them, even though I was to ride my motorbike home after then; I didn't risk any breath checks in Paris (a big advantage in this big city compared to the French countryside) but I still had to arrive at destination (and you don't spit these things).
__ Chôwa, made with Hibiki Japanese Harmony, it had a noticeable bitterness that went well with the marked whisky character of the cocktail, this was more tasting like a whisky than a cocktail.
__ Nihon Alpsu or "Japanese Alps" as you can undestand even if you're not fluent in Japanese. Made with Hakushu Distiller's Reserve. Less surprising, you drink that so easily, light with the lovely vividness of the green lemon.
__I don't find my notes for the 3rd cocktail, the one here on the picture, Shizukesa, it was made with Yamazaki Distiller's Reserve and this may have been the one I liked the most, even though I found on the whole these cocktails to be too mainstream, taking no risks.
These news come a bit late as the month of november was devoted to these Suntory-based cocktails at the Forum Classic Bar but the bartenders over there should still be able to get you one of these cocktails beyond the deadline.
Here is another festive event, but in the streets of Paris this time : this was the 20th anniversary of the Cave des Papilles in september in the 14th arrondissement. Natural wine for everybody all day, free of charge, you just had to grab a glass and you'd have it filled with various delicious wines or you could also go to the shop, buy a bottle on your own and share it with your party. I think it started at noon and lasted all afternoon until 7 pm, part of the rue Daguerre is pedestrian-only, this part is not, but it's made pedestrian every year for their party.
For the food there were a few stands including one serving free coucous made with pork, a success among the visitors. Their Couscous aux Joues de Porc can also be had at the restaurant A Mi Chemin, 31 rue Boulard nearby, I understand that they serve a cuisine in between Tunisia & France because of the origin of the couple, and the wine list is, you guess made of natural wines...
Add on top of that great jazz, this was a perfect sunday (and they do that every year !). You'll recognize many natural-wine people in the crowd, just to name a few, Jean-Pierre Robinot (video here), Tolmer, Aaron Ayscough, Morgane Fleury (but you'll se a few others)...Earlier in the morning there was also Patrick Bouju and Claude Courtois, made me regret to come late...
Frnck is an old friend of mine, the first time I met him was when he was assistant -photographer for Pierre Terrasson, at the time Terrasson was
working a lot for Serge Gainsbourg (the professional lab where I worked was processing the pictures). He since then reconverted in the natural wine, working some time at the Caves des Papilles, he now runs a business sourcing in the French provinces & dealing various artisan charcuterie, chicken, rabbits, cheese as well as natural wine which he then delivers in the Paris region to demanding customers. Franck also surprised me with his first-hand knowledge about the early years of the natural-wine movement, when most of us were sleeping in that matter.
His rillettes here were just utterly delicious, they looked fatty on the outside but they tasted so good...
Allo Francky phone +36 6 78 76 33 80 - allofrancky72 [at] gmail [dot] com
Going on weekends in the countryside is a welcome change from the Paris life, you get tired cutting wood, slimming the hedge and cutting grass, and if you're not tired enough there's some bicycling in the woods and who knows what else, and the following evening you get this rare pleasure sometimes of looking at a big fire in the silence, when you light up the dry branches and hedge cuttings. This really connects you with the real life of the outdoors, here the flames look like a dancing spirit, it's actually very pagan to look at a fire, but speaking of paganism (and capital sin), nowadays I could be damned by the save-the-planet clergy for doing that...
Another good thing with this, is when you come back to the big city you bring the smell with you, it's like you brought a bit of country life with you.
I watched this incredible scene a couple months ago in the Loire : a praying mantis catched a bumblebee with its long, powerful arms and was beginning to eat it alive (just imagine she's doing that routinely with her husband...). I wanted to intervene but at the same time was fascinated by this rare scene, I didn't know a praying mantis could grab such a large insect and have the nerve to do it (looks like a lion grabbing a big helicopter). It looks like her arms are so long that it can safely hold the prey at distance and just munch its underbelly or legs at reach. Don't worry, things will go fine for the bumblebee later, I just hope it eventually survived the bites. Watch like the praying mantis licks its own arms at the end, like when you relish the last drop of your meal...
I'll devote this mini story to Jean-Henri Fabre, an entomologist-writer I consider like my spiritual mentor alongside Rudolf Steiner, this is because of the way he spoke of the natural things he observed, with a free mind even in regard for his contemporary scientific milieu (he was considered an heretic for mocking the evolutionism theory).
Read the French Wikipedia on Jean-Henri Fabre (much more info). For some reason, one of the countries with the highest following for J-H Fabre (even to this day, all his work have been translated) is Japan
During the few days I spent in Armenia I visited the shops in Yerevan, and as there are lots of Russian imports there I tried a few beers from the mighty neighbor. This one was a good surprise, pretty enjoyable and with a moderate 4,1 % alcohol. The label was at the same time very nationalistic, showing a young woman wearing a cap of the Russian Navy, and it was also kind of reminiscent of the American poster or calendar girls during WW2.
This beer is made by the Afanassyi brewery in the city of Tver. The Russian company is making lots of other products beyond beer, including Kvas, a traditional beverage in Russia. Here is the beer page, I did not see this particular beer on their website, maybe it's still not produced in a large scale or the web page has not been updated. Again I appreciate to see beer in 50-cl bottles, something not very common in France where it's usually 33 cl or even worse, 25 cl.
I bought several Russian beers in Yerevan, one of them had also a similar label and design, pretty nostalgic and sexy beer, the one on the left, named Velvet (бархaтное) is said to offer the full 100 % Soviet tradition, thus also very nostalgic.
Back in Armenia a couple months ago I had the opportunity to visit an aging soviet-era winery located north of the Lake Sevan in a beautifull wodded region, this is the Ijevan Brandy Factory, and i tasted a few nice things there including this incredible soviet-era sweet wine from 1973. The one we're drinking here is from the bottle on the right, a cask sample from 1973 if my notes are reliable (while the sealed bottle on the left is obviously a 1977). This is sweet Voskehat wine, tastes like Madeire with a nice old-Port color. THe wine is aging in casks since 1980, it sells in duty-free shops for 50 or 60 €. That was so good...
I posted a story [bottom of the linked page] a while ago where I'd write about what I thought was the sole pizzeria pouring natural wine in addition to making great pizzas, that was certainly inaccurate and there are quite a few others in the free [wine-drinking] world, here is one for example in Paris :
Il Brigante in the 18th arrondissement in Paris is a small humble venue from the outside but with both great pizzas (if a bit too thin I would say if I had to emit a critic) and a well-stocked cellar full of Italian natural wines. The thing is, you have to ask the guy who runs this place for a bottle, they're not necessarily on the wine list. The day our small party stopped there I unsuspectingly asked for just the regular ordinary red in a jug, which turned out to be from an artisan domaine. I took note of the wine farm by then but certainly need to be more organized or more quick in my writing because I still have to find it. It's true that the room is tight and I'd have been able to eat twice the size of this pizza but you need to try this place because of it's hidden stock of Italian wines.
While at this same Burgundy & Franche Comté event I had the chance to taste this French-made Gin, it's made by Vedrenne by coincidently also makes an Absinthe as well as other spirits. THe bartender behind the counter was making here also a cocktail but I asked to taste it dry, adding just a few drops of water like I use to do, and I was rewarded by this move, this gin didn't need to be obliterated by diverting additions, it was so good by itself, smooth, powerful and flowing smoothly down the throat. This gin is made by the Distillerie des Terres Rouges. There are a few quality Gins that are made in France and I feel I should look closer because some seem to be above the average, like also the one of the Distillerie de Paris (terrific gin !).
We went to the Fête de la Saint Simon in the beautiful village of Flavigny in Burgundy, there were lots of stands, food as well as a vide-grenier (sidewalk/attic sale) where I managed to make a few good deals, but there was also this guy promoting his wine made in this little corner of Burgundy : the Auxois region known for its beautiful city of Semur-en-Auxois (where B. attended high school !) was also in the 19th century making lots of wine like all French regions but the vineyards weren't replanted after the phylloxera (plus this was lots of unqualitative hybrids) and local farmers turned to meat cows and other crops instead. There are today only 40 hectares of vines in this little-known sub-region of Burgundy.
A few domaines have popped up in the last decades like the Vignoble de Flavigny and this one is another example : Aurélien Febvre has taken his family vineyard back in 2002 and he farms organic since 2004 is making a few cuvées not far from here, including a cuvée named Sauvage with whole-clustered pinot-noir/gamaret grapes vinified naturally on wild yeast in fiber vats (with temperature control) and an 11-month élevage in 500-liter clay vessels (it's the 4th year he uses these vessels), and on top of that without added sulfites. Not much pigeage here, they let the wine vinify smoothly. Aurelien is the only organic domaine in the Auxois region. All his wines are made without SO2, he works from 2 hectares of vines, Chardonnay & Pinot Noir. 3 whites including a vieilles vignes & a élevage in oak. He uses massal selections for the replantings.
Aurélien sells 80 % of his wine directly to local buyers. Retail prices are between 14 € and 17 € if I remember, I didn't take notes but had a good feel about this sulfites-free blend of Pinot Noir & Gamaret (a Swiss cross breed if I understand).
This was in this same village event in Flavigny-sur-Ozerain, there was this woman cheesemaker who was selling her organic cow-milk cheese, I bought a couple of them, they were organic and of different age (maturing weeks), they were so good, especially the older types. This was the simple, old-time and unsophisticated cheese that people in the countryside used to make, B.' mother used to make similar cheese herself because she had access to lots of milk in the family farm. She sold her cheese for 2 € apiece only and they were well sized indeed.
The cheese farm is named Aux Bonnes Savrurs and is located near Saint Symphorien de Marmagne (near Le Creusot) and you can reach them for orders at 03 85 55 76 34.