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In Vino...

by afew Tue May 27th, 2008 at 05:48:57 AM EST

I mentioned here an association I'm part of, that acts as a kind of cooperative between local producers and local consumers of foodstuffs. Over the weekend we held a wine-tasting. Little-finger-in-the-air wine snobs in a candle-lit cellar? Not.


That's the vigneron, Philippe Babin, on the left, explaining the contents of the last bottle we were to taste. (You're supposed to spit out when wine-tasting, but no one did. At this stage the atmosphere was becoming, er, more animated. There were twenty people in all around the tables.) The point of the exercise wasn't to guess what we were tasting, but to choose an assemblage, or mix, of single-type wines from the 2007 harvest. Philippe will put our chosen assemblage down in a cask some time in June, and it will be bottled in October. In fact, there are so many orders there'll have to be a second cask. (Bordeaux-type barriques contain about 220 litres or getting on for 300 bottles. Orders are now past 400.)

The association mostly deals with fresh veg, fruit, flour, oil, pulses, poultry, beef and lamb, cheese. This is not a wine district. Yet, since the 1990s, a handful of wine growers/makers have set up in business. Philippe is the only organic grower among them. In the hilly area where he lives, he found suitable fields (patches, rather) that had never been cultivated, and planted vines in them. The organic label on wine refers to the cultivation of the vine, not to winemaking methods, though Philippe uses neither added yeasts, nor enzymes, nor any of the multitude of substances winemakers are allowed to use to "fix" the problems a wine may be having, or to "improve" its taste. He is a fount of knowledge on traditional methods, and his practice is to apply those methods by following the evolution of his wines with passionate care. Though (as I said) this is not a wine area (no AOC, the wine is a Vin du Pays), the quality of his wines is astonishing. We tasted wines that are only eight months old, yet already pleasant to drink and above all interesting, with all the makings of wine you should put aside for the next five to ten years, except you won't because it's going to be really good before that.

Still, wine isn't an essential foodstuff, and isn't it a luxury item? You can do without it, and at €5 a bottle (a very fair price nonetheless) it's obviously on the pricier side for our association. One of the aims of Community Supported Agriculture is to help small producers by organizing stable circuits for them in a market that is heavily structured by big agri-food interests, and in which they're generally too weak to defend their interests against box-store clout. In Philippe's case, that isn't entirely necessary, as a visit to Coteaux d'Engraviès should show: the quality of the wine is becoming recognized, and there are a couple of entries there in the Guide Hachette 2008. So it's not so much that he needs us. And, because wine is non-essential, it's not so much that we need him.

What it's about is the long exchange the other evening, and other exchanges to come. It's about information, and it's about socialising. It's about consumers learning how products are made, above all how they're made properly. It's about re-culturing what advertising and the food industry have de-cultured. Food is so much more than a blank pabulum tricked out in marketing colours. Food is social, it involves real people who make it and real people who consume it, and it is possible for the twain to meet. Food is culture, it has history and traditions, and these are not futile yearnings for a romantic past, they are sources of genuinely useful knowledge and of the very elements of food production - seeds, plant types, animal breeds - that are best adapted to local conditions and best maintain diversity.

OK, so we were drinking wine to save the planet? Heh. Why not?

(By the way, we chose an assemblage made up of 50% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 15% Syrah.)

Display:
Save a bottle for me!
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Mon May 26th, 2008 at 11:42:58 AM EST
And for me, several bottles. My stomach would appreciate it...
by PerCLupi on Tue May 27th, 2008 at 09:57:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Drinking wine to save the planet" - now that's my kind of campaign ! :-)

Yes, the French do tend to take their pleasure in food and wine seriously. My comments on food tend to be limited to things like: "This is nice". They discuss each dish, other dishes they've had, ingredients, recipes, restaurants, etc., etc.  - sometimes through the whole meal! In my Anglo way I tend to think - can we talk about something interesting now :-) But I'm trying to reform - and take these far from simple pleasures more seriously too.

 Maybe I'll even develop a more sophisticated taste in wine; I have tried a variety of French wines, but I have been rather disappointed generally. I tend to prefer the often stronger wines of Australia - heresy here I know - though I believe some Australian wine-makers have helped improve some French wines.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Mon May 26th, 2008 at 12:02:44 PM EST
This goes a bit beyond the French cultural tendency to talk about food the way Brits talk about the weather ;), though. We were hearing a lot about how good wine is made, what the techniques are (as opposed to chemical manipulation). The aim is both to support quality products and their producers in the local area, and to encourage consumers to be more aware of what they consume, what constitutes good or bad food or drink. We have eighty households on the association's books at the moment, most of whom buy a major share of their food from the association's chosen producers.

There are very good Australian wines, but I'm surprised they'd be "stronger" than French. That would probably depend on which French, I'd imagine...

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue May 27th, 2008 at 08:20:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I was just talking (not too seriously :-)) about my experience - I understand and applaud the  broader aims of the group you're involved with.

Re strength of wine - of course there are strong French wines, however:

If, though, it is bolstered by plenty of fruit, a more alcoholic wine tends to have a fuller, glossier mouthfeel than a weaker counterpart, which might even seem thin by contrast. This is the case with many wines from Australia, Chile, Argentina and South Africa, where a hot sun ripens grapes with high levels of the sugar that fermentation then converts into a lot of alcohol.

The big, bold, rich style of these New World wines has proved so successful that wine makers in other parts of the world have begun to mimic it, and alcohol levels have crept steadily upwards to meet demand.

http://lifeandhealth.guardian.co.uk/drink/story/0,,2147644,00.html



Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Tue May 27th, 2008 at 09:06:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Philippe explained that global warming is little by little raising the alcohol content of wine (see my reply below to Nomad for an example of a strong wine).

But, since Australia is warming fast, with drought problems, one would expect their wines to get stronger yet!

(At some point, this would lead, for me, to wines that don't accompany a meal as much as knock the commensals out...)

Here's a diary by a siegel on this very subject.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue May 27th, 2008 at 11:54:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Isn't there a limit to how high an alcohol content yeast can tolerate?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue May 27th, 2008 at 11:56:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Logically, alcohol production stops when there's no more sugar for the yeast to transform. Can the alcohol content reach a stage where it kills the yeast?

That's a question for Philippe next time I see him.

The result sounds yucky: strong alcohol and residual sweet grape juice.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue May 27th, 2008 at 12:03:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, terrible stuff. Apparently you need special yeasts to get the alcohol content past about 14%.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue May 27th, 2008 at 12:16:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, but I don't think of that as residual sweet grape juice. That's the nectar of the gods.

The time of harvesting of course has an effect on sugar levels. The later the harvest, the higher the sugar. Apparently harvesting is being brought forward earlier to avoid wines being at 13-14%, which most people don't want as table wines.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue May 27th, 2008 at 12:45:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The real nectar of the gods comes from further north and has much lower alcohol contents - i.e. BA, TBA, and Eiswein's from the Mosel. One of the few good sides of living in Koblenz was the proximity to the vineyards which sold their wines to visitors at the same price that the wholesalers got them. Though that also meant that there were none to be found in the local wine shops. The vintners were incredibly friendly and had a wonderful habit of not just offering tastes of all the wines on sale, but occasionally providing a sip of whatever ancient bottle from their private reserve that day (though that meant Spaetleses and Ausleses, not the higher grades). Twenty or thirty year old Mosels - the only whites that come close are top of the line Burgundies.
by MarekNYC on Thu May 29th, 2008 at 04:08:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Cf.:

   The Alcohol Debate - Wine and Food

The current outcry against high alcohol wines has, at its center, the notion that these wines are simply not food friendly. Randy Dunn, of Dunn Vineyards, has written "Most wine drinkers do not really appreciate wines that are 15 -16 +% alcohol. They are, in fact, hot and very difficult to enjoy with a meal. About the only dish that seems to put them in their place is a good hot, spicy dish."

Eric Asimov of The Pour has noted "Many Californians argue that nothing is wrong with high-alcohol wines so long as they are balanced. Nonsense. I like to drink wine with my meal, not sip it, and the more alcohol in the wine, the less I can drink.".

Dan Berger of Vintage Experiences has penned "Meanwhile, I keep trying the 15% wines and can't get a single (small) glass down. Too hot. Too heavy. Not a wine to go with food.

http://shirazshiraz.blogspot.com/2007/08/alcohol-debate-wine-and-food.html



Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Tue May 27th, 2008 at 12:23:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I like to drink wine with my meal, not sip it

Exactly. Good quote.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue May 27th, 2008 at 12:48:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Although I enjoy listening to a brass band from time to time, I usually favour chamber music...

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Thu May 29th, 2008 at 03:55:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A lot depends on whether you want it as an accompaniment to the meal or on its own. But there's also the problem that Californian wines tend to either be crap or horribly expensive.
by MarekNYC on Thu May 29th, 2008 at 04:02:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What a great way to buy wine. Heck, it's a great way to buy food generally.

It's high on my list of things to do once I've sold my flat {jumps up and down in frustration}

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon May 26th, 2008 at 12:09:06 PM EST
Networking afew.. you are completely right.. networking.....
ia ctually read this today...

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/05/25/AR2008052501779.html?hpid=topnews

So wine... is a fundamental...Food networking should be back....or never forgot...
Do not eat food... eat with people :)

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Mon May 26th, 2008 at 04:23:53 PM EST
Yes; and let people grow food!
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue May 27th, 2008 at 08:21:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
it's about socialising

In Spanish, comer ("eat") comes from the Latin comedere <*cum(=with)+edere (=feed up), which means "eat together." If not, what is done is to feed up themselves.

About the wine, even Saint Paul -which was so strict- believes it is good for the stomach, if it is drunk with restraint:

Ad Timotheum I, 5, 23:
noli adhuc aquam bibere sed vino modico utere propter stomachum tuum et frequentes tuas infirmitates

The Bible, King James version:
Timothy I:
54:005:023 Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities.

by PerCLupi on Tue May 27th, 2008 at 09:18:34 AM EST
Can I suggest In Vino...?

In vino veritas.

by PerCLupi on Tue May 27th, 2008 at 09:36:04 AM EST
In Vinum suggests diving into wine...

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 27th, 2008 at 09:38:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Probably the result of the tasting... :-)
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue May 27th, 2008 at 10:49:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course you're right! I couldn't find a title and put that up in haste without thinking. I shall now correct it.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue May 27th, 2008 at 10:50:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]

I was assuming that it must be a learned variation :-)

 How about - carpe vinum ? :-)

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Tue May 27th, 2008 at 11:15:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In taberna quando sumus
non curamus quid sit humus,
sed ad ludum properamus,
cui semper insudamus.
Quid agatur in taberna
ubi nummus est pincerna,
hoc est opus ut queratur,
si quid loquar, audiatur.
Quidam ludunt, quidam bibunt,
quidam indiscrete vivunt.
Sed in ludo qui morantur,
ex his quidam denudantur
quidam ibi vestiuntur,
quidam saccis induuntur.
Ibi nullus timet mortem
sed pro Baccho mittunt sortem:

Primo pro nummata vini,
ex hac bibunt libertini;
semel bibunt pro captivis,
post hec bibunt ter pro vivis,
quater pro Christianis cunctis
quinquies pro fidelibus defunctis,
sexies pro sororibus vanis,
septies pro militibus silvanis.

Octies pro fratribus perversis,
nonies pro monachis dispersis,
decies pro navigantibus
undecies pro discordaniibus,
duodecies pro penitentibus,
tredecies pro iter agentibus.
Tam pro papa quam pro rege
bibunt omnes sine lege.

Bibit hera, bibit herus,
bibit miles, bibit clerus,
bibit ille, bibit illa,
bibit servis cum ancilla,
bibit velox, bibit piger,
bibit albus, bibit niger,
bibit constans, bibit vagus,
bibit rudis, bibit magnus.

Bibit pauper et egrotus,
bibit exul et ignotus,
bibit puer, bibit canus,
bibit presul et decanus,
bibit soror, bibit frater,
bibit anus, bibit mater,
bibit ista, bibit ille,
bibunt centum, bibunt mille.

Parum sexcente nummate
durant, cum immoderate
bibunt omnes sine meta.
Quamvis bibant mente leta,
sic nos rodunt omnes gentes
et sic erimus egentes.
Qui nos rodunt confundantur
et cum iustis non scribantur.

(Carmina Burana)

by PerCLupi on Tue May 27th, 2008 at 12:41:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Now those were some gourmet (of life) monks!

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin
by Crazy Horse on Tue May 27th, 2008 at 02:52:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You must have been inspired by Guy Debord: In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni...

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Thu May 29th, 2008 at 04:02:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]

The assemblage sounds tantalsing, although I've been recently trending into purist territory, by appreciating "100%" (I know that the 100% claim is generally not true) red wines, Merlot, Syrah, Pinotage (an offspring from Pinot Noir). I should be ready for France when I'm back in Europe.

Just out of curiosity, do you know what the purpose is of those hanging green/brown "bags" against the wooden fencing (in the background of the picture)?

You just planted another seed of possibilities for post-geologist times... The CSA model sounds like a winner, and I'm sure there must be activity in the Netherlands for critical food connaisseurs.

by Nomad on Tue May 27th, 2008 at 09:45:29 AM EST
do you know what the purpose is of those hanging green/brown "bags" against the wooden fencing

I wondered that. I just assumed they were hanging gro-bags

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue May 27th, 2008 at 10:55:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue May 27th, 2008 at 11:28:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
hee, not quite.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue May 27th, 2008 at 11:44:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We began by tasting the single types, in this case Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon. (Philippe has planted some Pinot Noir, I think, but it isn't producing any appreciable quantity yet.) We wouldn't have agreed on any one of them on its own, and the idea was to put together a wine everyone agreed on. It took sheveral tries.

But Philippe does sell the best single type of each year in a limited amount under the label "Solo". For the 2007 harvest it will be a Merlot at 15% alcohol. I tasted it when it was 6 months old, and it was already explosive. Not a wine to accompany a meal, but just to drink a glass of for the pleasure.

The bags: we were in a corner of the garden of my horticulturist neighbours. The bags will become a wall of plants and flowers. There's a water-retaining mix inside the bags - possibly there's some gel of the kind proposed by willem vancotthem that holds moisture. The plants are rooted in the mix. The bags are fitted with a hosepipe for water input, but don't demand much.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue May 27th, 2008 at 11:23:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
afew:
It took sheveral tries.

Heh. "Sheveral" - intentional or typo, it got me grinning.

I should really read willem's diaries, they've been sitting there at my bookmarked diaries for a while now... I've decided to set up a herb corner in our garden. If that goes well, I may extend.

by Nomad on Wed May 28th, 2008 at 02:30:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Intenshunal. ;)
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed May 28th, 2008 at 03:08:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Reminds me that, regarding the literary siblings, the Sitwells, one wit said: "There is not one Sitwell, there are Sacheverell."

A colourful trio, cf.:

... The Three Sitwells are not an acrobatic act. They are Edith, Osbert and Sacheverell, the fractious, fastidious scions of Sir George Reresby Sitwell, fourth Baronet, Lord of the Manor of Long Itchington. Osbert is a poet, essayist, novelist (Before the Bombardment, Escape With Me). Sacheverell is an outstanding authority on baroque art and Liszt, author of a distinguished travel book (Roumanian Journey) and much verse. Edith usually dresses like a medieval prioress, writes sharp, hard, colorful poetry that gives the impression of viridian green and Chinaman's-heart's-blood laid on in arabesque by a razor blade.

...
[a] young man ... at one Sitwell function whispered: "You know, the Sitwells are so cruel; so devastatingly cruel, don't you think? Do you think they are going to be too awfully cruel today?" Last year when Edith Sitwell's Anthology appeared, rash Reviewer Hamilton Fyfe thought he would like to find out how cruel the Sitwells would be if somebody criticized the Sitwells. In the 98-year-old London weekly Reynolds News he wrote: "Among the literary curiosities of the nineteen-twenties will be the vogue of the Sitwells . . . whose energy and self-assurance pushed them into a position which their merits could not have won. . . . Now oblivion has claimed them and they are remembered with kindly, if slightly cynical, smiles."

There were several high, hawklike cries, a spasmodic intake of talons and the Three Sitwells swooped down on Reynolds News, sued the paper and its editor, Sydney Elliott, for libel.
...
Sacheverell testified that he had not passed into oblivion, had no intention of doing so.

 The presiding judge [quipped] "You hope not," [and suggested] waggishly that all three Sitwells ought to testify at once.

The Suing Sitwells (TIME)
Monday, Mar. 03, 1941

Pass the wine :-)

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Wed May 28th, 2008 at 04:53:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
http://www.paulpincus.com/2007/11/sitwells-edith-osbert-and-sacheverell_13.html

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Wed May 28th, 2008 at 05:00:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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