Feature Article #1

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Thanks for resting your eyeballs here for a moment.(They are resting, right?) If you rest them a little longer, you may learn some interesting,(hopefully)entertaining, and, yes, ocassionally BIZARRE things about FRENCH COUNTRY LIFE (more…)

| June 24th, 2009 | Continued

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French Country Travel Life Rosé

French Country Travel Life Rosé  French Wine from the vine is good anytime. (Likewise French Food!) But in Summer even more so. And since this IS the last (official)day of Summer – what better tribute could Da Bg share than a heart(and body)warming story of French Rosé?

Told by my fellow winophile Eleanore Beardsley:

The Blanc brothers, Didier and Robert, are third-generation vintners near the town of Uzes, in southern France. The area is known for chirping cicadas, olive trees and chilled rosé wine in the summertime.

Standing between the rows of vines at their vineyard, Saint Firmin, younger brother Didier pushes back the leaves to reveal clusters of plump grapes ripening under a blazing Mediterranean sun. Blanc says sales are exploding.

“We ran out of rosé last year, so we produced a lot more this year. And we’re going to run out again,” he says.

Rosé is made from grenache or cinsault grapes, and is certainly never a mix of red and white wine, says older brother Robert. He says a good rosé is pale, almost gray — the lighter, the better. And it’s easily quaffable.

“Since it’s so light, people have the impression that it has less alcohol and calories than red or white wine. But that’s not the case,” he says, laughing.

The brothers harvest their grapes at night, when it’s cooler. Once picked, rosé grapes in particular must have minimum exposure to heat and sun to limit oxidization.

A stiff wind whips down the rows of vines. It’s the legendaryMistral, a wind that blows up the Rhone valley. Didier Blanc says the Mistral is winemakers’ friend, because it combats the humidity and mildew that can hurt the vines.

The two men say their father used to put a few bottles of rosé aside just for his own pleasure.

A noisy bottling machine helps them put the cork on the last of their 2014 vintage. Robert Blanc says it’s the second year they’ve exported to the U.S. Since neither of them speaks English, Robert says it would have been hard to pierce the complicated American wine market. But he says importers have come looking for them.

“Yesterday we had a visit from another importer from Maine who was on vacation,” Robert says. “He loved the rosé. Maybe something will come of that!”

John Hames, director of the American Wine Society, says that in the ’70s and ’80s, Americans went for sweeter wines. But tastes are evolving, and appreciation for dry rosés is growing.

The label for La Vigne du Facteur— The Mailman’s Vine — a rosé produced by Serge Scherrer

“People discovered they were good food wines,” says Hames. “And at the same time, they were an alternative to the chardonnays and sauvignon blancs for just having a nice cool glass of wine in the evening on the patio.”

The rosé boom is transforming lives in this agrarian region. Serge Scherrer is a part-time postman, part-time winemaker. He was able to buy a parcel of land here 10 years ago because of the real estate crisis — just two days before the vines were to be ripped out. Now he’s realizing a lifelong dream, making 3,000 bottles of organic wine a year. He says he understands why rosé is a big hit.

“It’s simple to drink, it’s very fresh, and it’s not as strong as red or white wine,” Scherrer says.

Read more HERE.



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French Country Travel Life Artist


French Country Travel Life Artist. Monet. Sisley. Pissarro. Francoise Cariou. And, of course, Cezanne.

While all French Artists had a singular contribution to make, Paul Cezanne’s was one of the most unique and significant; in that he was the bridge between Impressionisim and the Post-Impressionists.

So great was his influence on other artists that Picasso and Matisse proclaimed: “Cezanne is the Father of us all.”

My fellow scribbler Anne Elder has an overview of Cezanne’s life, work, and his particular relation to a mountain:

Between 1902 and 1906, Paul Cézanne walked into the north of Aix-en-Provence twice a day, every day. He would walk up the hill to the quiet Terre des Peintres for its stunning vantage point of Gardanne and Montagne Sainte-Victoire, a beacon of Provence and the subject of many of his paintings.

And now, more than a century after his death in 1906, the impressionist painter’s influence can still be found all over the city: from restaurant and school names, to museum exhibitions, and perhaps most noticeably, a gold plaque-marked walking path through the city, highlighting everywhere from where Cézanne lived to where he died.

Whether you are an expat or a Francophile traveler, it’s easy to walk where Cézanne walked through Aix, even unintentionally. But to truly experience his impact on the city, there are four sites you cannot miss.

Begin at Cézanne’s atelier, which can be found just north of Aix-en-Provence. His workshop has been preserved just as it was when he was painting there in his later years. The walls, decorated with skulls, tiny mannequins and fruits, are the same blueish gray that Cézanne himself mixed for optimal light reflection. And the open panel in the wall, where he would push his larger canvases through to examine them in the light, is still open.

From the atelier, follow directly in Cézanne’s footsteps and walk up the hill to the Terrain des Peintres yourself. Today, the platform is enveloped by his paintings of the famous Montagne Sainte-Victoire and Gardanne, all still visible and peeking through the fields of oliviers.

Cézanne was well into his 60s when he made his voyages to the Terrain – 20 minutes from his atelier and 40 from his apartment – lugging easels and paints and canvases to capture the orange tiled roofs, oliviers, and of course, the mountain herself.

Sainte-Victoire is a sort of calling card for Provence. She is visible from the Aix TGV train station and from bus routes spanning nearly to Marseille. At the summit lies la Croix de Provence, a large cross most visible from the north side of the mountain. The mountain is representative of the region, and of Cézanne’s canon.

When Cézanne was alive and painting in Aix, the owner of the Musée Granet said there would never be any of the painter’s work exhibited as long as he was running the museum. Nestled in Aix’s Quartier Mazarin, it now has a room dedicated to ‘le père de l’art moderne‘ (father of modern art), where ten of his canvases are on display.

Read more HERE.


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French Chocolate,French Wine and Roussillon


French Chocolate,French Wine and Roussillon may seem, at first glance a little – shall we say “incongrous?” – But stick with DA BG for a momento or two and it’ll all add up. (at least by my standard of math !)

Roussillon, as we all know, is (justly) famous for it’s orche colored hills. The source of the preferred pigment of that color by artists around the world.

It also produces some wine that is, as an American (or possibly an Armenian) would rate as : “not too shabby.”(somewhere below grand cru, but above the supermarket vins du pays plonck.)

French Chocolate, like French Wine (and French food for that matter) while definitely World renowned, does pose an often challenging gustatory dilema (and aren’t those the best kind ?) That being –which wine to pare with it ? One strong enough to assert some character, but not so over the top that it cancels out all that creamy, tangy choco-goodness.

Well, happily, there is such a wine. One of the many liquid”
Treasures of
France.” Sadly, I can’t claim the credit for finding it. That kudo goes to my fellow scribbler Nick Passmore….who fills us in on the tasty French Chocolate,Wine and Roussillon connection :

Regular dry table wine just doesn’t work because of its acidity, and the sorts of sweet white wines like Sauterne and Tokaj that go so well with fruit desserts don’t have the heft to stand up to chocolate.

But there’s one recent discovery that does – the Singla, Heritage de Temps 2005 from the often overlooked French region of Roussillon. It’s a rare vin doux naturel, VDN, a fortified wine made in a similar way to Port, but using the white grape, Macabeu.

Neutral grape spirit is added to the fermenting wine before all the sugar has been converted to alcohol. The resulting sweet wine is then aged for five years in oak casks giving it its russet color and aromatic flavors.

The result was a revelation and a chocolate-friendly delight. It’s packed with dried fruit flavors like raisins and dates, along with figs, gingerbread, salty butter, candied orange and toffee. It’s oxidized, deliberately, resulting in a piquant, spicy bite on the finish that’s perfect for chocolate.

It performed an harmonious duet with a Moccacino from a great new addition to my neighborhood, the bakery/patisserie Eric Kayser. A chocolate mousse on what I would call a Graham Cracker crust, though no doubt it has a more melliferous sounding name in French, covered in a shell of milk chocolate and topped with ground hazelnuts.

It was the hazelnuts that did it for me – combined with chocolate they set off the complex, nutty, tangy sweetness of the wine to perfection.

Read More at: HERE


What are ya thinkin’ ?