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 Cruises




French Country Travel Life Cruises – You can have one on a multitude of waterways. As you’ve probably suspected. all depending on how long you have, and your, ahem..shall we say:”boating style?”

Perhaps best known – the Loire – France’s longest river, former Number one cargo route for transporting everything to villages along, and the ocean at the end. Back in the day. These days, although it’s freight forwarding days haven’t ended, the Loire is largely a pleasure cruise destination. And, truth be told, there are many visual pleasures on offer à cote it’s(excuse a moi) “Her” banks.

The Loire also has it’s own canal. The canal Lateral, which glides you through tree lined banks and “Villages du Charme.” One of it’s more spectacular features being it’s passage over the Pont du Canal just ahead of the town of Briare.

The Pont du Canal, constructed by none other than Gustave Eiffel (Yes, the “Tower man”) is a watery bridge perched above the Loire. Da Bg can and hereby does confirm, that sailing over a watery bridge, with water below, is an experience that 60’s acid heads could never have  imagined.

But for my money(or lack of it, to be precise) the” King o’ the hill “of French Country Travel Life Cruises, is to be had on the Canal du Midi. This waterway, not as long as the Loire, but definitely not a do-it-in-a weekend outing, is a laid back mash up of (mostly former) freight carrying canal boats. “Re-imagined” as houseboats. And pleasure cruisers of all nationalities.

You can catch the vibe in THIS VIDEO.


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The Godfather of Corsican Wine


The Godfather of Corsican Wine – Betcha never thought there was one didya? Well DA BG is sayin’ there is. Only this Godfather is only legally French. But, emotionally and patriotically, He’s Corsican. ( Remember that little isalnd off the coast of France with a Strong Italian heritage?  Strong with a capital “S.”)

Eric Asimov of the New York Times has the full monty on the Godfather of Corsican Wine.

“PATRIMONIO, France — Antoine Arena was a promising law student in Paris in 1975 when the Corsican independence movement took a violent turn.

Hearing of armed battles between France and secessionists, Mr. Arena decided to quit law school. In protest, he would return to this small village in the northeast of Corsica, where his family had lived for generations. He would grow grapes and make wine.

“Everyone thought I was crazy,” Mr. Arena recalled as we walked along the steep slope of his Carco Vineyard last month. To the south in the distance, snowcapped mountains loomed. To the west, the cool blue Mediterranean beckoned. The sinuous Corsican coastline is among the most beautiful in the world, but almost no place on the island is immune from the baleful stare of the mountains.

“After I quit law studies, my father didn’t talk to me for a month,” Mr. Arena continued. “Nobody believed in viticulture. The only ones who stayed in viticulture were the ones who couldn’t succeed anywhere else.”

From that unpromising beginning, Mr. Arena went on to become a godfather of Corsican wine. Along with a few other influential pioneers, like Christian Imbert of Domaine de Torraccia and Jean-Charles Abbatucci of Domaine Comte Abbatucci, Mr. Arena has helped make Corsica one of the most exciting and distinctive wine regions in the world.

What makes Corsican wine so unusual? For one thing, the island culture shapes both the personality of the wine and the character of the winemakers. Corsica offers a melting pot of soils: limestone and clay primarily in the north, granite mostly in the south, sandstone and volcanic soils in the center. The climate is both maritime and continental, heavily influenced by the mountains. Winds are constant, including the famous Mistral from the northwest and the hot Sirocco from the south, countering the dampening effect of frequent sudden rains. And the people? Proud, fierce and independent barely begins to describe them.

“Corsica is very complicated,” said Yves Canarelli of Clos Canarelli, who makes pure precise wines from Figari and Bonifacio in the south. “It is French, but it is not. First we are Corsican, then we are French. When you’re an island, you think differently than the continent.”

This tension plays out endlessly on the island, where road signs are written in French and Corsican, but the French is habitually spray-painted over. And it’s evident in Corsica’s host of indigenous grapes, which bear a close genetic resemblance to mainland Italian and French grapes yet offer completely different expressions.

Niellucciu, the leading red grape in the north, is genetically identical to sangiovese, but Mr. Arena’s Morta Maio Patrimonio Rouge, 100 percent niellucciu, tastes like no Chianti. It’s a complex aromatic feast of red fruit and earth, pure, energetic and graceful, with streaks of flowers, herbs and minerals and a touch of funk.

In the south, the leading red grape is sciaccarellu, a facsimile of mammolo, a grape generally used for blending in central Italy. On Corsica, though, it is known for its elegance and complexity — “Corsican pinot noir,” in the words of Sébastien Poly of Domaine U Stiliccionu, who farms about 17 acres outside of Ajaccio in the south. His 2012 Damianu, made entirely of sciaccarellu, is simply beautiful, a savory mouthful of red fruit flavors you don’t want to stop drinking.

All over Corsica, the major white grape is vermentinu, which, of course, is Corsican for vermentino (known also as rolle in southern France). Corsican vermentinu tastes nothing like mainland versions. The 2010 Granit Blanc from Domaine de Vaccelli, not far from U Stiliccionu, is a precise, lip-smacking, stony mouthful, while the 2009 Blanc from Clos Venturi, in the interior of the island near Corte, is voluminous and rich, yet with a lovely mineral tang. From the north, on a granite-and-clay plateau overlooking Calvi, Camille-Anaïs Raoust of Domaine Maestracci makes a fresh, lightly smoky, deliciously austere vermentinu called E Prove Blanc.”

Read more HERE.


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French Country Travelling Wine

Image result for pinot noir burgundy

French Country Traveling Wine – well,bien sur, MANY French Wines travel. Do they not? Thanks to the well deserved reputation of the fermented grape juice available on these here shores. (Uh..that would be..DA BG shores?)

But I thought it might be instructive to share the tale of one such French Country Travelling Wine, that has (deservedly) captivated, enthralled (and one would assume) delighted, my fellow scribbler Mary Ross; who waxes elequently on this here subject from the pages of the Chicago Daily hearld:

In a nation that has canonized gastronomy since the 18th century, dining begins at home.

“Escoffier and Paul Bocuse, this is not the French chef,” according to Vincent Avenel of Domaine Faiveley, wine producers in Burgundy since 1825. “The real French chef is my mother, is my grandmother, and of course, is my wife.”

While France’s famed haute cuisine (literally “high cooking”) involves the grandiose recipes favored by Paris’s post-Revolution nouvelle riche (“newly rich”), la cuisine traditionelle familiale celebrates home cooking of ingredients sourced from local farms and vineyards.

Lucky for Avenel, that involves beef raised in famed Charolais pastures, Bresse chicken, Dijon mustard, wild mushrooms, seafood and game and the chardonnay- and Pinot Noir-based wines of Burgundy.

A Burgundian meal may begin with cured ham or Jambon Persillé, (ham and parsley terrine), escargots (snails in parsley/garlic butter) or simply Comte or Gruyere (cow’s milk cheese from nearby Jura) with Faiveley Bourgogne chardonnay (about $23.)

Keep reading, members of the ABC Club (Anything but chardonnay!) This is chardonnay as nature intends it to be — long and texturous but invigorating to the palate, with flavors of green apple, toasted almond and minerals, all balanced by bright acidity.

As le plat principal (main course), Burgundy families enjoy Poulet a la Gaston Gerard (chicken with white wine, grated Comte and mustard) a recipe created in Dijon by accident when a mustard jar fell into the casserole.

Mushrooms lovers enjoy Volailles aux Morilles (chicken breast with mushrooms) or the cross-cultural Risotto au cèpes (rice with wild mushrooms.)

Burgundy’s most famous dishes are Boeuf a la Bourguignonne and Coq au Vin, seemingly elegant titles for beef and chicken stewed in red wine.

In Burgundy, red wine means Pinot Noir.

“We went against tradition by printing grape names on some labels,” explains Avenel. “The grape is more important to people in the U.S. than anywhere else. Also, the movie “Sideways” introduced Pinot Noir to many people. We want them to know we’ve been growing Pinot Noir for centuries.”

“We don’t use expensive Burgundy to cook,” advises Avenel. “A simple Syrah from the Rhone will do for the pot.”

He also advises to practice French recipes before final service. “There may be some techniques that are new to American cooks. It’s not just tac-tac-tac!”

Like all world travelers, Avenel has introduced international dishes to his table, including Peking duck, “American steak” and smoked brisket. “Just add mushrooms and wine, brisket is perfect for Burgundy,” he proudly reports.

There’s no disputing Burgundy’s soaring prices, a function of the region’s tiny supply meeting international demand. “We have commitments for the entire vintage before the wine is even bottled,” Avenel reports.

Burgundy’s Grand Cru’s (Great Growths) are reserved for the most elegant meals, including Pigeon au Jus and Venison aux sauce Grand Veneur (venison in huntsman’s sauce.)

Read more o’ Mary HERE.


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