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Archive for November, 2011

JUST KEEP CALM and GOBBLE ON…

à bientôt! Jack
Please check our FB page for more frequent postings

November 24, 2011 - Posted by Jack Tobin

And what is that, you ask? In English… straw wine. The back-story to this unique Dordogne River Valley wine starts well before the Middle Ages, back to an extremely hot summer that was followed by an autumn so mild… The grapes started to shrivel on the vine. The exceptional quality of the wine these shriveled grapes ultimately produced prompted the growers to pick their best grapes the following year and to lay them on beds of straw until they lost two-thirds of their water content. Bingo! Talk about a sweet reduction.

Tasting a bit like a tawny port, it has been described as sappy, round, and reminiscent of wild fruits, with just a hint of walnut on the nose. It should be served cold but not iced, to accompany quite “substantial” food: dry walnuts, foie gras, melon served with ham, goat cheese, Roquefort or dark chocolate.

Saint Eligius (c.588-660) and King Dagobert I (c.603-639)

The first real promoter of Vin Paillé was Saint Eligius, aka. St. Eloi, patron saint of goldsmiths and other metal workers. It is said that, while on his pilgrimage to St Jacques de Compostela, he rested in Beaulieu where the local farmers brought him food & wine, the latter being Vin Paillé. Well, he flipped over it! Prior to departure he asked the farmers to reserve all that remained so he could turn King Dagobert I on to its delights.

Pierrot Simbille bottling at ‘La Ferme du Masvidal’ in Bilhac

Before the arrival of phylloxera in 1870, the commune of Bilhac whose total surface area is 700 Hectares, had around 400 Ha under vines. One of the neighboring villages is even called “Queyssac les Vignes”. Despite the damage caused by that vine infestation, local peasants maintained the tradition, and in almost every farmhouse in the neighbouring communes around Beaulieu and Meyssac, one could taste homemade Vin Paillé. Then, in around the year 2000, it started to be commercially re-introduced with the creation of a local winemakers syndicate. It is worth mentioning that each producer has his own vineyard and each makes his own wine; hovever, some equipment, and the advice of an oenologist, as well as that of an agricultural advisor are shared.

Marielle, Pierrot and Michèle

The best Vin Paillé? Well, we think it is what Marielle (Martine’s cousin, of course!) and her parents, Michèle & Pierrot Simbille, produce at La Ferme du Masvidal.

Their production of only about 1,400 bottles probably is not going to find its way into your local wine merchant’s hands… this is truly rare stuff. Today, there are just 18 producers in this petite area of the Corrèze who work co-operatively, sharing equipment and a Vin Paillé label which is unique only in the fact that it bears the specific producer’s name. You see, although the growing area is small, taste and color does vary slightly from producer to producer.

Bottling crew at ‘La Ferme du Masvidal’

Don’t forget to look for the label with ‘La Ferme du Masvidal’ or just contact us and we will be happy to introduce you to the family, the farm and the unique taste of their Vin Paillé!

Santé et à bientôt! Jack
Please check our FB page for more frequent postings
(Our next blog post: vendredi 18 NOVEMBRE)

November 10, 2011 - Posted by Jack Tobin

OK! WHAT IS A MURMURATION YOU ASK? Simply, one of the most spectacular animal phenomena known to man.

It consists of thousands of tiny starlings (birds) collectively flying and swirling about. The mesmerizing act is typically seen at the beginning of winter, right before dusk, as the birds look for a place to roost for the night. During the action, birds reach speeds of up to 20 mph.

Essentially it’s an epic battle to determine who in the flock survives, and who’s a target for predators.  Each starling tries to copy the bird next to it exactly, which results in a stunning rippling effect. Numbers build up slowly near the roost over the afternoon as small groups of birds return from foraging in the area, explains the British Trust for Ornithology. By late afternoon there is a huge swirling cloud. It’s all about safety in numbers – none wants to be on the outside, none wants to be first to land.

This wonderful video footage was shot by Sophie Windsor Clive and paddling companion, Liberty Smith, while canoeing on Ireland’s River Shannon.

No doubt both Sophie and Liberty would agree with our posting of their video under our category:  Excellent Adventures!

Tweet, Tweet and à bientôt! Jack
Please check our FB page for more frequent postings
(Our next blog post: vendredi 11 NOVEMBRE)

November 4, 2011 - Posted by Jack Tobin