The unique taste of Vin Paillé
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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(Our next blog post: vendredi 18 NOVEMBRE)