Sunday, November 30, 2014

Around Town ~ Wine ~ Day Two

Years ago when I used to sell a few cameras and lenses at local photo-gear shows I met a man who was really "into" digital photography.  We got to talking and he learned I shot film and I learned he worked at a company that was just across the parking lot from where I worked.  For years after we'd meet on a regular basis for lunch at my companies "canteen" and talk about photography.

Vince introduced me to a boss in his company who came to France quite often.  I think he came every summer, if memory serves.  The man loved the Alsace region and a small town called Colmar in particular.  The three of us talked about wine and photography and the general poor state of the "canteen" food.  Vince suggested that Colmar was close enough to Germany to be fun.  Wine in a German style and, well, plenty of beer, again in a German-style.  He loved Germany while the boss and I were enamored with France.  We three had a good laugh when we talked about how ofter that piece of land had changed hands over the centuries.

This morning broke clear and cold.  Very cold, in fact.  Winter has arrived here in the City of Lights and it's only le but du moins de Novembre! for cry'n-out-loud.  So we slept in a little before we let warm feet hit cold plasticy wood-like looking floor.

Breakfast, shower, hair drying, and checking of coordinates for bio-wine at le Salon des Vins des Vingerons Independants before girding my loins for a second day of the Fall Chasse (Wine).

I should have known that the internet site that listed the coordinates of each Salon participant would be wrong.  I'd dutifully written down every bio-vendor from Bordeaux and the Loire-Vendee who were supposedly at le Salon.  But reality did not match the website.  Ugh.

Jude noticed that the placards that thrust into the sky over each vendor's counter contained enough information, however, to sort out who offered biologique beverages and who didn't.

A quick change in our strategy and we decided to walk each aisle while carefully inspecting the signs.  The first biologique producer we came to offered us an opportunity to hone our approach and questions.  I indicated what we were looking for and explained that we were allergic to sulfites.  What we were told is that we wanted something called "nature", or bio-dynamique (which we already knew).  These kinds of wines were very rare and the wines on offer at the counter we'd pulled up to would not satisfy our needs.

Ok then.  Onward.

As we stopped at a few places we were told similar things to what we were told at our first stop-point.  Further, we were told that sulfites were _required_ to make the wine stable and to keep the pests away.  Really?  _Required_?  We thought not and continued on our aisle by aisle search.

We soon came to the vendor I'd bought bio-dynamique wine from yesterday.  We hauled up to the counter and suggested we were having a hard time finding what we were looking for.  The very kind man pulled out his guide du Salon and said he had two recommendations for us.  Thanking him with the promise we'd return we set off in search of the two recommended counters.

The first "nature" wine vendor we came to was embouchon'd with a crowd that quickly told us we needed to see if the other suggestion was a little less crowded.

The other "nature" wine vendor was sufficiently un-bouchon'd that I could make my way around the edge of the counter to talk with one of the Nice Ladies.  Jude and I tried a couple Rieslings and a very nice Gerwurtz.  We told the Nice Lady what we wanted and she and Jude continued the conversation while I was distracted by something else.

Out of the corner of my auditory range I heard the word "Colmar."  I had to ask and sure enough, their wine operations are located in Colmar, the very city my friend Vince and the boss from his company had talked about over lunch.  The vendor assured us that it's a lovely place.  After the wines we tasted I couldn't imagine it being anything other than very lovely, indeed.  Into M.Caddy went a box of white wine.

We left and wandered and stumbled upon a bio-Bordeaux vintner.  They'd not been recommended but we decided to ask our questions.  We're looking for un vin biologique sans sulfite ajouter.  The look on the woman's face brightened and Jude and I set off on yet another wine tasting adventure.  Yum.  Yum.  And furthermore yum!  We bought enough of their red wine to weigh down M. Caddy (our trusty marketing side-kick and food hauler).

True to our word, we returned to the vendor who'd recommended the Alsatian "nature" vintner.  Jude and I bellied up to the bar and thanked them for their fine suggestions... and... by the way... we love your Merlot/CabSav/Malbec... um... do you happen to have something with more Cabernet Sauvignon in it?

It was Jude's turn to watch the tablet scroll the pretty pictures of chateau, vines, production, and Heavy Horses.  While she was mesmerized by the tablet I learned the vineyard has five Heavy Horses that till the space between the vines.  Their feet, while large, don't compact the soil the way tractors do and that this is a Very Good Thing(tm).  I also learned there are five varieties of Heavy Horse here on the mainland, of which this vineyard owned several of.

En fait, encore on prend six bouteilles, s'il vous plait...

The Good Man started preparing l'addition and as his pen hovered over the paper suggested we try one more thing.  Out came their best bottle.  You could see this coming, right?  L'addition Bottom Line had yet to be written.  Ah, but yes, it was Good Stuff, this.  Une bouteille, s'il vous plait.

Into M.Caddy went six bouteilles en carton and une bouteille of the Good Stuff.  Poor M. Caddy.  He was now weighed down so heavily he must've wished he was instead one of those lovely Heavy Horses.  M.Caddy groaned and creaked His Complaint as we made our way out of le Salon and our made our home.

We have Jacky and all the fine folk in our French/English conversation group to thank for learning about a few the wonderful things that happen here.  I can also thank them for helping me realize the long dormant dream of experiencing a broader, deeper appreciation of French wine and culture.  All it took was one look at 1100+ vendors spread out over a vast space to realize what I'd read years ago in several books on the topic would never, ever replace a direct, personal experience with the Real Thing(tm).

What a stellar weekend this had been.

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