Friday, November 28, 2014

Around Town ~ Wine

Anyone who's read our prior entries on this blog know that I prefer Belgium beer to wine.  I've found beer to be a more complex beverage.  Perhaps just as importantly, Jude and I are moderately allergic to sulfites and have been known to turn red in the face when we've encountered a wine heavy in them.   Yeast Piss (that wonderful ETOH) in beer is just fine for me.  Wine is a little more dicey.  But by carefully selecting her wines Jude continues to enjoy some very good vintages.

So what was I doing going to le Salon des Vins des Vingerons Independants?  What can I say?  We'd been invited by some friends from our French/English conversation group and, well, what can be more authentically French than wine?  It was time to Roll the Dice and see what happened.

One of the interesting things I learned is that the French don't typically drink wine in the afternoon from, say, 14h00 to 18h00.  It is, however, completely socially acceptable to have wine with le dejuner, bien sur.  For this reason our start time was set for a French culturally dictated as being appropriate and acceptable 11h00.

I girded my loins and set off for a day of wine tasting with the hope of finding a bio-dynamic wine san sulfite ajouter.

Arriving at la Porte de Versailles Paris Expo Pavillon 7/1 and presenting our billet produced a pair of perfectly useable, perfectly wonderful wine glasses.  For free.  The wine glass had un mignon gar etched into it.  Les billet were free, too. I have no idea where Jacky found les billet, but, as with my experience with le Salon de la Photo, I love the lengths people will go to acquire something for free.

Free wine glass in hand I turned to face... um... oh... wow!  I've never in my life seen anything like this.  There are as many aisles of wine vendors as there are letters in the alphabet.  There are... oh... hell... the wine prevents from performing the calculation.  Let's just say Jacky told me, as he spread his arms as if surveying His Domain, voici 1,100+ wine producers selling their wines to any and all who would buy.

I had no idea.  I'd studied a little about French wines years ago before my wife and I became allergic to sulfites.  I thought I knew something about the incredible variety of wines to be found here.  But, honestly, I really had no direct experience with... ah... er... Man Alive!... where does a person begin?... how does a person wrap their mind around this?... Yikes!  I'm a Yank in Paris and well out of my depth here!!

Jacky pulled off to the side and looked thru a thick book that listed all the vendors to be found at la Porte de Versailles Paris Expo Pavillon 7/1.  He asked what I liked, wrote down a few coordinates, and then suggested we start with what he knew.  That would be wines from the Loire where he grew up.

As we threaded are way through the vast crowd I couldn't help be notice that cases and cases and cases of wine were being hauled out of la Porte de Versailles Paris Expo Pavillon 7/1 by any and all means possible.  Hand carts.  Hand trucks.  Caddys.  Pallet movers.  Caged trollies.  Human shoulders.  Human hands.  I thought "... so this is what les Halles must've been like before they sent the Belly of Paris off to live in sanitized place called Rungis..."  I was nearly run over by people hauling their loot every time I tried to look at the wines on offer.

Fortunately Our Man Jacky knew a Good Thing(tm) when he saw it and we pulled up to the counter at a producer from Cheverny (Loire).  The wines were decent and the conversation lively.  I listened and let Jacki fire up the vendor with brisk, bracing discussions about Youth These Days.  I learned that in Former Times the French allowed their children to enjoy a little wine with fruit juice.  They did this so their children could learn about taste, about how to select a decent wine, and to help them enjoy the health benefits of this National Beverage.  Alas, those days are gone and college kids here do the same things as their counterparts in the US.  They get Blindingly Drunk for no other reason than to get Blindingly Drunk.

I was introduced to other vintners from other parts of the Loire, sampled many wonderful things and... oh... look!  It's 13h00 and time for notre dejunerEt voila une petite baguette with canard rouillet.  Eating as we walked I reflected on the fact that I'd not seen a single bio, let alone bio-dynamic, wine producer.  Not one.  Thought I'd not yet turned bright red from an allergic reaction, everyone could be using chemicals on their vines for all I knew.

This when I learned that it's important to be able to look a producer in the eye as you buy your wine.  It's the only way the French can trust what they're being told.  Otherwise what they're told could vary a little from reality.  If what I wanted as bio san sulfites ajouter I'd have to ask direct questions and keep looking if I wasn't satisfied with the answers.

I pondered this as we walked around the corner and down yet another vast, long aisle.

Something caught my eye and I quickly retrieved a Fast Moving Jacky.  Returning to a producer from Bordeaux and remembering that Jude prefers les cépages cabernait sauvignon et merlot I couldn't help but notice the vinters bio certification followed by the list of les cépages they used.

It turns out I wasn't the only one who was happy to have stopped by to have un coup d'oeil.  Jacky learned about bio-dynamic practices in wine production.  He learned why these vintners felt chemicals were bad for a wine.  He learned they used horses to tilt the soil between the rows of grapes.

As we tasted the 10Euro wine offered, Jacky leaned over and said "... this is better than the 28Euro Bordeaux we tasted at the place we just left..."  Indeed, the Merlot/Cab/Malbec blend was pretty tasty stuff.  Though by this point I'd had plenty to sample and was Mesmerized by the scrolling images on the tablet.  I watched as photos of beautiful vines, soil with plump earthworms, and heavy horses tilling the soil scrolled by.

En fait, je prends 6 bouteilles, s'il vous plait.

I thought about it and realized this was the best thing I'd tried all day and I needed to take some home to Jude.  Jacky must've been thinking along similar lines as he too bought up un carton of various things.

A few more tastes of this and that and we were off... only to stop twice more to sample a few more things, including wine from the vineyard Jacky's father-in-law used to stock in his cellar.

After consulting with Jude we've decided to return to the salon, this time together. Our strategy will be to troll the aisles for signs of "bio".  Our questions will be at the ready.  Our new, free glasses at the ready.  Our taste-buds fired up and ready to go.  Our target time will be from 14h00 to 18h00.  So as to avoid the crush of wine sampling Parisians.

Wish us luck.

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