Tag: french wine

My First Beaujolais Nouveau Day in France

I’m digging way back into the archives of the Barefoot Blogger to republish the post about my first Beaujolais Nouveau day in France. It’s because of stories and friends like this that I’m still loving life here. By the way, Beaujolais Nouveau was this week. Hope you enjoyed it wherever you are!

Beaujolais Nouveau, on the third Thursday of November, is traditionally a celebration of the end of the harvest in the Beaujolais region of France. In Uzes, the event is another good excuse to meet with friends in bars.

I wish I had the imagination to make up this crazy life I’m living in France. The best I can do is to write it down. The day and events of Beaujolais Nouveau are no exceptions.

Beaujolais Nouveau Day: A quiet start

The most exciting thing I had scheduled for Beaujolais Nouveau day was to finish up a blog entry, then to drift down to a wine store at some time to sample the first crop of Beaujolais. The wine store is a new find since it’s quite well hidden. It is in a “cave” at the back of a florist shop. If I could read the signs, I would have known about it before now. Nevertheless, I literally ran across the “Cave” on Wednesday and I stopped in to check it out.

Just by accident I asked the shop owner about Beaujolais Nouveau. He informed me that my query was quite timely. He was “unveiling” his Beaujolais Nouveau the next day, Thursday, November 21. Showing my total ignorance about wine,  I asked if I could taste the new wine right then. I was already at the shop. Politely he informed me that French law forbids anyone to open a bottle before the prescribed date. He invited me to return the next day for a sampling.

On Thursday, November 21, when I was getting into writing the blog about my first house guest, and later going to the wine shop, Geoffrey called. “Looking for adventure,” he said.

I could see a smile on his face through his voice on the phone. “What’s up” I responded. “I’m really busy today, and I don’t want to spend any money.”

Apparently my reply wasn’t taken as a “no.” It showed I had a spark of interest. He had me on the hook. “Won’t cost you a dime,” he promised. “Just thought you might like to ride down the road to this little town for lunch,” he said cheerily. “Real French country food,” he added. You’ll love it.”

I agreed to meet him in 15 minutes in front of my building.

Beaujolais Nouveau DayBeaujolais Day Begins: Blauzac

Somehow I had forgotten that  I have “possession” of Mustang Sally. So Geoffrey has no car. That meant he was picking me up in the blue van. Fair enough. As promised, Geoffrey and the blue van showed up at the downstairs entrance to my apartment building, I squeezed into the front seat of the car that has no dashboard and no upholstery; I strapped myself in; and we headed to Blauzac, a tiny village about 20 minutes from Uzes.

The views along the road were of vineyards and ancient stone farm houses. The ride itself was already enough of an excuse to have put my other plans for the day aside. Arriving in Blauzac, I was immediately impressed with its raw beauty. This little town, tucked in the middle of nowhere, among wine fields, reminded me again that I am truly in France.

 Lunch with the boys

Beaujolais Nouveau DayThe cafe Geoffrey talked about all the way to Blauzak was exactly as I imagined. The small, quaint, restaurant and bar was filled with men and smoke. Introductions to “Deborah” were accompanied with the offer of a drink and a toast. Only one person in the cafe could, or would, speak English — aside from me and Geoffrey. Soon the three of us started talking, even though there were many interruptions for translations.

We mostly talked about why so many French people smoke. I asked why rolling cigarettes is so popular. I was told that rolling cigarettes is not only cheaper than buying them by the pack, it’s also better for your health. Here’s the rationale: 1) rolling cigarettes means that you know what’s inside the wrapper. Cigarettes in packs are full of “garbage”;  2) rolled cigarettes have less tar and nicotine; and, most convincing to the roller fans, 3) you smoke fewer cigarettes because you’re pre-occupied during the few minutes it takes to roll them.

Where’s the beef?
Soon it was 2pm and no sign of food… except for sightings of steaming hot onion soup the owner of the cafe served to lunch patrons who had shown up. I reminded Geoffrey why we had come this distance at lunch time. Almost immediately a table was set for Geoffrey, me, and our three new friends. Then out from the kitchen came our baskets of crusty bread, bowls of onion soup with croutons swimming on top, complete with melted cheese.

After devouring the delicious soup, the “plat” (main course) was served. A choice of gardiane de taureau (bull stew) or saute de veau aux les olives, les champignons (veal stew with olives and mushrooms) — both resting over rice. All served from this modest kitchen by our gracious host and chef.

Good thing I’m retired and have nothing really important to do. But I do wonder how so many people can spend so much time in bars and cafes. By the time we left Blauzac, there was evidence that no one, with the exception of the bar owner and staff, planned to do any work that day

Beaujolais Nouveau Bar Hopping

I was bushed from all that eating and from struggling to participate in part English/mostly French conversations. My sweet little apartment and a nap were calling. The idea of going to the wine shop to try the Beaujolais nouveau was going on the back burner for next year. Geoffrey and I said our farewells and I thought that was that. Not so. Within 30 minutes my phone was ringing. Geoffrey. “I’m coming to pick you up to taste the new wines,” he said. “You can’t miss this.”

“Good grief,” I said to myself. Then realizing I’d hate to miss this blog opportunity, I said to Geoffrey, “OK, I’ll meet you downstairs.”

Beaujolais Nouveau Tasting #1

It was after 7pm when we reached the wine “cave” I had hoped to visit. It was closed. We took off down the street to another wine shop where there was definitely something going on. It was a party… not a big party …  a gathering of the shop owner’s friends. We were invited to join the group and I was handed my first glass of the new wine.

The small celebration included bottles of wine, baguettes of bread, a few types of cheese, and thin slices of French cured ham, all spread casually over the store counters near the checkout. According to Geoffrey, the wine connoisseurs were discussing the quality of the new wine — or lack, thereof. they said there was the presence of an artichoke flavor, not fruit, in the wine. They could have been joiking. I miss so much not understanding the French language.

To me, the taste of the new wine was very watery. Not uncommon for a freshly bottled Beaujolais, I was told. It was certainly drinkable and we could have stayed on and on. Another bar adventure was calling.

Beaujolais Nouveau Tasting #2

The second stop for Beaujolais Nouveau tasting was at a cafe/bar I’ve walked past many times since living in Uzes. Admittedly, I always walked on the opposite side of the street. As in most places in town, Geoffrey knew everyone in bar #2. He was greeted with open arms. They eyed me with suspicion. Trying to make my 5’9” self invisible was impossible.

“OK,” said I to myself: “You’re on this mission for a purpose.” With that, I bellied up to the bar beside the others. The bar keeper pulled out the wine flavor-of-the-day, Beaujolais Nouveau, and served me a glass. In no time, I’d made some new friends. At a table nearby, the young men offered to share the cheese, ham and bread.

When it was time to move on to the last leg of our Beaujolais hop, I was determined to make friends with the “big guy” at the end of the bar. He’s a former rugby player and he lives with his mom. I mean, who would expect the “big guy” in the corner to be a teddy bear?

Beaujolais Nouveau Tasting #3

Beaujolais Nouveau DayLes Pieton is a cafe/bar I walk past several times a day. Sometime I stop to join people I know for a drink or a meal. This night there was definitely a party going on. The place was packed inside and out. The scene seemed even more crowded because all the other shops and restaurants along the main street had shut down. Even on the night of Beaujolais Nouveau, everything in Uzes is closed by 10 pm.

By this time I was ready to sit down and actually taste the wine. I pulled a bar stool up to a tall table outside and covered my legs with one of the blankets provided for chilly evenings. It is getting cold in Uzes with temperatures in the 40s and 50s farenheit  (I don’t speak French, nor do I know the metric system!)  To me the temperature is pleasant. To the French residents here, it’s really cold. They wear parkas with fur trim and hats. After another bottle of wine was uncorked and new acquaintances were made, I said my farewell to all. The night of Nouveau Beaujolais 2013 was now history.

Perhaps others bring in the end of the wine harvest with fanfare and at great expense. For me, I realize just how lucky I am to be having this simple, strange, new life. What I’m certain of — and learning more everyday — is that life is what we make it; we are all more alike than we are different; and that a spirit of adventure, instead of fear, leads to learning more about ourselves, understanding more about others; and to truly loving one another.

 

 

 

Wish for France

The Perfect Châteauneuf-du-Pape Wine Tour

Châteauneuf-du-Pape Wine Tour

When visitors to the south of France put “wine tour” at the top of their list of things to do, a Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine tour quickly comes to mind. The wine growing region that covers approximately 3,200 hectares (12.4 miles) of land in the Rhone valley is home to some of France’s most well known … and pricey wines.

Unless you know a lot about wine, you might be surprised to hear that “Châteauneuf-du-Pape” is not just a wine growing region. It’s also a historic “monument” as well as a town in the Vaucluse department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region in southeastern France.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape Wine Tour

The Châteauneuf-du-Pape “monument” is what is left of a fourteenth century chateau built under the auspices of Pope John XXII. Towering above the fields and vineyards of the region and visible for miles around, the chateau is among the last vestiges of the Roman Popes who ruled from nearby Avignon from 1309 until the Schism of 1378. “Châteauneuf-du-Pape,” translated “new castle of the Pope,” was built to be the summer home of the Popes.

The town of Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a small village with a few restaurants and lots of wine sellers. It reminds me of a wine smorgasbord. You can hop from one “degustion” to another.

Just outside the town center, there are dozens of wine producers devoted to making and selling their own special varieties of Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines. Farther out you’ll find private and “open to the public” wine domains with acres and acres of vineyards. Some new, some old. Some that have been handed down through centuries of vingerons, complete with ancient stone chateaus and wine caves.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape Wine Tour

Châteauneuf-du-Pape Wine Tour

The Barefoot Blogger has visited Chateâuneuf-du-Pape to check out the wines on several occasions. The first was to see the territory by myself, next was with my cousin visiting from Arizona. The last time was to treat my visitor from North Carolina to her first wine tour in France. I called on my friend who’s considered to be one of the best guides in the area — Sophie Bergeron of Travel in Provence.

During the half day we spent with Sophie, I found out why she’d earned her good reputation. She knows her wine. From working in vineyards to selling wines, Sophie’s been in the business since she was a child. The no-nonsense tour guide educated and entertained us. The wine “lesson” was complete with charts and maps and wine tasting. Next we were off to the wineries.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape Wine Tour

Sophie’s choice of wineries to visit was brilliant– including one that appeared to “blessed” by the ancient chateau’s tower because of its proximity. How much fun to get  “up close and personal” with the winemaker and his crew.

To add to the perfect day, after our Châteauneuf-du-Pape Wine Tour, Sophie introduced us to one of her favorite restaurants that overlooked the valley, Verger des Papes

Chateauneuf-du-Pape Wine Tour

Lunch with a view

A Perfect day, A Perfect Châteauneuf-du-Pape Wine Tour

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For more information about Sophie Bergeron and Travel in Provence, visit the website.

If you would like to keep up with the day-by-day adventures of the Barefoot Blogger, join the conversation on FaceBook and Twitter.

 

 

Chateauneuf-du-Pape Wine Tour

 

My Life in France. Pinch Me.

You don’t know how many times the Barefoot Blogger has to pinch herself to believe she is really living in France. It’s more than a dream come true. It’s pure heaven.

It’s not fair to brag about what a good time I’m having, but … just saying. Take a look at this past week. There was the Feria in Nimes; a cooking class with a French chef; wine tasting; Blanche Nuit with music and art; and a town-wide brocante. Throw in dinners and shopping with friends and tell me what there’s not to love about France!

Feria Nimes

The September Feria in Nimes is a 3-day party with celebrations all around the town for young and old. The tradition of the feria showcases the Spanish influence in the south of France where corridas are an honored tradition. (See post on “The Bullfight”)

French Cooking Class

It was pure good luck that I was invited to attend at the new Cooking With Class Uzes.  Replicated from the company’s successful operation in Paris, the Uzes offshoot offers expert guidance on cooking that is strictly Provencal. The near-day-long experience deserves a post of it’s own, which will follow. Here are highlights  — “cooking with fish.”

To find out more, stay tuned …

Making dough. Stay tuned to find out more!

Making dough. Stay tuned to find out more!

Wine tasting 

How convenient!  A winery is just across the street from the Cooking With Class Uzes school. I just rolled from one to another … and took the class along with me.  How lucky, too, there was an art exhibition upstairs.

Blanche Nuit

Each Fall Uzes dazzles with white lights and the town celebrates ’til midnight for Blanche Nuit. Music, art galleries and shops are everywhere you look along the streets and alleyways.

This year the celebration started early with dinner at the newly re-opened Hotel Entraigues with Chef Axel and jazz performed by popular local musicians.

A sampling of the art …

Artists: Oliver Bevan, Anne-Marie Lanteri and Catherine Robin 

Artist: Jean-louis Dulaar

Artist: Laurent Dubè

Artist: Viva Blevis

Chapeaux et Accessoires: Petit Béguin 

Uzès Lavoir

For the first time in recent history, the Uzes lavoir was lighted and welcoming visitors on Blanche Nuit. The lavoir, built in 1854, was used as a communal house for washing clothes.

Vide-greniers UZES

A brocante sale covered the town all day Sunday with items ranging from devine to bizarre.

Dining and shopping

With friends from near and far ….

… and a beautiful full moon to cap it all off!

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