Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tasting the Pouilly-Fuisse Wines

Benedict Vincent leads a tour of the vineyards in Pouilly-Fuisse

During my recent trip with family to the French region of Burgundy, we tasted wines in Gevrey-Chambertin (see my previous post) and in the small appellation of Pouilly-Fuisse.

As in the rest of Burgundy, the white grapes in Pouilly-Fuisse are chardonnay. I don't drink much chardonnay from California because I find the heavy oak virtually smothers the fruit. This grape is handled better in Burgundy, where they take lighter touch with oak.

We tasted seven wines at Vincent & Fils, where we were warmly greeted by Benedict Vincent, the daughter of the chateau's winemaker. She led us on a tour of the domaine's vineyards and its cellars. One of the wines we tasted was Vincent's Marie Antoinette cuvee, which New York Times writer Eric Asimov cited as "our No. 1 wine and best value" in a tasting of Pouilly-Fuisse held in 2008.
Most of the wines were delightful -- good fruit and nice acidity. This region tends to draw fewer tourists than regions to the north. Yet it has rolling hills and pleasant villages that charm those who venture into this southern edge of Burgundy.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Touring Vineyards in Burgundy

During my recent trip with family members to the Burgundian wine region of France, we had some pleasant tastings at a couple of renowned wineries -- one in the Cote de Nuit region of the northern Burgundy and the second in the southern appellation of Macon-Lugny.

In this blog post, I'll discuss the first of two vintners we visited. His name is Philippe LeClerc, and he has a reputation for being a superb, yet iconoclastic winemaker in the Cote de Nuit. Wine writer Cynthia Hurley calls him a "perfectionist." We visited his office and cellar in the village of Gevrey-Chambertin, and we tasted five reds (100% pinot noir).

LeClerc doesn't filter any of his wines, so as one reaches the bottom of a bottle, there is very likely to be some deposit of sediment. Neither does he use the typical machine-presses to extract the juice from his grapes.

Yet the judgment that most significantly distinguishes LeClerc from his Gevrey-Chambertin and Cote de Nuit peers is that year in, year out, LeClerc tends to be one of the last winemakers to harvest the grapes from his vineyards.

We enjoyed his wines, although nearly all of them were being drunk at least a few years before they'll fully mature. The wine that was truly "ready" to drink was good, but far from stellar.

I enjoyed this degustation. The staff were welcoming and pleasant, not snooty.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Olive Oil From the Land of . . . . Georgia?

This was news to me. There are actually farmers in southern Georgia (some 20 miles east of I-75) who are hoping to find a market for olive oil produced from olives grown on their farmland.

As it turns out, olive groves used to exist in this area of Georgia, but a hurricane more than a century ago destroyed what had been left of dwindling olive trees. In this article, the Washington Post explained what prompted one of the farmers to start growing olives:
Generations of Shaw family farmers in Lanier County have grown cotton, peanuts and corn. But in 1996, Lakeland (Georgia) native Jason Shaw returned from a trip to Verona, Italy, where he had been struck by the sight of prolific orchards, and said, "We ought to grow olives in Georgia."

... Now 12 farmers and a small army of extension service agents and horticulturalists are tending 95 acres, spread over seven Georgia counties south of Atlanta that fall in the South's "olive belt," a zone with a climate conducive to growing the cold-resistant types.
I look forward to tasting Georgia olive oil. As they say, the proof is in the pudding.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Leisurely Lunches in France

Times are changing everywhere, but not at the same speed. I just returned from a week in the French countryside, and I can tell you that the traditional practice of shopkeepers closing for two hours at mid-day for lunch continues.

Most clothing stores, patisseries, bakeries and other shops close their doors at 12 noon and don't reopen until 2:00 or even 2:30 pm. These closures give proprietors and their staff ample time to enjoy lunch with a friend or spouse, and even run an errand or two.

Sure, it is true that France is one of McDonalds' most successful non-U.S. markets. And in Paris, many workers are opting for fairly quick lunches of sandwiches. But in the small towns and villages outside the capital city, one still sees plenty of French eating lunch at a leisurely pace at restaurants or cafes. The cheque dejeuner system encourages this.

That photo above was my lunch one day as we stopped in the Burgundian village of Gevrey-Chambertin, amid the region's hallowed vineyards. I ordered the foie gras, which was served with wonderfully toasted slices of brioche, caramelized onions, some greens and a fig-balsamic glaze.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Italians See Red After Seeing Blue Mozzarella

This is an amusing story that reveals the depth of affection that Italians feel for mozzarella cheese. Italian police recently seized 70,000 balls of mozzarella cheese that were reportedly produced in Germany. The reason? The cheese apparently started turning blue -- probably due to a bacteria -- soon after packages of the mozzarella were opened by Italian consumers.

The case matters so much to the country that Italian prosecutors are now involved. Italians eat a lot of mozzarella, and they understandably get rather concerned when it looks differently than the photo above.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Thinking of Creamed Corn

Sorry for the 12-day silence. I just returned from spending 10 days in France, three of them in Paris. I will write a few blog posts about those wine and culinary adventures, but first . . .

Creamed corn is one of those side dishes that makes me think of fall. My mother never made creamed corn, but I fell in love with it from the first time I tasted it -- at a friend's house. The New York Times' Melissa Clark has written this article offering a fresh twist on creamed corn. This reminds me of something else to add to my "to do" list for this autumn -- find a good recipe for creamed corn.