The first National Wine Tourism Awards from France

February 1, 2010

Last week the French minister of tourism presented the first ‘Prix National de l’Oenotourisme’ – wine tourism awards in four different categories and I’m delighted to say that all of them are already included in Wine Travel Guides! There were 260 entrants in all and I would love to get hold of that list. In the meantime, the winners are as follows:

The winners receive a plaque and also – apparently – public relations help with promoting the award. (Needless to say no-one has yet officially contacted Wine Travel Guides about these awards).

Source des Caudalies

As these were the first ever awards, the wine tourism council decided to mention four family wine producers they consider to be pioneers in wine tourism. These producers will also help on the council, which was only formed last year.

These last four recognitions demonstrate to me quite simply the public relations power of certain wine families in France. I will say no more except that there are other pioneers that could have been selected – let’s hope they will enter next year’s competition and receive just recompense.

The only other similar awards that I know of in Europe are the Great Wine Capitals Awards and these of course only cover one city/wine region per country so, in France that’s Bordeaux.

I do hope these awards encourage more French wine producers to fully embrace the potential of wine tourism. The next task of France’s wine tourism council is to create a new seal of approval awarded to those who fulfil certain designated standards of wine tourism. Applications are being called for now.

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Twitter Quiz #11 – Montbéliard Cows and Sausages

March 18, 2009

It’s time to confess: I’ve never been to Montbéliard in the French department called Doubs, though it’s only just to the north of the Jura, a region that I know very well indeed. What singles the town out for me is that it gives its name not only to a breed of cow that grazes the mountain pastures of the Jura and beyond, producing some of France’s finest cheeses, but also to one of the delicious smoky sausages widely served in the Jura.

montbeliard-cow-for-blog1The Montbéliard breed of cow (sometimes in English seen with an ‘e’ on the end and also known as ‘The French Dairy Simmental’) is hardy and can cope with mountains pastures. Only the milk from this breed is allowed for the famous Comté cheese of the Jura that goes so well with Vin Jaune. If you’re not familiar with the cheese, it’s a Gruyère-style hard cheese and, as Fiona Beckett of Matching Food and Wine says, it can also go well with some, soft ripe reds such as Spanish Tempranillo-based wines. You do find this breed of cow in Savoie too, where, alongside the hardier breeds of Abondance and Tarine it’s one of the permitted breeds for Reblochon cheese and Beaufort. Funny, before I lived part of the year in the mountains of France, I could never have believed that I’d learn about breeds of cows and cheeses – I thought I’d just stick to grape varieties and appellations.

Now we come to the Saucisse de Montbéliard, a Jura speciality. Pure country pork, it’s usually smoked, and often cooked in the Jura with white wine and vine cuttings for extra flavours. You can slice it up to serve cold in salad with potatoes, or serve it with lentils, but typically in the rural Jura, it will be served simply with potatoes and a light red Jura Poulsard wine to drink with it.

If you are visiting the Jura, then as well as arming yourself with our two travel guides to the Jura wine region, do check out the website for the Routes du Comté and plan a visit to see the Montbéliard cows and check out how the cheese is made. You’ll find the saussice on many restaurant menus.

So, congratulations to wine lover Fred Swan of California who jumped in with the right answer after we’d been through answers ranging from Guernsey to Toulouse, with the closer gueses of Tarine, Charolais and Aubrac as well.

Next week, there will be no Twitter quiz as I’m taking a few days off from social networking and spending a few days skiing with family. But, the website keeps going on its own, so do visit it please and spread the word to anyone planning a private wine tour.

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The Weekly Twitter Quiz #7 – Cerdon in Bugey

February 18, 2009
Cerdon Tradition made in the Méthode Ancestrale

Cerdon Tradition made in the Méthode Ancestrale

We visited the Cerdon area on the Monday after the Percée du Vin Jaune festival weekend following a night’s stay in Bourg-en-Bresse. In the French department of Ain, Cerdon is a wine appellation that is part of the Bugey VDQS region. Bugey is often linked with Savoie, but Cerdon is much closer to the wine region of Jura. All very confusing, as so often in the world of French wine. We only had time for two visits but they were could not have been more instructive and more different.

First up, what is the wine Cerdon? It’s the only rosé sparkling wine made in the Méthode Ancestrale that is an official appellation. (The VDQS designation is part of the official appellation system in France – one that is due to be phased out and the Bugey region hopes desperately, after 10 years of trying, to be elevated to AC). Cerdon Tradition is made usually from  90-100% Gamay, but the Jura grape Poulsard may also be blended in. The colour comes from either direct pressing or more often a short maceration, and the juice is then fermented very cold and very slowly, with fermentation stopped at about 6% alcohol. It’s then bottled and stored in a cold room at around 10°C (50°F) and fermentation continues for around two months. When it’s time to release the wine it is transferred, filtered and re-bottled traditionally in one operation, though larger producers store for a day in-between.

The big tip about Cerdon is that the ideal time to buy it is in the spring or in summer at the latest, because it’s best enjoyed when freshest – as it ages, the pretty and vibrant pink colour fades and it loses some of the lovely strawberry fruit. This lightly bubbly pink wine is a delicious, semi-sweet sparkler with only around 8% alcohol; you could also try it with strawberries. As for the region, it’s a sleepy place but with some dramatic mountain scenery – the vineyards (less than 200 hectares or 500 acres) are some of the highest in France, going up to more than 500 metres (or 1600 feet) altitude.

Vineyards around Mérignat

Vineyards around Mérignat

We visited the largest winery Lingot-Martin who have a very decent standard of quality and whose wines are widely available in French supermarkets in the Rhône Alpes region and they export a little too. They make several styles as well as a Traditional Method Brut and have a good, practical tasting room on the main road. We also went to a tiny producer, Raphaël Bartucci up in the hills of Mérignat. He farms his vineyards organically and makes just one delicious cuvée with sales highly restricted (Just 420 bottles go to the USA each year).

Congratulations to world traveller and blogger @globtrav who has swfitly chosen the ‘Around Epernay’ micro-region guide from the Champagne Region as their prize.

Do follow me on twitter for updates on Wine Travel Guides and musings on wine, life and travel. You can also fan our new Facebook Page where you might like to join in on discussions about which wine regions are best to visit to enjoy a private wine tour. It will help spread the word about the website too, which in turn leads to more subscriptions so we can publish more guides! Join me next week for the weekly quiz and your chance to win a PDF wine travel guide.

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The Weekly Twitter Quiz #6 – l’Etoile in Jura

February 11, 2009
The village of l'Etoile in the snow

The village of l'Etoile in the snow

We’re continuing the theme of Jura in France here. The sleepy little village of l’Etoile is located just north of Lons le Saunier – birth-place of Rouget de Lisle, the composer responsible, amongst many finer works, for writing La Marseillaise. It is also home to the cheese factory that invented and still makes the cubes of processed cheese whose finest virtue is their distinctive packaging – La Vache qui Rit. You will see a huge cow face logo up above you as you drive on the ring road around the town.

L’Etoile gives its name to a very small wine appellation in the Jura, which is only used for white wines, though in Jura that includes the famous yellow wine or Vin Jaune. The vineyards of l’Etoile are on a clay-limestone soil, but there are distinct, tiny, but visible to the human eye, star-shape fossils scattered around the soil – this area was a sea many millions of years ago – and the word in French for star is, you guessed it, l’étoile. Apparently the village is also so-named because of the five hills around it that form a star-like shape.

Chardonnay is the most planted grape variety and is used for the sparkling Crémant du Jura (a separate appellation) and for the simple white l’Etoile, which is usually made in an oxidative way matured in non-topped up barrels giving the flavours of apples and nuts combined with a searingly dry taste – you need rich creamy dishes to accompany this wine. The classic white Jura grape Savagnin is also grown and this is used for the famous l’Etoile Vin Jaune. Some deliciously sweet Vin de Paille can be found too made from a blend of these two grapes, sometimes with a touch of the red Poulsard variety, dried for several months before pressing.

Nicole Deriaux of Domaine de Montbourgeau makes ultra traditional l’Etoile wines, and another favourite wine estate that I mention in the ‘Around Lons le Saunier’ guide is Domaine Philippe Vandelle. It’s a fascinating area to explore on a wine tour.

Congratulations to entrepreneur and wine lover Leslie Haas Clanton of Richmond, Virginia who is about to tell me which of the 50 wine travel guides (2 on Rioja about to be live …) that she wants as her prize.

Do follow me on twitter for updates on Wine Travel Guides and a glimpse of where I’m travelling, what I’m tasting and more fripperie. Join me next week for the weekly quiz and your chance to win a PDF wine travel guide.

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