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 #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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Hymn to vin jaune at winter wine festival

February 9, 2009

By Wink Lorch

Wintry procession takes barrel of Vin Jaune to church

Wintry procession takes barrel of Vin Jaune to church

After a cold day of gorgeous sunshine on the last Saturday of January, on Sunday 1st February snow was the order of the day. But, a few snowflakes were not going to deter around 15,000 festival-goers who arrived at the tiny neighbouring villages of Passenans and Frontenay in the Jura, France for the 13th Percée du Vin Jaune. Saturday had seen a record 19,000 visitors on Saturday – usually the quieter day of the weekend festival that celebrates the most celebrated wine of the Jura – Vin Jaune.

La Percée du Vin Jaune is a glorious winter wine festival, held every year over the first weekend of February in a different town or village. This was my fourth Percée and as always the villages were superbly decorated, the atmosphere joyous, and it was a delight to mingle with the crowds wandering up and down the streets. Fans of Jura wine arrive from far and wide to taste all of the wines of the Jura and, on Sunday, to celebrate the official release of the latest vintage of Vin Jaune, this year the 2002 vintage. Why so old? Well, this peculiar wine of the Jura is not allowed to be sold before six years and three months after the vintage and most of this time it spends in un-filled barrels. To hear me explaining a little more about this mysterious and revered wine, check out my recent interview with Chris Scott of the UK Wine Show.

The ambassadeurs du Vin Jaune

The Ambassadeurs du Vin Jaune

For the Percée 2009, the organisers – the grandly named Ambassadeurs du Vin Jaune – chose music as an extra theme, and there were several areas where visitors could enjoy jazz of all genres in-between tasting wines from around 80 Jura vignerons. The Sunday morning events start with a procession to church to bless the symbolic barrel of Vin Jaune, and then continue after the service with a ceremony and speeches in front of a huge expectant crowd who wait with their glasses raised to receive their first taste of the latest vintage. In line with the music theme, this year the ambassadeurs invited as guest of honour a jazz musician – Tom McClung, an American living in Paris, whose task it was to break the seal of the barrel. But, before he could do that, he sat down at the piano to give the crowd a song. To the tune of ‘My Bonny lies over the Ocean’ he sang, in French with an American twang, a homage to Vin Jaune and to the Percée festival, and he succeeded in getting the whole crowd singing along while the snow came down. Brilliant!

Over our long weekend we used the time also to discover some new restaurants for the Jura region guides on the website and discovered a couple of gems – on Thursday night we went to Le Mirabilis in a village about 15 minutes’ drive from Lons le Saunier where we drank a gorgeously fruity Poulsard 2003 from Jacques Tissot. During the Percée itself we had lunch with the press group at a new little café in Passenans called Le Bistrot de la Mère Simone – you can see a fine pictorial record of the whole event from Maxim, a young French radio internet journalist we met there.

Next year, La Percée is due to take place in the town of Poligny in the centre of the wine region half way between Arbois and Lons le Saunier. However, a new law proposed recently by the French government and designed to combat student binge drinking, has put the very existence of this wine festival under threat – read more about this ridiculous situation on my personal blog. It would be a real tragedy for the little wine region of the Jura if this annual festival was blocked by the bureaucrats.

In the meantime, the Jura wine region remains a great place to visit especially in summer – last year the Jura wine route won a top award, namely the “Destination touristique européenne d’excellence”. There are two wine travel guides to the region, which reflect my own passion for this extraordinary little area of obscure wines, glorious scenery and warm people.

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