Give a Frenchman a bath and what does he do with it? C'mon it's obvious - he turns it into a wheelbarrow and keeps his grapes in it. The above photo was taken at La Foire aux Vins which is happening in St. Savinien this weekend. This guy was demonstrating an old fashioned method of distilling spirit from grapes that have already been crushed for wine-making. We stopped to speak to him and what a gent he was. His 50 year old tractor, his 25 year old Renault full of hand cut logs, his wooden clogs and bathbarrow all spoke of a pre internet age of toil and improvisation. No viruses in his hard drive. No inflammation technology. This was pure hardcore fixing things up. And here's the sting - this ain't no museum piece. Eat your heart out City dealers - this is real life. I know you can flick a button a millisecond before some other trader or hide some crumbling lie to cheat your friend and score a million. Not much profit in talking with patience and passion to an idiot Femme Anglaise who asks stupid questions. How the hell France survives I just don't know. But we should all be thankful that it does. The merciless machine and the greed are here but the folk resist with a kind of passive militancy. Aux armes les citoyens!
Going out takes a long time. You are bound to meet all kind of folk who will want to kiss you, shake hands or even both. We did meet several sozzled citoyens. The tradition is that you do the cheek kissing the first time you see someone that day. Then you have done it and you can just wave, nod or merely get on with business. At La Foire Aux Vins you encounter several folk who simply can't remember if they kissed you - or even who you are! Accordingly many multiple kissings have to take place. Not to kiss would be a kind of accusation of drunkenness or memory failure. It's so nice to be wanted so often! One sweet guy had lost all powers of recall except that I was English and would be looking for pints of Guiness. "No Geeeenessss here." He told me several times. In fact my own tipple is Pineau...and if you've not tried it- what the hell are you doing with your life?
In 1589 a wine-maker accidently stored some grape juice in a barrel containing brandy. The result was a fortified wine something like sherry, but utterly superior (at least if you live in Charente). It is smooth and more-ish. We bought a few bottles for Chateau Calin and for gifts to UK affectianados. All your Sainsbury and Tesco buyers appear to ignore it. We met some friends at the Pineau stall. "Oh yes - it is wonderful. No 'ang ovairs. You wake up and you 'ave no head pain. You look at your partner in zee bed and you say - oh yes- I spent the night with a film star. This is Pineau!" Now- if I could bottle that.....trouble is someone already has. Kisses followed. I felt like a film star. Check out Andrea Bocelli "Besame mucho" here. Slug a Pineau avec.
Emma thinx: Consume with moderation. Enjoy with every passionate shred and tendon of your soul!