Wine My Way

As an avowed Francophile, I love French wine. In fact French wine is a big part of why I am a Francophile. French wine varies exponentially on taste, price and complexity. And I don’t love every single wine I have had from France, but I have been a red wine drinker for over 20 years now. I know what I like, and what I like 20 years from now may be completely different. My wine journey started with drinking Italian Chianti and since then has covered many many countries, grapes and flavours. And despite appearances, I don’t just drink wine from France, I love discovering unknown or underrated wine regions ( Missouri, Bulgaria) and I love certain wines from all countries. Ok love might be a strong word for how I feel about wine from Australia but that isn’t because Australia doesn’t produce good wine, It is because Australia has  a climate and soil that produces early ripening and certain fruit flavours in the wine that I don’t particularly enjoy. A Cabernet Sauvignon, isn’t just a Cabernet Sauvingon, climate, soils and production methods all play a large role. But I didn’t always know this. However 20+ years of being a wine drinker, well you gain some insight ad that is exactly what this post is about.

When we go to a restaurant and are asked how you like your steak, no one bats an eye at your response (unless you order it blue rare, in which case your friend Lisa will worry there is something wrong with you). No one shames tea drinkers for preferring loose leaf over bags. When out for breakfast and asked how you like your eggs, the table doesn’t say ” well she ordered scrambled because she is an egg snob.” and my favourite” I’ll have a coke.” Is pepsi ok?” “Umm no.” So why do human beings love to shame wine drinkers? It isn’t meant to be hurtful, that I know but it happens very very frequently. So much so that for a long time, I tried to hide my preferences, pretending that any glass would do ( for me it doesn’t), Saying any red is ok, (it isn’t,), and being asked white zinfandel could substitute for red. That one I was never ever ok with saying yes. In recent years, I have stopped caring. I like red wine, particularly from France, I also like port, desert wines, and occasionally a white or rose. And I like them served in the correct glass as the glass helps with the full expression of the wine. Champagne served in a coupe is fun and retro and will ensure you drink flat champagne rather quickly as a coupe is a terrible glass to actually appreciate the champagne.For me a big bold Bourgogne, should be served in a glass made for Burgundy wines in order to best appreciate the expression of the wine. Some wines need to be aerated or they stay tight and you can’t really appreciated the fullnesIMG_8975s of their flavour. White wine served in a red wine glass or overly chilled probably won’t do anything to enhance the flavour.

My biggest pet peeve is being told I need to drink more than French wine or that I am a wine snob. Why shouldn’t I drink what  I like? In all my years as a wine drinker it is safe to assume that I have drunk wine from other countries often and I will continue to do so. In fact at my wine club last night, we tried some absolutely fabulous Spanish wines with very different flavours.But because my favourite is French, why shouldn’t I be able to enjoy it at my leisure? As I mentioned before French wine is extremely varied, sometimes I am in the mood for a Southern Rhone, other times a Bandol or Beaujolais. All different even in those regions themselves. Also when it comes to buying wine, I do usually buy French. In fact unless I am at a French restaurant in Winnipeg, I don’t usually get French wine when I am out. In fact at one restaurant recently, I asked why they didn’t have french wine wine on the menu. “Well, we are an Italian restaurant” Fair point though questionable that they were actually Italian. I pointed out that they had many wines from Australia, Chile, Argentina, United States and Spain. I think they probably spit in my food for being annoying.

My preference for French wine has come from travel, wine tours, wine classes and courses that have taught me to look for what I like in a wine and how to appreciate it to its full potential. At  Olivier Leflavie in Puligny Montrachet, I finally understood the difference climate and soil have on the flavour of a grape which is why a pinot noir from Bourgone will taste very different than one from Napa. https://www.olivier-leflaive.com/en/At my wine club, we once has a presenter and she taught me to stick my nose completely in the glass to actually smell the wine’s bouquet. She was right, it makes a huge difference. Elevage wines taught me what to look for in a natural wine.https://www.elevage-selections.com/ Sandeman got me to appreciate white ports and understand the difference between tawny and ruby.http://www.sandeman.com/ Veuve Cliquot taught me about how Champagne tastes at its full potential in the correct glass. https://www.veuveclicquot.com/en-int All of this has contributed to my understanding and enjoyment of wine.34846_447591030139_3264704_n

That said, when it comes to wine, I am a big believer in doing what is right for you. If you like wine in a plastic glass, good for you, no one should shame you for your preferences, as long as you enjoy it. Do you like Copper Moon? Good then drink it! Just do what is right for you and what you enjoy. I have 3 friends who aren’t going to let other people’s judgments ruin how they like their wine. One travels with a portable aerator, one carries her own wine glass to parties and the other has a wine travel case for topical locations so she doesn’t have to drink wine out of a red solo cup poolside.. I love them for it. And most people are very supportive of my wine choices. My hip hop class is one of the few places I will enjoy a post class glass of wine in a plastic cup. Probably because the company is so good but also no one wants glass in a studio. And I love it. That class knows my choices and they support them, as does my wine club, my friends etc.. sure they may tease me but they absolutely support me. The judgment I am referring to usually comes non wine drinkers or well meaning people who don’t know me well. But however well meaning, you don’t need to defend your choice or be labeled a snob for doing so, that’s just how you enjoy it and keep doing it.

So enjoy your wine your way. And if someone doesn’t enjoy wine your way, well so be it just let them enjoy it their way. Unless they are drinking white zinfandel in which case it is your job as a fellow human to intervene. Cheers!

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Beaune Appétit!

Try more wine, eat more food. just enjoy after all that is why we go to Beaune in the first place.

Beaune the heart of Bourgogne/Burgundy. The epicentre of Borgogne wine, home of the Hospice de Beaune, seat of the former Duchy of Burgundy and culinary mecca. If you haven’t bee there yet, go now. Seriously I will wait while you book your ticket. Ok you are back? Good, so sit back and read about Beaune and get all sorts of ideas for your upcoming trip.

 

As I am sure you know since you just booked your ticket, Beaune is and hour and a half north of Lyon, 3 hours east of Paris and 2 hours northwest of Geneva. Even shorter by train! And it is amazing. @benton8tor and I have been twice and can’t wait to go again. Beaune in the heart of Bourgogne (the French term, Many English speakers know it as Burgundy but in recent years there has been a movement to reclaim its French name worldwide). Bourgogne along with Bordeaux in the South West are well known as the powerhouses of the French wine industry. And they are very different in their approach to wine. Bordeaux has Chateau, and the Chateau are ranked. In Bourgogne, it is Domaines and the vineyards themselves are ranked.IMG_8971 Bourgogne unlike Bordeaux can have very small vineyard lots and a Grand Cru vineyard can be tiny. Bourgogne is home to the Cote d’Or including the more northerly Cote de Nuit home of the famous Romanee Conti vineyards and the Southern Cote de Beaune home to Pommard and Puligny- Montrachet. In fact some of the vineyards fame eclipses that of the village so the village has added the name of the vineyard to its Village name (see Puligny Montrachet). Famous for the Chardonay and Pinot Noir grapes, nowhere else in France does the terrior play such a prominent role.

Understanding Bourgogne wine can be overwhelming at first that is why I have a handy dandy guide to help you navigate the awesomeness of Beaune so:

  1. Go the Marche aux Vins which should be the first thing you do after you check on into your hotel.because you will want a drink and why not wine? After all you are in the most prestigious wine region in the world (don’t tell Bordeaux though, or other countries after all you don’t want to hurt feelings) Marche aux vins in located in the center of Beaune near the Hospices to Beaune. Marche aux vins allows you to taste 20 Bourgogne wines in the cellars and Abbey in central Beaune. Even better there is a sommelier to explain the Bourgogne labeling, terrior and vineyards so you can really understand and enjoy . what you are tasting.

    http://www.marcheauxvins.com.

  2. DO a wine tour. Beaune has tons of tours to pick from but @benton8tor and I chose Vinetours. It was amazing. We went to both Cote de Nuit and Cote de Beaune. Our guide was amazing explaining the history of the vineyards and vines (including vineyards that have been continually planted since Charlemagne’s time) we drank wine in the vineyard ( my fav!!) saw the old huts where the wine harvesters would rest and toured the  domaines. It was amazing. http://www.burgundy-wine-tour.com/en/#/Accueil
  3. Beaune Market as I mentioned Beaune is a culinary mecca so go to the market, olives, seasonings, jams, bread,IMG_8986 cheese, produce, goods. It is all here and it is spread out and easy to navigate. the only difficulty in the market is dragging @benton8tor away from the array of mustard.Yes that is right IMG_8985, Beaune is in Bourgogne as is Dijon so Dijon mustard is easy to get and spectacular. Also go to  Emond Fallot for mustard. http://www.fallot.com/.
  4. Did I mention Beaune is a culinary mecca? Oh I did? well it is. Famous for Bouef bourguignon, Coq au vin, gourgeres, Charolais Beef, Chicken in Mustard and its terrines. Where to start. Well you can go high end such as 21 Boulevard and Le Cheval Noir and your food will be amazing or you can go to an everyday or mid range restaurant and still have an out of this world meal. My personal favourite places to eat were La Grilladine with its Charolais Beef, Boeuf bourguignon, Chicken, Ham terrine and pears in wine. It was delicious with exceptional service.http://lagrilladine.fr/.

    Le Brasserie le Carnot has amazing gazpacho, beef tartare, and jambon au beurre. In fact we went here with my parents once and my mom ordered a jambon au beurre  and salad. What she got back was a huge baguette and salad. ‘ How am I going to eat all of this? I ordered too much’ she tells us. We go on enjoying our dinner and she is remarkably quiet. In fact we look over at her and not only dd she finish everything, she kept insisting on finding a restaurants that served the jambon baguette every other place we went. However we finally got her to try the chicken in mustard and then she switched to that instead. She is definitely a creature of habit and a finicky eater so if she likes it, you know its good. http://www.brasserielecarnot.com/. Bonus point Brasserie le Carnot has that beautiful French look and feel that makes you feel as though you are in a movie, drinking out of this wold wine and eating delicious food.

     

    We also frequented le Concorde. It has the very best croissants and features superb (Beaune is so good, I am running out of superlatives) Cremant de Bourgogne, Bourgogne’s sparking wine which is delicate, toasty (I know but it is) and extremely enjoyablethumbnail_IMG_8426. Though my favourite part was people watching, including the locals that went there at 10 am every morning for their 2 beers.http://www.la-concorde-beaune.com/

  5. GO to the Villages. This is where you find the wines and the villages themselves are beautiful. Puligny Montrachet is a short drive from Beaune and it should be your first stop. Olivier Leflaive is located here and it is all kinds of fabulous. We booked for lunch and wine tasting. ‘Would we like a tour of the vineyard first’ its probably not appropriate to scream ‘hell yes’ so i settled for ‘mais oui’. The vineyard tour gives a great overview into winemaking process and of course the impact of terrior and micro climate on the grapes. You move onto lunch and oh my gosh go hungry because your five courses will be so ridiculously good and well paired that you will continue to eat and drink no matter how full you are. We had gorgeres, carrot souffle (simply one of the lightest, tastiest, most delicious dishes I have ever tasted) ham terrine, and chicken along with dessert. The wines were perfectly paired. The whites were crisp, citrus and full bodied. the reds were silky, velvety and I wanted more. https://www.olivier-leflaive.com/en/. It is a definite must visit ééééé

You’ll need to stay somewhere in Beaune and both @benton8tor and I recommend Hotel Henri II. It is a beautiful hotel with old oak beams, the nicest bathroom ever and the friendliest service that will dispel any stereotype you have heard about France in 11 seconds. It has an beautiful bar which is a great place to relax and drink some wine at the end of the night while watching the world cup. Side note: probably don’t tell the other guests they are cheering for the wrong team even if they are, it can be awkward. But all kidding aside staff and guests were all kind and we had so much fun. http://www.henry2.fr/UK/

 

There is still more to do in Beaune, go shopping, visit the Hospice de Beaune, see more villages, Go to Bourg En Bresse for chicken, Try more wine, eat more food. just enjoy after all that is why we go to Beaune in the first place.IMG_8968

A Francophile French Favourites

So grab a patio, order your wine, find your favourite specialty to order and enjoy! After all you are in France!

By now, you will all know just how much I love France and part of that love is the French food. The French pride themselves on food, how they prepare it, the quality of ingredients and of course la technique! And if you have ever read a Julia Child or Peter Mayle book, you know just that enjoying french food is a national pastime. That isn’t to say you can’t have a bad meal in France, you can (ahem I am looking at you Cafe Le Dome near the Eiffel Tower) but they can be easy to avoid given the prevalence of quality ingredients, talented chefs and pride in the enjoyment of food. While you can have a great meal anywhere in France, it is important to understand that French food has dominant regional roots and to best enjoy and  try the regional specialties in the actual region  Here is my handy top 10 list/ guide to enjoying French Food.

1. Tapenade in Provence. This Provencal olive paste is best spread on bread but is also enjoyed in Provencal dishes. In a word it is my favouite French dish. Made from either green or black olives, it is savoury and surprisingly mild. Which is not to say it isn’t full of flavour because it is is. Best enjoyed overlooking lavender fields, the Luberon, or the Mediterranean, you can’t go wrong. It goes best with a Provencal rose (if you are @benton8tor in which case you will never ever ever eat the green again) or Bandol red if you are me, in which case you will happily eat both. * I have had great tapenades in both Bourgogne and Bordeaux but nothing compares to Provence.

2. Choucroute Garnie- a Alsatian dish with sauerkraut, ham hock/pork knuckle/salt pork and, 3 types of  sausages (usually Strasbourg, Montbeliard and Morteau) flavored with Alsatian Riesling, 555975_10151083480535140_2025428517_nit is usually a winter dish. And despite my love of tomatoes, vegetables and usually eschewing meat, I love this dish. A definite must try and a dish both Benton8tor ( a dedicated carnivore) and I agree wholeheartedly on. Pairs with you guessed it an Alsatian Riesling.

3. Cassoulet a Langedoc speciality complete with debate on which city is home to the original Cassoulet10517584_10152536479930140_4790389457117546671_n A high  and I do mean high protein dish with white beans, pork sausage, duck or goose or partridge comfit and lamb or pork. slow cooked, it is a truly truly delicious dish but plan to eat light the next day! Drink with a Langedoc red, preferably from Cahors or Minervios.

4. Gazpacho-though traditionally Spanish, French tomatoes are among the most succulent, flavorful and amazing tomatoes you will ever try so it stands to reason with their warm/ hot summers gazpacho in France is amazing. I have tried green tomato gazpacho in Provence and Red gazpacho in Beaune. Both times I have been clamoring for more. In fact after trying gazpacho in Spain and please don’t hate me but the French gazpacho is the very clear winner for its more defined and flavorful versions. A MUST MUST try. Also pairs extremely well with the light but flavorful Provencal reds or  the complex pinots from Bourgogne.

5. Bouef Bourginon- A Burgundian specialty, this beef stew simmered in the famous Burgundian wine, you really can’t go wrong. La Grilladine in Beaune does a superb Bouef Bourginon. http://lagrilladine.fr/ You absolutely must drink this with a wine from Bourgogne. This might be @benton8tor’s all time favourite french dish. So much so he would eat it on a 30 degree summer day. Bourgogne/Burgundy is infamous for its plethora of amazing food so to stand out in this region, the food has to be amazing!

6. Charcuterie- a charcuterie is widely available across France. Usually smoked meats, sausages and pates complete with mustards, breads, cornichons and other picked vegetables, you will no doubt be overjoyed.IMG_5010 I have had an amazing charcuterie at Cafe Absinthe in Paris, https://www.tripadvisor.ca/Restaurant_Review-g187147-d4341374-Reviews-L_absinthe_Cafe-Paris_Ile_de_France.html but for a truly amazing charcuterie go to Lyon, a city famous for its sausages and the more famous Bouchons (small bistro style restaurant) would be the place to try it. That said Restaurant L’Instant in Le Lavandou on the Cote d’Azur serves the often underrated Corsican meats on their charcuterie which still stand as the best I have ever had. http://www.restaurantlinstant.sitew.com/#ACCUEIL.
Pairs best with a regional wine.

7. Gougeres- Burgundy/Bourgogne lays claim to these tasty, mouthwatering choux pastry delights. That said they are widely available throughout France. Made with choux pastry and cheese (often gruyere or comte) they are a great start to your meal or a fabulous snack. The best ones I ever ate where at Olivier Leflaive https://www.olivier-leflaive.com/ in Puligny Montrachet in Bourgogne. They were light, fluffy. and full of amazing flavour. Pairs exceptionally well with the whites of Puligny Montrachet. Coincidentally, Olivier LeFlaive is also where I had the best souffle ever.

8. Croque monsieur- the french version of a grilled cheese is usually made with bechemel sauce and gruyere or comte cheese and is a true delight. try the croque madame with an egg on top. pairs well with wines from Bourgogne, Jura, Savoie and Loire as well as Northern Rhone

9. Pastry- French pasties can not be understated. Go to a patisserie with an empty stomach and try!!! From croissants and pain au chocolat to the more ornate pastries you can’t help but have your mind blown. and possible gain a few pounds but oh my will it be worth it!

10. The French are famous for their markets so go for a picnic. Go the the market in the morning, get a baguette, some cheese ( I recommend the goats cheese from Provence) and some ham and veggies of your choice. I obviously pick the most delicious cherry tomatoes. Get some wine and find a beautiful spot (not hard you are in France) and enjoy!!Don’t forget your wine opener as using your shoe and banging the bottle on the sidewalk is more challenging, just ask Benton8tor.  The bread in France is beyond amazing. In fact so much so that my dad buys flour, butter and yeast in Provence when he travels to make bread at home. Apparently this isn’t an unusual thing.

@benton8tor says I need to add these honorable mentions (i.e. his favorites)

  1. Foie gras- widely available, controversial and native to Gascony this delicacy of goose  liver tastes like the best butter you will ever eat.
  2. Charolais Beef- Burgundian of course, Benton8tor swears it is the most flavorful beef.
  3. Coq au vin- Another Burgundian specialty,  it is chicken/rooster slow cooked in Burgundian wine. Drink with a Red Bourgogne.
  4. Jambon au Buerre- A ham sandwich, simple but amazing due to the quality of ingredients. Even better with a hard boiled egg and a Loire rose.
  5. Flamkuche- an onion tart which is a delicious Alsatian specialty. A must must have.
  6. Salads in France- never to be underestimated and always filling.

So grab a patio, order your wine, find your favourite specialty to order and enjoy! After all you are  in France!

Vines and Voyages 5 Fav Restaurants in France

Le Vivier is nothing short of amazing and considering it is a Michelin restaurant, very affordable. The food is updated Provencal. I had a green tomato gazpacho that was out of this world

Often when travelling, deciding where to eat can be a challenge. Maybe you have done your research, read the reviews, and made your plan. There is a lot of value to this approach. You are less likely to be disappointing and it can save time but… you can miss out on lesser known amazing restaurants, you can be disappointed and maybe once you are actually travelling you feel like trying something different. Or maybe you take the other approach and decide to ask locals once you are there or simply scout around looking for a restaurant that looks good. Whatever the approach, they all have benefits and drawbacks.

Eating in restaurants and trying different foods is one of my favorite reasons to travel. In France especially, the food is usually fresh, seasonal and regional. Asking for recommendations is key and staying away from restaurants in tourist areas (i.e. Eiffel tour) is key. I have put together a list of my top 5 favorites.

5. Cafe L’absinthe Paris France. https://www.tripadvisor.ca/Restaurant_Review-g187147-d4341374-Reviews-L_absinthe_Cafe-Paris_Ile_de_France.html. Located in the northern part of the Marais, Cafe L’absinthe is a very local bistrot. The service is especially friendly, the atmosphere cozy and the wine delicious and inexpensive. The food is solid. I had the charcuterie and @benton8tor the lamb. Also try the absinthe!

4. Brassiere le Carnot in Beaune, France has the classic French feel. dark wood, french lighting and wine served in beautiful porcelain jugs. thumbnail_IMG_0704Beaune in the heart of Burgundy is the center of Burgundy’s famous wine and the epicenter for Burgundy’s legendary gastronomy. Burgundy is famous for bœuf bourguignon, Coq au Vin, and more. Le Carnot features local ingredients. In the summer the gazpacho is amazing along with the jambon. Beef tartare is a don’t miss. http://www.brasserielecarnot.com/

3. Still in Beaune La Grilladine offers amazing set menus featuring Burgundy classics. Both the restaurant and the patio offer a lovely atmosphere.Europe June 2010 393 The bœuf bourguignon is delicious as is the parsilined ham.. @Benton8tor swears by the perfectly cooked Charolais beef and scallops. My dad loved the escargot and my mom had the underrated chicken in mustard dish ( You are close to Dijon so…). The wine is incredible ( you are in Burgundy after all) but ask the servers for recommendations to pair to get the best wine experience. My dad and I had wines from the famed cote de nuit which we loved. Desert for me was pears poached in the the burgundy wine. Definitely check it out. http://lagrilladine.fr/

2. Olivier Leflaive. Well we are still in Burgundy. It is a culinary hot spot so it makes sense. If you are violivier-2siting Burgundy make sure to check out Olivier Leflaive. located in the famed Puligny-Montrachet village and appellation, Olivier Leflaive is vineyard, hotel and restaurant and is not to be missed. The 5 courses were paired perfectly with some of the best wines.2014 We started with the lightest gougeres and moved on to a ham terrine with mustard sauce.We also enjoyed a amazing carrot souffle, chicken and desert. We upgraded to the 7 tasting with our meal which included a a few grand and premier crus. Looking for a wonderful French experience, try Olivier Leflaive. https://www.olivier-leflaive.com/en/

  1. Leaving Burgundy fr Provence, My favourite French restaurant to date is Restaurant le Vivier in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is amazing. @benton8tor had researched Michelin starred restaurants and we decided to give it a try. Away from the main drag in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue le Vivier is nothing short of amazing and considering it is a Michelin restaurant, very affordable. The food is updated Provencal. I had a green tomato gazpacho that was out of this world, followed by a bacon, mozza and tomato soup. My pork course was amazing and my peach and chocolate desert with raspberry sauce was incredible. @benton8tor nicknamed it the space odyssey dessert as when you poured the raspberry sauce on the chocolate sphere, it opened to reveal a peach based dessert inside. The wine was Provencal, light and easy drinking. @benton8tor opted for a rose and pigeon pie. His dessert featured violets from the neighboring Langedoc. the patio overlooks the river and the service is perfect. You won’t be disappointed. https://www.levivier-restaurant.com/cuisine-gastronomique-etoile-restaurant-le-vivier-vaucluse/

There are many other amazing restaurants in France, I didn’t get to mention but asking locals, restaurants featuring regional specialties, or just going to the market yourself, you are sure to enjoy France and its its world famous food.