Saturday, 17 October 2015

New Wine in the Touraine

Véronique Davault from Domaine de la Chaise in Saint Georges sur Cher draws off a glass of partially fermented sauvignon blanc juice for us to taste on 29 September. It was very sweet and already with an alcohol level of about 8%. This semi-fermented juice is known as bernache, and whilst it is always fun to taste, you should be careful how much you imbibe. All that raging yeast activity that is still going on can give you a terrible tummy ache. Véronique says it doesn't affect you if you are tasting the juice/wine every day from each of the vats like the whole Davault family are. I would have believed her, but then she went on to tell me a story about her son Quentin, who's training as a winemaker, having a few glasses too many and regretting it. Quentin will be the seventh generation of his family to make wine on the family farm.

Not that many local winemakers sell bernache, but if you arrive at the right time they will generally let you taste like this, straight from the vat. Véronique is dubious about the origins of the bernache you can buy in the supermarket. She says it isn't local, but comes from some more southerly region of France, or possibly Spain.

The bulk of Domaine de la Chaise's production is sauvignon blanc and this year, due to wet windy weather in the spring, pollination was poor and so the quantity of grapes is low. Their reds (côt/malbec, gamay and cabernet franc) all have more or less normal yields though.
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A la cuisine hier: Céleri rémoulade, since celery root is in season now. I used my new whizzy wand, which has fancy attachments, to make the mayonnaise. Using the beaker and whisk I managed to spray cream and mayonnaise all over myself and the kitchen. I also made carottes et betteraves râpées, with homegrown beetroot. Also on the menu was potato salad, slow roasted homegrown tomatoes and peppers from the potager garden at Villandry, served with chicken thighs seasoned with a salt curry mixture from Ile d'Oleron.

10 comments:

  1. "She says it isn't local, but comes from some more southerly region of France, or possibly Spain"...
    it must be... it usually hits the supermarkets about a week before harvesting has started!

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    1. When we get bernache around here, it's always labeled by one of the local wineries. Do you think they are importing it from Spain? I don't. You don't live in a wine-producing region.

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    2. Certainly the last time I bought bernache from the supermarket (admittedly a few years ago) it was not labelled to indicate it was local (I've checked the photo). I can only think of one winery I know for sure sells bernache locally and that's the guy who comes to Loches market. He's from St Georges I think. Any winery I've discussed it with say they do not sell it because it is not worth their while. They need it for wine. I think the supermarkets like to make a fuss about it and make it into a thing, but the wineries generally don't.

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    3. One thing that is difficult about selling or buying bernache in the supermarket is that the bottles can't be sealed. They would explode. So only local production can me sold, practically. I don't see how it could be shipped here from Spain or anywhere else. We've bought bernache in the past at Intermarché that was produced by the Domaine de la Méchinière, just down the road from us. You have to be careful to keep the bottle upright on the way home, or your car interior will smell of sweet bernache for a while from spillage. Bernache really is a novelty item, but people around here enjoy it.

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    4. The bottle we bought in 2008 says it is a blend of wine from several EU countries. It was bottled in a town south of Angouleme. We bought it in SuperU in La Roche Posay. Clearly they have mastered the art of transporting it.

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    5. The bottles we buy here are local, and the cap or cork has a hole in it to let the fermentation gases out. I found out the hard way that if you don't keep the bottle upright in the car, a lot of the bernache runs out onto seats and carpets. The bernache is sticky and sweet-smelling. I've never seen non-local bernache. In fact, bernache is supposedly a strictly Loire Valley thing. Interesting what you found.

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    6. The bottle we bought had the usual bernache arrangement of no cork, just the plastic cap with little holes and was definitely still fermenting. The supermarket signs called it bernache, but on the bottle itself it was called moût, which is the wine term for what bernache is made of (ie semi-fermented grape juice).

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  2. We have wonderful memories of drinking vin nouveau in Alsace, which is the equivalent of bernache. We had a glass at apéritif time and ate "harvest bread" with it - made with walnuts and raisins. We haven't yet tasted bernache though.

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    1. You've probably missed the bernache here by now. We enjoy having some every few years, but don't seek it out. Obviously we won't be buying it from the supermarket again without reading the label and checking its authenticity!

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