Monday, 12 July 2010

Postcards from France

The two Heathers have both recently returned from two contrasting parts of France. Read our postcards to find out who enjoyed time amongst the beautiful people and glitz of the Riviera, and who sampled the more rustic charms of France's far southwest.

Dear readers,

I've never had a meal quite like it: this was nose to tail eating, and then some. Piled onto our plates by the grape growers of Fitou from a wood-fired barbecue amongst the vines were mountains of lamb, pork, black pudding and more pork. All this after an appetiser, if that's the right word, of snails (cooked with pork fat, natch - picture above), downed with a dollop of aïoli and washed down with a generous glug of gutsy red Fitou.

Asterix would have felt at home at the feast, though he might have lamented the lack of wild boar on the menu.

This part of France, almost as far south as you can go before you bump into the Pyrenees and the border with Spain, is renowned for having the highest number of sunny days in the country. Needless to say, it was raining when we arrived. It's famous for Cathar castles, strapping rugbymen and the full-bodied wines of Fitou.

Over two thirds of Fitou wines are made by the energetic and quality-minded co-operative, Mont Tauch. So the chances are, if you've ever bought a bottle of Fitou, it will have been made at their state-of-the-art winery in the tiny village of Tuchan, at the foot of Mont Tauch itself.

Grape vines are the only viable crop here and any land that isn't suitable for grapes is soon taken over by that wild mix of aromatic Mediterranean plants that we call “garrigue”.

You too can check on the development of this year's grape harvest, accompanied only by the sound of birdsong and wafts of scent from the garrigue, if you pick up a self-guided walk leaflet from the Mont Tauch winery and Visitor Centre in Tuchan. At the half-way point you can stop for a picnic (pack your own, not forgetting a suitable bottle of wine) at the source of the Artigas, before returning to the hum of the stainless steel vats of the winery.

Wish you were here,
Heather D  xx

Find out more at:

Heather’s pick of Mont Tauch wines available in the UK
Le Dog de Roselyne, Pays d'Oc Rose 2009 – Morrison's £5.79 (from September)
A light, fresh mouthful of red fruit, with a spicy kick on the finish.

Les Garrigues Grande Reserve Grenache Blanc, Pays du Torgan 2009 - £8.79, Savage Selections
Grenache blanc is an unsung variety that's capable of really characterful wines with enough weight to make them great with food. This has notes of pear and thyme on the nose, following through to a herbal and spicy palate with a hint of almond.

Les Garrigues Grande Reserve Grenache Noir, Pays du Torgan 2009 - £8.79, Savage Selections
This is one to bring out if you're chucking a wild boar on the barbecue. The dense, brooding fruit and tannins cry out for something meaty to match.

Dear Surrey Advertiser readers,

If you don’t feel the need for hairs-on-your-chest, mountain-man stuff then you would have been better off with me laconically lazing in la-la land, St Trop darling, where pink is the drink.

Just so that Heather D doesn’t think she had all the adventures – I will have you know that I encountered my fair share of wild(?) bores, but mostly of the slashed shirted gold medallion type. Yawn.

Whilst visiting old friends who have lived for many years in the fragrant lavender bedecked countryside of Provence, I found many an occasion to sample various local wines ranging in colour from off-white to almost red, a rosé by any other name.

In the spirit of research I visited various vineyards and hostelries ranging in style from the sublime to the ridiculous - and oft combinations of both. I cannot say that I came across an unpalatable wine in any guise, whether from humble farmhouse (or Mas), to the renowned bars and restaurants on Pampelonne or Tahiti beach - it was just the price that was very, very different.

St. Tropez was a quiet little fishing village until the mid fifties when film director Roger Vadim chose that location to make a film called “And God Created Woman”, staring the up and coming young actress Brigitte Bardot. One enterprising local fisherman decided to offer lunch on the beach to all the stars and crew and this was the start of what is now one of the most iconic restaurants in France, if not the world. It is named after the year it was conceived “Cinquante Cinq”. Le Club 55 is still the haunt of the glitterati, yachtterati and de rigueur for wannabes and vinous voyeurs such as yours truly. Their rosé is excellent but not available in our UK supermarkets.

There are however many excellent rosés to be had and I came across an interesting website that lists some fine examples of the French wines I have been drinking and which you can buy online: . Château Routas Wild Boar Rosé - just to continue on our theme - works out at £11.50 a bottle and is a modern, crisp and refreshing wine, easy drinking with or without food.

Our favourite local independent wine stores all stock a good selection of rosés and we will be devoting ourselves to researching these on your behalf for recommendations in our next column. Can’t wait.

Au revoir,
Heather A xx
Think pink, www.redwhiteandrose for all your liquid assets.

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