Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Just call me Brigitte

There was a motley crew of us who set off from Villa St Simon this morning firstly catching the ferry across to Lamarque and then driving the back way through to Bordeaux. Yes, today is the day we are going to Vin Expo (supposedly the main reason we came back to Blaye). This is a huge biannual trade meeting of producers, marketers, exporters etc not only of wine, but also of wine gadgets and of other alcoholic drinks as well. It is held every two years in Bordeaux and in the intervening year in another country (2010 is in Hong Kong).

The ferry crosses the Gironde from Blaye to Lamarque. It takes all of 15 - 18 minutes on a vehicle ferry. We hear the motors of the ferry at different times during the day from the guest house. The waters of the river are very murky - and with good reason. It has a mud bottom, its just downstream of the confluence of the Dordogne and the Garonne Rivers, and it is strongly tidal at this point. We pass a number of the small fishing huts called cabanon with their nets hauled high out of the tidal reach. Once we reach Lamarque we drive through to Bordeaux Lac where the expo is held.

Vin Expo is huge! It is in a series of halls that measure a total of 1 km long and 4 aisles wide - so that if you were to try to cover the whole trade show, down both sides and cross aisles you would be walking, or rather staggering, about 10 kms! Now, technically, there is no public admittance to a trade show, but Yann and Florence have allowed us the privilege of being some of their agents for the day. So may we introduce Brigitte Durieux and Rabah Merdjani (Michael's alibi is particularly suited - a muslim name for someone who cannot drink! - how very clever of Yann.) To gain entry, we exchange the printed form from Yann for on-the-spot printed name badges that are then scanned as we go through the entry.

The hall we come in through (Hall 3) is set out in brown and orange (very eye-catching) and thankfully it is air-conditioned as not only is the day very hot, but there is enough light power in all the booths to power a veritable city. The marketing efforts and tools are amazing to see. We make our way to the Romanian stand where Lorena is genuinely thrilled that we have made an effort to seek her out and has her wines out for us to taste. And taste them we do, guided by the expert as she helps us to decipher the subtleties of her produce. Lorena makes both red and white wines and we try each of them in turn. The Romanian wines are nice. The reds have plenty of body and depth - right up my preference. This is a contact that I am definitely passing on to Brian! Once we taste all her wines, Diana helps us to taste a few of the other Romanian wines. Those eastern european wines are definitely some to further explore and with a standing invitation from Lorena, we will definitely try to call in to see her Ploiesti in south-west Romania.

So we mosey on through the exhibitor stands tasting here and there - but certainly not at every stand as we would have been needing to be rolled, sloshing, if we had done that. Les being with us lends a certain air of legitimacy as he can (with some authority) ask import and sales questions as he deals in some wine trade. I can certainly talk about passing on contacts to Brian, but that is the best commitment I can give! We try Romanian, Italian, French, German, Canadian (Inniskillin Ice Wine - very different to the German one Vicky) and end up with some South African ones. While there are some very nice ones we try, and some less so, my first real surprise of the day is when we are trying the very last wine. It is a South African Pinotage marketed as Cafe Culture. If you are able to get a bottle to taste, I highly recommend that you do. We had previously tried another Pinotage from another South African vineyard, but this one is amazing. There are the most amazing aromas of coffee and mocha that are carried through strongly onto the taste on the palate. Now, this is a wine I could become very addicted to!

During the day we stop for lunch. Now, at an event where people arrive via all modes of transport from the regional buses to corporate helicopters to the son-site helipad, you can imagine that there is a huge variety of food options. In fact everything from grab in your hand sandwiches right up to some very nice a la carte offerings. We are only ever going to be at Vin Expo once (we think) so we opt to have a nice lunch. We eat at the restaurant de france, complete with white damask cloths and napkins, huge white marquees and large umbrellas and fountains! The menu is very impressive with interesting choices prepared by chef Loic Fountas of Maison Dulou Traiteur. Our menu price of €42 covers a three course meal with wines and coffees. Our choices were:
Huîtres du Cap Ferret, citron, beurre d'Echiré (Cap Ferret oysters, lemon, Echire butter) Michael
Saumon mariné au vin blanc, herbes et tartare a l'huile d'olives de Bize (Cold salmon marinated in white wine, herbs and tartare with Bize olive oil) Maria
Millefeuille d'agneau à la fleur de thym (Lamb mille-feuille with thyme flowers)
Brochette de St Jacques en citronnelle, mirepoix de legumes (St Jacques brochette with lime and finely diced vegetables) Maria
Déclinaison de croustillant de fruits rouges et Olives de Bize (Red berry fruit crunch with Bize olives) Michael
Crème au thym caramélisée (Caramelized cream with thyme) Maria
We drank wines from the Chateau Bas D'Aumelas from the Languedoc region. A very nice meal with the culinary surprise here being the sublime partnering of green olives with raspberry ice cream in Michael's dessert.

We leave just before 5 pm so we can be sure that even if the peak hour traffic delays us, we can make the last (18:30) ferry beack across to Blaye. We get to Lamarque in plenty of time - enough to sit with Oranginas and ice creams and watch the ferry come across the river to collect us.

No-one is very hungry tonight, so it is down to the local supermarket L'Eclerc to buy cheeses, cold meats and some salad ingredients. We enjoy just being at Villa St Simon with a bottle of wine made by another local winemaker we met today,Valérie. And after we finish, the English couple who have been here for the last two days, Adrian and Marion, arrive back in time for us to share the last of the wine and some coffee and conversation before we hit the sack after 1 am. Tommorrow will be a quiet day. Absolutely NOTHING planned!

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