I recently left an overseas job early. Turns out to have been a wise choice – the situation was turning unscrupulous.
Next, I flew back to my (relatively) new home in France – and to friends – to readjust, reacquaint with honest allies, and re-plot the Trajectory of Life.
Looking out the airline window before landing near agricultural fields surrounding Bordeaux, the weather looked optimal.
Within days of landing I had the fortune to attend, for the second year, Les Printemps des Vins de Blaye – The Winemakers’ Springtime in Blaye – within the local Citadelle fortress.
For 8 Euros you get glass, map, list of booth locations of 80 winemakers, and free access to sample all the wines you like from the Côtes de Blaye – Bordeaux wine region.
A little Bubbly helped start the day…
Next – the wines.
Many of the ‘usual suspects’ were there…
In between tastes, there was ample room to step outside for fresh air and a beautiful skyline…
Below is my value wine scoring for a few selected Blaye wines – created using the Vino Value algorithm.*
The more musical notes (♫), the better the overall value.
Even if you live far away and will not purchase these wines, there are other benefits to inspecting these value scores:
- Check out the prices. This is Bordeaux. Yet many wines costs between 5 and 10 Euros ($6 and $11) per bottle. Who on earth led you to believe that most Bordeaux wines are expensive? Not true. These are some amazing values here, as there are in most wine regions on the planet, if you take time to look.
- The ‘internal engine’ of the algorithm is hidden – for each wine I provide subjective scores based on taste, then mathematically combine these with prices to generate overall value scores. Looking at these scores shows that often wine values have no necessary correlation with price. There are ample good wines out there at a reasonable cost, and many duds which are too expensive. This makes searching for good value an adventure – let your taste guide you, not the reviews of others.
- Often (not always) winemakers have three or four wines in a series, and their ‘Top Cuvée’ may cost 30 to 100 percent higher than their ‘Second Best’ (because of the added cost of purchasing new oak barrels, and the required additional storage for longer aging). Yet often the taste of the most expensive wine is only slightly better than that on the second tier. Meaning? Often purchasing a bottle ranked second best is of better value than buying number 1.
|Vino Value™ Scoring of Selected Wines – Printemps des Vignerons de Blaye 2016|
|Winery||Wine||Retail Price – Euros||Retail Price – US dollars equivalent||Value Score|
|Château Siffle Merle||AOC Crémant de Bordeaux Blanc Brut||€ 9.00||$10.08||Good Value ♫|
|Vignobles Bourdillas||2009 Chateau Jussas||€ 5.50||$6.16||Excellent Value ♫♫|
|Vignobles Bourdillas||2012 Chateau Jussas||€ 5.40||$6.05||Excellent Value ♫♫|
|Vignobles Bourdillas||2015 La Rose des 4 Freres (Rosé)||€ 5.10||$5.71||Superlative Value ♫♫♫|
|Château Les Jonqueyres||2014 if des Jonqueres (Vin Biologique)||€ 8.00||$8.96||Superlative Value ♫♫♫|
|Vignobles Bayle-Carreau||2012 Chateau Pardaillan||€ 7.10||$7.95||Excellent Value ♫♫|
|Château Nodot||2014 Cuvee Tradition||€ 8.50||$9.52||Good Value ♫|
|Château Nodot||2010 Cuvee Prestige||€ 11.00||$12.32||Good Value ♫|
|Château Bel-Air La Royere||2012 Grand Vin||€ 22.00||$24.64||Good Value ♫|
|Château Bellevue Gazin||2005 Les Baronnets||€ 7.50||$8.40||Excellent Value ♫♫|
|Château Bellevue Gazin||2005 Premieres Côtes de Blaye||€ 13.00||$14.56||Good Value ♫|
|Château La Rose Bellevue||2014 Le Secret||€ 18.50||$20.72||Superlative Value ♫♫♫|
|Château Les Bertrands||2010 Nectar des Bertrands||€ 16.00||$17.92||Good Value ♫|
|Château La Cassagne Boutet||2015 – Les Puts (Rosé)||€ 5.00||$5.60||Excellent Value ♫♫|
|Château La Cassagne Boutet||2012 – Les Angeles||€ 20.00||$22.40||Good Value ♫|
|Château Lagarde||2014 Rouge Excellence||€ 10.00||$11.20||Good Value ♫|
|Château Canteloupe||2014 Eleve en Futs de Chene||€ 8.00||$8.96||Excellent Value ♫♫|
|Château Des Tourtes||2015 Cuvee Classique (Blanc)||€ 5.30||$5.94||Excellent Value ♫♫|
|Château Les Margagnis||2011 Grand Vin||€ 6.50||$7.28||Good Value ♫|
|Château Les Margagnis||2012 Grand Vin||€ 6.00||$6.72||Excellent Value ♫♫|
|Château Petit Arnauds||Grande Reserve 2012||€ 7.50||$8.40||Excellent Value ♫♫|
|Château L’Esperance||2015 Bordeaux (Rosé)||€ 7.00||$7.84||Good Value ♫|
|Château L’Esperance||2010 Cuvée Trois Freres||€ 15.00||$16.80||Superlative Value ♫♫♫|
* For more information on this proprietary wine value scoring algorithm, click here.
Weeks after Les Printemps we attended Portes Ouvertes – Open Doors – in the neighboring wine appellation of Côtes de Bourg – during which dozens of winemakers over several square kilometers opened doors to thirsty visitors. Tasting was free. This time I simply sipped and enjoyed, rather than take notes or rank wines. The only reason I mention this is a photograph taken many years ago (see second photo, below) shows how Bourg was once differentiated as being for lovers, whereas now love is apparently out – and spiciness in the wine is in.
Ah, a region of Love –
Finally – A Recipe
More than 100 winemakers (or winery owner) from more than 17 countries contributed recipes to my forthcoming book The Winemakers’ Cooking Companion.
These include such classics as –
Paella-risotto-chateaubriand-lamb rump-chocolate cake-mushroom omelette-seafood extravaganzas-lasagna-pot pies-candied figs-salads-veal schnitzels-focaccia-ceviche-baked yogurt-sashimi-foie gras-wild game (kangaroo, boar, guinea fowl)-apple tart-salmon mousse-wine flavored ice cream-glazed pork belly-rib eye steaks-balsamic asparagus-fondue-Chardonnay chicken-fresh pasta.
Thanks to all of you. Your generosity and inventiveness are greatly appreciated.
Below is a recipe contribution from a winemaker and winery owner Anne-Marye Piguet-Chouet (and her grandmother Michèle). Anne-Marye and her husband run Piguet-Chouet & Leurs Fils Vignerons. This is classic recipe from Burgundy, France.
Gougères are round, cheesy, puff pastry aperitifs.
I took some photos years ago while visiting Burgundy. My friend Robin and I took a cooking class at The Cook’s Atelier in the city of Beaune, where we also made gougères.
‘Les Gougères Bourguignonnes’ – Burgundian Cheese Pastries
From Anne-Marye Piguet-Chouet (and Grandmother Michèle)
of Piguet-Chouet & Leurs Fils Vignerons,
Preparation Time and Quantity –
25 minutes to prepare, 25 minutes to cook. Serves 6 people.
Ingredients and Amounts
Water – 1 cup (250 milliliters)
Butter – ½ cup, or 4½ ounces (125 grams)
Flour – 2½ cups (250 grams)
Eggs – 5
Salt – ⅘ teaspoon (5 grams)
Comté cheese* – 1½ cups , or 5¼ ounces (150 grams)
Nutmeg, cayenne pepper, – to taste
- Pre-heat oven to 320 to 340 degrees Fahrenheit (160 to 170 degrees Celsius).
- Grate cheese.
- In a saucepan, place water, salt, spices, and butter and bring to medium heat.
- Bring to boil, then reduce heat to low.
- Add flour and stir vigorously (using a wooden spoon).
- Keep over very low heat for 4 to 5 minutes until paste dries enough so that dough no longer sticks to walls of saucepan. Do not let dough dry out completely.
- Let cool, then add eggs one by one, adding grated cheese between each egg. Stir until the mass becomes one smooth paste.
- Make dough balls with spoons (or squeeze dough through a pastry bag). Space these balls on a baking sheet. Cook in pre-heated oven for 20 to 25 minutes until the dough inflates and is brown.
Above all – DO NOT OPEN oven while they are cooking!
Serve hot, preferably, with champagne or a white Burgundy wine.
Anne-Marye writes –
“Enjoy your meal! This Gougères recipe is a specialty of Burgundy.”