The bottles most cherished in my little cellar are neither renowned or expensive. Instead, they deliver memories. There is the 2008 Clos Apalta, purchased in Chile after meeting the winemaker (and months before Wine Spectator Magazine declared this Wine of The Year). There are magnums of biodynamic Cabernet Franc purchased from Clos Cristal of the Loire Valley after walking vines with the winemaker last year. Those bottles—one and a half liters of liquid magic—cost 30 Euros apiece are no longer available after the vineyard shut down. Or the few boxes of unique 2012 Les Angelots, made by friend Nicolas down the road. The label drawing includes two blue stone angels mounted on the winery’s outer wall. Somehow, Nicolas managed to bottle one of them. When I returned in spring after months working in Asia, the first priority was to phone and purchase his final box.
Memory of place, people and situations can makes bottles of wine—open and finished, or unopened—more memorable than any association with expense, renown or prestige. That is a strange and simple truth about wine.
The notion that precious does not have to be expensive applies not only to wine, but travel. Traveling off-season can mean purchasing less costly tickets, paying reasonable prices for accommodation and bumping into fewer streams of visitors wearing multicolored neoprene tight and speaking your own language. Even day trips, often unexpectedly, can turn as memorable as a week spent in a distant country.
On Sunday I visited the city of Cognac, an hour drive north. Soon I’ll write more about the city and the local drink Pineau (pronounced, yes—Pinot; it’s confusing). This blend of cognac and non-alcoholic grape juice is wildly popular here, yet apparently unknown in much of the world. In the meantime, here are some panoramic photos from that countryside drive and afternoon city walk. This getaway was precious, not costly. Tip of the week? When Google Maps alerts you to an alternate, non-highway, more scenic route that only adds eight minutes to a one hour drive—choose YES.
What else in life can be precious, without necessarily being expensive?
Food, sometimes. That’s one unsung benefit of Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S.—the joy of sharing a long lunch or dinner with friends and new faces, often at home, sometimes with a drink or two, maybe with decent conversation and perhaps followed by a walk.
Here in southern France the cool season has arrived. It’s not cold enough for a wool hat or gloves yet, but that time draws close. The leaves that turned brown and gold weeks ago are now spalling off vines.
As for food, two European recipes are included below—from Italy and France. They are easy to prepare, will keep you warm, and could even be a T-Day appetizer or dessert.
The first recipe comes from the Alto Adige region in northern Italy (location of the gorgeous toothed Dolomite mountains) while the second is from Bugey in the Rhone region of southern France. Thank you Andrian Wines, as well as Marjorie and Bernard Rondeau, who supplied these recipes.
Terlaner Wine Soup
From Rudi Kofler, Cellar Master of Andrian Wines, Terlano Wine Region, Alto Adige Province, Italy
Preparation Time and Quantity –
5 minutes to prepare, 25 minutes to cook. Serves 4 people.
Ingredients and Amounts
Broth – 2 cups (½ liter)
Egg yolks – 4
Cream – ⅕ cup (50 milliliters)
Terlaner wine* – 1 cup (¼ liter)
Bread cubes – from 1 stale roll
Butter – 1 tablespoon (14 grams)
Cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt – to taste
- Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit (150 degrees Celsius).
- Tear bread chunks from the roll so they are about ½ inch (1 centimeter) square.
- Mix cream and egg yolks until smooth.
- Pour butter over torn bread cubes, then roast for 10 to 15 minutes in the pre-heated oven.
- Remove bread from the oven and sprinkle with cinnamon.
- Pour broth and wine into a saucepan over low heat.
- Add cream/yolk mixture.
- Add a pinch of salt, a little nutmeg and cinnamon.
- When at a boil, remove from heat.
Pour into bowls. Top with bread cubes and sprinkle with nutmeg and cinnamon.
Andrian wines tells the history of this soup –
“The Terlaner wine soup was first served in Berlin in 1965 at a culinary event presenting South-Tyrolean specialties. Andreas Hellrigl, Josef Theiner and Franz Tauber, three renowned South-Tyrolean chefs, elaborated old recipes and created the Terlaner wine soup.”
* Terlaner wine is a composition of the Terlano wine region’s three most traditional grape varieties – Pinot Bianco, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc (the Pinot provides freshness and an acidic structure, the Chardonnay delivers warmth and mellowness, and the Sauvignon adds fine aromas). Choose a suitable blended white wine alternative.
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‘Tarte Bugiste’ – Tart from Bugey
From Marjorie and Bernard Rondeau, Owners of Domaine Bernard et Marjorie Rondeau, Boyeux-Saint-Jérôme, Bugey, France
Preparation Time and Quantity –
35 minutes until dough ready for first rising; 1 additional hour (after dough has risen) to finish preparing and to cook. Serves 8 people.
Ingredients and Amounts
Flour – 3½ cups (350 grams)
Sugar – 3 tablespoons (37 grams)
Butter (soft) – ¼ cup (60 grams)
Eggs – 2
Fresh yeast – 4½ teaspoons (15 grams) [or 1 sachet dried yeast]
Salt – pinch
Milk – 1 cup (240 milliliters)
Powdered sugar – as needed
Butter or heavy cream – as needed
Chocolate chips or chunks – as needed
- Warm milk and set aside.
- Melt butter.
- Add yeast to warm milk and stir.
- Beat eggs with sugar.
- Add melted butter and a pinch of salt to egg/sugar mixture.
- Add flour and milk/yeast mixture to the above mixture.
- Knead for several minutes (8 to 15) until this becomes homogenous, soft dough.
- Put dough in a bowl, cover with a damp towel, and let rise for 2 to 3 hours in a warm location.
- When dough is ready, pre-heat oven to between 480 and 520 degrees Fahrenheit (250 and 270 Celsius).
- Punch down dough, knead again, then roll out to a disc and let rise a second time for 15 to 30 minutes. It’s okay if it looks lumpy and bubbled.
- Sprinkle dollops of butter or heavy cream (or both), and powdered sugar on top of dough, and (as Marjorie says –“for being greedy”) add chocolate chips or chocolate chunks.
- Bake in pre-heated oven for 10 to 15 minutes.
Marjorie writes –
“Bon appétit. The specialty of our region is this Bugiste tart with cream.”
Tom’s Comments –
Sinfully soft and delicious. Try this with a sparkling rosé.
The amount of dough is small enough that you could knead it on a decent sized cutting board, if you don’t want to flour up a counter or table. Add flour liberally to keep the dough from sticking. Knead the dough the first time for 8 to 15 minutes or so, until it pushes back, turns springy and homogenous and looks slightly glossy.
Put on a lower shelf in the oven to avoid the top burning.
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Elena Malgina of Lugano, Switzerland will provide additional assistance to move the book The Winemakers’ Cooking Companion forward. Elena’s background is working in financial management, though she recently opened her own literary agency, Ithaka. In the past months she arranged for the translation and publication of letters written by renowned Russian writer Andrey Platonov and recently represented a book about President Obama’s policies. The choice to work with Elena was based on her intelligence, energy, and enthusiasm for the publishing industry. “One of my most exciting epiphanies of the last couple of years,” Elena wrote soon after we met, “was the simple realization that profession and passion can simply coexist and make a magical synergy.”
Finally, my latest Forbes pieces are here, including one about jazz pianist Daniel Gassin who is now in Dubai helping Quincy Jones open a jazz club. Future articles in the coming weeks will be about Loire Valley wines, Mont Saint-Michel island, the intriguing life of a flying winemaker (who is also a remarkable chef) and a Michelin starred lunch that costs less than a meal at Denny’s.
As always, thanks for tuning in.