The big summer vacation this year was spent in France, this time with our old camper van. Usually I’m looking for wine but there was one place on my list of places that I really wanted to see. Le Puy en Velay in the Auvergne region. This is where the wolrd famous green lentils are grown and the old town has its owns, mystical charm about it. We decided to go for the Camping de Bouthezard in the Aiguilhe quarter. Yes, it was beautifully located just beneath the famous church St Michel d’Aiguilhe (as seen on the beer label). But what really sparked my interest were WiFi, laundrette and tumble dryer. The simple washrooms didn’t spark anything though…
When asking for a well deserved (changing tyres on a motorway rest stop only to find out that the extra tyre did not have enough air inside and the motor station’s inflator was out of order) welcome beer at the campsite shop the owner apologized for having only local beers on offer, no Kronenbourg or Heineken. Well, he was apologizing to the wrong person, i bought both beers on offer. A lentil beer, Perle Verte and the La Vellavia blonde brewed in the neighbouring Polignac, famous for it’s castle ruin.
The Perle Verte or green pearl was easy drinking with the tiniest touch of lentil. Had I not seen the label, I probably would not have noticed.
The La Vellavia on the other hand was quite impressive. Orange-brown with a fine foamy head.
In the nose dried and frozen mango, dried apple, light cider. On the palate mango and malt caombined with flowery hops and a light bitter finale.
Beside the good water from the Central Massif there is one special ingredient that makes this beer so special. An ancient type of barley called Ponote that has been grown on the high plateau of Le Puy together with the Puy Lentils. The grains are quite big which makes sorting them out easier. This makes sense if you consider the way the barley was used as a ranking help for the lentils, both being grown on the same field at the same time. And both harvested together.
Every year the same wine guides for french wines try to help the french consumers to choose their wines. Structurally and contentwise quite similar are the „Le Guide des meuilleurs vins de France“, published by Frances influential wine magazine La Revue du vin de France and its direct competitor, Le Guide Bettane & Dessauve des vins de France, ironically published by the late publishers of the Le Guide des meuilleurs vins de France. Both publications concentrate on the wineries that they deem the best of France. Their new wines are noted and rated and the wineries introduced. That makes both books quite similar. New editions of the same books don’t have much new information to offer. Seldom new wineries. A more wine orientated view is shared by Le Guide Hachette des Vins, where smaller, unknown wineries have a chance of publication with maybe one or two good wines. Other publications have had difficulties entering this tight and conservative market, even big names like „Gault & Millau“ had to fly the white flag after a couplew of years. Thats why I like to see new wine guides with new concepts.
The Book : „Guide des vins en biodynamie“ edited by Évelyne Malnic, has seen its third edition. The concenpt is simple: The best wines from certified biodynamic wineries in France and the French-speaking part of Swiss. A new feature I have not seen before is an extensive oenological description of the wine, including grape variy, terroir, yields, age of vines, vine treatments and all other work that has been done in vineyard and cellar. Residual suagrs and free sulphur is given as well. 21 Somelliers from the Normandie have tasted 487 wines from 136 wineries and rated them as well. Some of the widely known wineries were Château Climens, Marcel Deiss, Domaine Leroy. The majoritiy of wineries were unknown to me.
The book „Le Guide de L’Alter-Vin, 133 vignerons hors du commun“ by Laurent Baraou & Monsieur Septime has been published in August 2012 but has not come to my attention till I saw it last november in a big book store in Lille. The book is seen as a collection of portraits of avantgarde winemakers. The Authors compare the winemakers to the young artists like Picasso, Manet, and Cézanne, who could not exhibit there work at the famous Paris Salon. Later the Salon lost its prestige and importance while the artists came to be famous and influential. A lot of members of the vin naturel movement are included. Others completely ignore the AOC regulations and bottle thier wines as Vin de France. But also Winemakers from unknown regions like Domaine Lelièvre from the Lorraine are included. To qualify as a wine guide both authors give a small description of their favourite wine from each winery.
Both books enliven the french wine book scene, i hope to see new editions in years to come.