Season’s Greetings French Style for #Winophiles and what’s up 2019!

Joyeux Noël!
Today, December 15, 2018, is our last theme for 2018: “French-Style Season” with Host Lynn Gowdy from Savor the Harvest with samples for the fortunate (like me!) from Vignobles & Signatures via Michèle Piron/Vinconnexion.
What does “French-Style Season” mean?
You can read some answers in the invite post from some of the Winophiles; to help us come up with our version, I posed the question to a few friends who are also wine professionals and know France because they live there now or have spent significant amounts of time there.

But before I get into that, I think it’s important to acknowledge what is happening in France right now — the protests that have been going on for several weeks.  Seattle poet and performance artist A K Mimi Allin is living in Paris following a 1600 mile walk across the Alps this past spring and summer. Below are her reflections on what’s happening in Paris from her perspective which she posted on Facebook on Sunday Dec. 9 (posted here with her permission):

as you know, there are widespread protests across France in reaction to the gas tax, but stemming from a deeper sense of discontent, an unrest related to the cost of gas but also to the general rising cost of living & the struggles of the working class to make ends meet.. whilst their government serves the rich.. the movement is led by Les Gilets Jaunes (the Yellow Vests) & has been joined by the left & right & students & women.. the violence erupting in certain small areas (around the Arc de Triomphe) is making international headlines.. riots every Saturday for a month.. & they will continue.. that much is clear.. through the lucrative holiday season.. & beyond.. until change comes..

i went to the city to see.. i walked down Malesherbes to Haussman to Place de Opera to Rue St Honore, by the Tuileries& over the Pont Royale.. i saw ordinary people walking about, standing, talking, men & women, old & young.. nothing like a protest in the US where narrow, symbolic parades route are requested, permitted, surveilled & protected by the police.. here the protestors are everywhere.. on every street.. & everything shuts down.. no one main herd, but threads & streams herding & presiding all about.. like a people who own a city & know it.. the police (8,000 officers strong i am told) made their presence felt by running siren-on routes through the city.. by setting up van barricades around significant cultural sites.. but the entire city was shut down by the yellow jackets.. you could march down the middle of any street.. there were loud blasts coming from Rue St Honore like cannons.. the police were dropping smoke bombs to scare people.. if you ask me, it raised the level from march to combat.. one helicopter hovered high overhead (the first i’ve seen in 2 months, they do not report on traffic by costly gas-hungry helicopter).. as i neared the Tuileries i saw a few small groups of men (2, 3, 5 together) completely amped up & looking for a fight.. all in black with their heads covered.. on edge.. bouncing off of one another.. shouting & whistling.. you could see they were looking for a target.. a building to loot or or some police interaction.. but no one was fighting amongst themselves.. & the other marchers were not affected by or responding to them.. they were not the yellow vests.. they were anarchists wanting government blood..

i’ve been told by friends, both french & american, to stay away.. be safe.. don’t go downtown.. if our writers & artists do not experience the revolution (or war for that matter) first hand, what record do we have.. what heart to tell it.. i avoided the champs elysses from which a huge plume of smoke was rising.. at midnight i walked that way.. past the arc de triomphe.. by then a storm, with a violent wind & lashing rain, was upon us.. light traffic, few police officers.. the rioters had all been cleared.. i later read there were 1,000 arrents.. every storefront window was boarded up.. some had signs painted on them.. LUTTE ENCORE (loot again)..

i am impressed by the magnitude of things in France.. the coherence of the people.. the general gentleness of the police towards them.. the understanding on both sides of what revolution means.. the sense that, o here it is, it’s come around again.. & the knowledge that this will be heard.. & will be hard.. & will change things.. because the people here have power.. & yes i see & hear the embarrassing remarks made by my weak, unfortunate, sitting president.. that the french are against taxes, don’t care about the environment, question climate change.. all shallow, self-serving remarks.. the media might as well re-tweet any racist, fascist american.. it would be the same.. we know that this is not america, but the fear of a formerly privileged class now falling from their former fabricated glory.. living in Paris i can sense what europeans sense when they see america.. the teenager of the world.. unskilled.. unpredictable.. selfish..

This holiday season, while all of this has been going on in Paris, simultaneously we are all preparing for the winter holidays and the Winophiles are investigating how to express the holidays French style. So since I know practically nothing about this topic, and while I could google it, here’s a few ideas from friends.

Caroline Henry: French Christmas Eve and Day Traditions for Food and Wine 

From Caroline Henry who grew up in Belgium and has lived all over the world working in wine, and is currently in Champagne where she is an expert on the terroir of Champagne and an award winning author; her book wine the 10th Terres et Vins de Champagne prize and I featured Caroline Henry in my article last summer on grower and biodynamic Champagne.

In general, Caroline says that

The French celebrate Christmas eve, more than Christmas day. It’s generally a family affair with lots of food and wine ( similar to Thanksgiving in the US). They did the obligatory foi gras, oysters, often scallops and other sea food, a roast (sometimes turkey but can be any meat), lots of veggies, cheese, and then a (often rich) cake for dessert. It’s often a chocolate log but it can be anything depending on the region. In fact there are many regional differences in what people eat. The region with the most typical Christmas tradition is Alsace I think, it has the German Christmas spirit and many special gourmet treats – often very meat focused or sweet. Eg they have jambon en croute, different pâté ( and fois gras), Kouglof, Xmas cookies, Stolle, etc etc.”

Caroline continued with some comments about French traditions in her region of the country, Champagne:

In Champagne, people drink the local tipple at apéro and often also at dessert and some through the meal, though most will drink red with at least cheese but often also the meat dish. A common meal would start with apéro ( with lots of petits fours, oysters, fois gras etc) then there generally is a creamy seafood dish, scallops, lobster, crab are often on the menu. Followed by the main meat dish (here there is often game in the menu), then cheese and salad, desert. Presents are opened and the atmosphere is very jovial!  Dessert is either paired  with rose champagne, Demi sec or a liquoreux. After the meal there will be the digestive (cognac, marc, …) and coffee.

Caroline concluded by saying that “At Christmas people eat tons of chocolate and tropical fruit and nuts as well – don’t ask me why!”

The tropical fruit and nuts might be explained by an after Mass tradition of enjoying these foods as explained by Jill Barth in her article for USA Today about Christmas food traditions in Provence:
After Midnight Mass, families enjoy the pinnacle of the event: les treize desserts de Noël, 13 desserts symbolizing Christ and his apostles. These are typically a mix of nuts, dried figs, dates, raisins, black and white nougat, quince paste, white grapes, citrus fruit, candied fruits, a confection called calissons, pompe à l’huile (sweet olive oil bread) and – less ancient but still delicious – chocolates and bûche de Noël (a Christmas cake shaped like a log).
Louise Hurren writes about wine and does public relations with a focus on that region, particularly the Languedoc where she’s based in the southeast part of France near the Mediterranean. She suggested I check out this post about Ten Dishes that make up the French Christmas Feast .  
Louise Hurren: French Food and Wine Traditions for New Tear’s Even and Day “le reveillon”
Louise points out that “The French make a very big deal of what they call “le reveillon”, in other words the evening meal that starts on December 31 and (usually) carries on into January 1. All the foods listed in that link I gave you feature in this meal.”
Louise continues with local traditions:
In my part of France (Languedoc), oysters are a big deal as they are grown locally, and often enjoyed either with Champagne (if you’re pushing the boat out/going traditional) or the local sparkling wine (Blanquette de Limoux) or the local wine commonly associated with oysters, which comes from the same area, which is Picpoul de Pinet.
With these ideas in mind, as well as our own research, and influenced strongly by what we were able to procure and prepare on a work night, Sue and I came up with the following menu which features three white wines and three reds.
MENU
This all sounds like a party to us! And since many of our friends are vegetarian or pescetarian, we decided NOT to make this menu meat-centric. Instead, we brought together some of our favorite party foods with appetizers, shrimp and lobster bisque soup, a bacon and spinach salad with a poached egg dressing, and a mushroom rich pilaf made in the instant pot.
  • Oysters
  • Tapenade
  • Jamon en croute bites
  • young brie
  • triple cream brie
  • Basque cheese
  • 60 month aged gouda
  • duck liver pate
  • caviar
  • BBQ stuffed scallop and clam shells
  • rosemary bread
  • water wafers
  • lobster and shrimp bisque soup
  • spinach salad Lyonnaise
  • mushroom pilaf
  • festive holiday sugar and gingerpeople cookies
  • chocolate croissants
WINE

Champagne Roederer Brut Premier- $65
purchased on sale at Vons

Color: Very pale straw, very little delicate bubbles the come from all over the bottom of the glass, even from the sloping sides of the glass

Nose: Ripe pear, yeasty brioche, toasted almonds, little bit of clove, it is hard to spend time on the nose, because it smells so good, you just want to get it in your mouth.

Palate: Almond paste and kiwi fruit were the first two things that came to mind after first tasting this wine for sue, Gwen found marzipan, golden delicious apple, baked apple pie with a bit of baking spice on the finish. there is not a yeasty quality on the plate, and salinity over minerality,

Pairing: So good with the caviar, as usual a perfect pairing, The soil is diotomatious earth, which is dead squid beaks. great with our ham and cheese mini muffins. It loved the lovely buttery richness of the puff pastry and the brie. The seafood bisque was so fantastic with the champagne, the perfect pairing of the evening.

2017 Chateau de Tracy Pouilly-Fume, Loire Sauvignon Blanc

Color: Light straw, almost platinum

Nose: Juicy fruit gum, jack fruit banana, tropical fruit, grapefruit

Palate: Viscous on the palate, salinity, tart acidity, lime and lemon, grapefruit, brings out all the different citrus flavors.

Pairing: Great with the brie and ham encroute, the very lightly mustard pastries bring out a mustard pollen sweetness in the wine. Enhances the flavor of the pate but does not do much for the wine. As usual, goat cheese and Sauv Blanc is awesome. The wine works with caviar, but it is not the same as caviar and champagne. I enjoyed the salinity with the caviar. It was great with the tapenade, the bright lemony richness of the tapenade brought out the beautiful acidity in the wine. The anchovy in the tapenade became nutty.  Super yummy with the bisque.

Coume del Mas QUADRATUR COLLIOURE ROUGE 2015
Grenache Noir 50%, Mourvèdre 30%, Carignan 20%

Coume del Mas was created by Philippe and Nathalie Gard in 2001. The domaine now has around 15 hectares of vines, principally on the steep slopes around Banyuls sur Mer. Grown on schist soil, the grapes were destemmed and handsorted, cold soaked, then underwent maceration for 3-5 weeks with pumpover as needed followed by 12 months in barrel.  Learn more. 

Color: On the maroon side with a pretty pink rim. This wine is on the dense side

Nose: Earthen, musky, husky, rich, cherry, tobacco, silty mud.

Palate: Very smooth, bright tart cherry, and blackberry right off the vine.

Pairing: With the young brie, the cheese was almost gummy, but the wine was stellar. It also loved the tapenade: brings out the bright citrus notes of the food. Great with the pate–  brings out a lovely fruitiness in the wine that is not evident with out the pate. When we first tasted this wine, we knew it would be a perfect pair with the mushroom pilaf and we were not mistaken. It brings out the fruit in the wine and the earth in the pilaf. It was so very tasty. It resonates and lingers and lasts making you so very happy. With the salad there is a wonderful pomegranate citrus, with baking spice characteristic that happens between the two. There is a definite magic that happens!

 

2017 – Pic Saint Loup – 13.5% alcohol

We found this to be a very flirty, fun fruity wine!
Color: Beautiful cherry red with a pretty pink rim
Nose: Delicate, bright raspberry and strawberry fruit, rose florals, it has a sweet nose
Palate: Smooth and light, raspberries, nice acidity, lingering raspberry finish with a bit of mocha and toffee, it is a nicely engaging wine. for a red wine it is a pick me up kind of wine.

Pairing: Great with the tapanade and the pate, the bright acidity mingles well with both of these foods. Liked the nutty richness of the Basque cheese. Red wines are not always great with brie, but this one does. with the salad, this wine is much too fruity. Really likes the earthy components of the pilaf. There are no baking spices in the dish, but it brings out baking spices in the wine. The mushrooms and herbs de provence were fab. This wine also enjoyed the stuffed clam and scallop shells heated on the BBQ.

Color: Pinky red with a pastel pink rim. This wine really captures the light
Nose: Musky earth, cherry pipe tobacco, raspberries on the vine, as if you are in a  field of raspberries, it conjures up the image, light hints of baking spices, vanilla, cinnamon, clove and nutmeg.
Palate: Cherry, not the bright tart cherry, but more the morrell cherries; someone who cans fresh cherries will know this taste. There is a pureness to the fruit, the finish has a silty minerality and dark chocolate on the finish. This is a sexy smooth wine, like when the dark chocolate melts in your mouth and is so so smooth.
Pairing: Fantastic with the aged gouda, it makes the cheese peppery, and mellows the wine bringing out nice fruit, it brought out nice caramel mocha qualities in the wine and leaves your mouth with a beautiful creamy wonderfulness.  I thought the pairing was better for the cheese than the wine, but Sue loved the combo. Fantastic with the pate; it brings out the fruit and minerality in the wine. Sue did not like this wine as much with the tapenade and we discussed how this wine is from further north in France and therefore not such a great pairing.  The flavors are alright, but there is a dryness in the spinach that is not as appealing. This wine was good with the mushroom pilaf, but it did not sing, may be better with a creamy risotto. This wine yearns for duck breast, or elk medallions. Maybe pair with a rack of lamb, or lamb chops, it would have loved the rich fattiness of the food.

Please join us in saying Joyeux Noël!

We will be celebrating the season with French style this Saturday by publishing posts by the following bloggers who will also be participating in a twitter chat on the topic at 8am Pacific.

The #Winophiles Bring You A French-Style Season Sat. December 15th

We hope you’ll join us on Twitter for a discussion about having a French-style holiday season using the hashtag #winophiles — 8am PT – 11ET – 17:00h France

HTML French-Style Season – Dec2018 #winophiles

So what’s up next for the French Winophiles? Well, I’m kicking off 2019 by hosting and featuring biodynamic wines! Here’s the full schedule as of today but subject to change:

  • January 19, 2019: Biodynamic Wines of France | Host: Gwendolyn Alley, Wine Predator 
  • February 16, 2019: Provence | Host: Wendy Klik, A Day In The Life On The Farm
  • March 16, 2019: Women of Champagne | Host: Julia Coney, Julia Coney
  • April 20, 2019: Chablis | Host: Liz Barrett, What’s In That Bottle?
  • May 18, 2019: Gérard Betrand Wines Languedoc- Roussillion | Host: L.M. Archer, L.M. Archer
  • June 15, 2019: French Cheese & Wine | Host: Martin Redmond, ENOFYLZ Wine Blog
  • July 20, 2019: Loire Reds
  • August 17, 2019: French Basque Country (or Jurançon) | Host: Lynn Gowdy, Savor the Harvest 
  • September 21, 2019: Corsica | Payal Vora, Keep the Peas
  • October 19, 2019: Cahors | Host: Nicole Ruiz Hudson, Somm’s Table
  • November 16, 2019: Rasteau with Thanksgiving| Host: Michelle Williams, Rockin Red Blog
  • December 21, 2019: Vouvray | Host: Jeff Burrows, FoodWineClick

27 thoughts on “Season’s Greetings French Style for #Winophiles and what’s up 2019!

  1. It’s fascinating keeping up with the unrest in France, why the yellow jackets are protesting, etc. and the Allvin reflections are yet another take on the situation- thanks for sharing.
    The Domaine de l’Hortus Bergerie rouge seems to pair nicely with cheese, yours from the Basque and mine was with Pelardon from Languedoc. That’s good news for the red wine lovers that’ll be at my table- cheers Gwen!

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  6. Interesting to hear a take on the protests by someone who is local; it certainly gives a fresh perspective on the situation. Your festive buffet sounds like it has something for everyone – the best way to unite people at the holiday table. Merry Christmas to you and yours!

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  8. Very interesting to mention the protests occurring in France right now. I hadn’t thought about that when thinking of French style season, but it seems that that is very much what their holiday season is looking like this year, along with all the general French yumminess already there. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • As someone who has been involved in a number of marches, protests, and other actions, I’ve really been moved by the Yellow Vests Protests. I found it fascinating to read different accounts from people who are in France so I wanted to share a couple of them. I have another friend who has been interviewed by international media on the matter but we didn’t get a chance to connect by phone and she was too busy doing interviews to respond to my email!

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  9. Thank you for sharing such insights to these French traditions. Revolution is most definitely a French Tradition. I love the line “like a people who own a city & know it.. ” I think when we talk about the holidays it is often a glimpse into the soul of a culture. This piece does that for me, giving a rounded portrait of the French people. Vive la France!

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    • Thank you Robin — I love your comment! I agree that revolution is a French tradition and holidays give us a glimpse into the soul of a culture — many aspects of it! I am so glad that I was able to spend a week in France last summer– I barely scratched the surface but understand it so much more than before and it really helps to have knowledgable friends!

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  10. Wow, what an ambitious feast on a weeknight! I’m intrigued by your results with the Quadratur, as I have that sample, but have not opened it yet. Looking forward to it and comparing with your thoughts on pairing!

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    • Well, I have to say, Sue is amazing. I had a number of suggestions for this meal and so did she. She assured me that each was easy — but when you do a number of “easy” items — it all of a sudden gets harder! The bisque and the salad are both very filling and so satisfying that we really didn’t miss a “meat” course.

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