Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Road trip with wine and cheese and culture and microbiology

June 20, 2012

So we started with rain. No big deal. We plod on, even if the mistiness sort of made it hard to appreciate the view on top of the hilly vine-growing region.

The rain more or less mellowed into a persistant drizzle by the time we reached Domaine Perraud's winery. The winery itself is new, a shiny silver oblong in the middle of clay and limestone and grapevines. The plot of land, I believe, is old, and has 30-year-old vines. We were given a tour around the vineyard by the lovely Sonia.
Sonia in full lecture-mode on vine-growing

Poppies and wildflowers. Not grapevines or anything, but still very pretty
Burgundy grape varieties are planted on hill slopes for good drainage, as we saw thanks to the rain.

Limestone. The Burgundy grape varieties, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, thrives on well-drained clay-limestone soil


More grapevines

Budding baby grapes

Grape leaves

Grapevine buds

More grapevines

Haha tourist

What caused this I wonder?

Little seedlings. They will be used to replace any dead or dying old vine.

The facility sports some modern equipment, like the grape-presser that uses an inflatable balloon within a cylindrical metal hull that will press the grapes. The balloon will not press the grape too hard that the seeds break and release undesired flavors into the juice-that-would-be-wine. The juice is then fermented in either large steel vats or oak barrels. The barrels will add to the flavor, but oakiness is not exactly desired in Burgundy wine. Sonia buys her oak barrels second-hand.
A modern grape-presser with an inflatable balloon to press the grapes.

Large steel fermentation vats.

Oak barrels
There was wine in the oak barrels, which we understandably got excited over. We were invited to hear the 'crackling' (release of carbon dioxide gas bubbles from alcoholic fermentation via yeast) in the barrels, which was as close to a spiritual wine experience as I can get.

The wines are tasted twice a day (if I remember correctly), one first thing in the morning and another one, later. Then again, I might be confused with cow or goat milking, but I'm pretty sure the wine is tasted more than once. The sediments in the barrels are also stirred to rile up the yeast and add to the flavor.

We then got to taste some of the fermenting wine, which were cool, fresh, and crisp.

There is wine in there

Sampling the wine. Note the great big wine pipette. 

This was heavenly
 The wine made way to our little Wednesday picnic, with an assortment of cold cuts and cheeses and Domaine Perraud wines.
Our picnic spread

 The truffle potato chips Sonia provided deserve a mention.

Tentative tasting of truffle chips

Notice how everyone seems very uncertain about these chips

Wei Jie was particularly excited. They were truffel potato chips, after all.

My bread with the knob at the end.

 We headed off to the Bourdon goat farm and goat-cheese fromagerie next, with a little intermission involving admiring lichen:

I mean, it is after all, microbiology

These are amazing
 The Bourdon Chevrerie or goat farm is a small little establishment that makes award-winning goat cheese and has a bed and breakfast in what used to be a pigeon house. It was a pigeon house.

Chevrerie Bourdon

Random flower shot, because the place was full of it and it was beautiful

'For the cheeses....'

A view of the place. The thick clouds makes it look rather dramatic

The Bourdon house

The view!


 We were brought to the farming museum by Mr and Mme Bourdon. The museum was a collection of old farming tools, which included a fully wooden plough and its descendant, a metal plough with heavy chains. These would have been driven by draught horses (draft horses is the American way to say it, apparently). I almost typed water buffalo, because that's what farmers in Malaysia use. The thought of the ploughs reminded me how much buffaloes were prized in Malaysia. Other interesting tools were the triangular goat collars - basically triangular wooden frames draped around a goat's neck to prevent it from moving through hedges - and a big red machine on wheels that I never found out did what.

The certificates for the award-winning cheeses
After a brief introduction on goat cheese-making by Mme Bourdon, we were invited to sample some of the goat cheeses of varying stages of affinage.
Our wine and cheese spread
I honestly love goat cheese. I have never had one in my life until that Sunday when we arrived in Cluny. I've only tasted goat milk a few days before leaving Malaysia. Among the different-aged cheeses, I cannot determine which I love the most; the fresh cheeses, left to age for about a day, were creamy and mild; the older ones, perhaps about three months, were harder and more flavorful; the oldest, six months at least, I think, had a bluish-grey growth of penicillium that made it more exciting, and were flaky. Though at a glance the moldy cheese would look as appetizing as an old shoe, it tasted amazing. When I was younger I had avoided blue cheese. It did not sit well with me, eating cheese with a fungus growing on it. A fungus. Then again, Malaysian cheese were those processed, neat slices, so it pays to go out and try new things. Moldy cheese (intentionally moldy) are perhaps now one of my favorite types of cheese.
I am very happy with the amount of cheese and wine I am consuming

We were too full from the picnic to eat more cheese, which was a shame because they were great.

We managed to get a glance of the cheese lab where the cheeses are made and aged.
The cheese lab

French signs. I need to work on my French reading skills.
We were also brought to the place where they kept and milked goats. Since I was first introduced to pungent goat cheese before the goats themselves, I was inclined to think that the goats smelled like goat cheese than the reverse.

The goats were very excited to see us too

The milking contraption

All farms would have flies. Flypaper comes in handy.
I do not really want to describe much about the head monk's Summer house, the château de Berzé, but here are some nice pictures of them. Although we could not take pictures of the wall paintings, they were impressive, and perhaps were the same kind that once adorned the Cluny abbey. A quick Google search of Bérze-la-Ville will yield some pictures.


It's nice to have castles made of stone. Old Malaysian palaces and structures were made of wood (save the Portugese A Famosa in Malacca) so they are long gone.

- Louisa Lee

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