Âllo, âllo, Bonjour!

Voici a hand full of dusty news from sunny France. The heat lies over the château and her vineyards like a fat, slow mother-sow over her little piggy’s It’s dusty and quiet. But unseen there is a lot going on…

Daily life

When the sixth strike of the cracked tower bell from the wine village Saint-Romain-La-Virvée disappears over the vignobles, the morning sun casts a copperish light over the young grapes.


First there is nothing but a bunch of sour green berries on a branch. Time passes, they grow, they ripen under the sun they become as sweet as honey and they are called grapes. We harvest the, we drain the juice from them, and put that in barrels. It ferments itself and becomes wine.

Nothing is easier. It’ s a miracle all the same.

But we’re not that far yet. In the coming two weeks there will be arriving no less than 50 enthusiastic Dutch harvesters for the ‘vendanges vertes’: the pre-harvest where the surplus of grapes it cut off. Then the oasis of castle-calm will explode into a booming centre of extreme activity.

Of checking the vineyard the winemaker would, poetically touched by the sight of the young grapes, want nothing more than sit down with a freshly made cup of Clooney-coffee and peacefully continue working on his new book.  

But no, someone has to pay attention. The Tulipe Premium for restaurants has become an unexpected success. We have to plan a new bottling. That means new capsules, new labels, bottles and screw caps. Manager Pail, wine-manager Bence and Michel Rollands Bruno LaCoste are having a crisis consultation at the outside table.

The work is well divided: while the maître de chai and basically the man for every job Phillipe puts the new tiling in the harvesters-room…  

… the winemaker himself is also hard at work. The life of a winemaker is very hard and knows no mercy: after we’ve tasted the new Tulipe Premium wines we also have to slurp the Tulipe for Albert Heijn (a Dutch supermarketchain).

Because of all this serious adult business it seems like the flower of poetry has suffered an early death…   … but with all the important decisions made, the wineboer was able to sneak one or two new sentences into his ever growing manuscript

The New Wine Survival Guide
That furtive typing isn’t for The new Wine Survival Guide by the way, because that one was handed to the publisher Bruna, on time, last month meaning that it should in stores next month if everything goes to plan.

This week the first copy was handed to the overjoyed Wladimir Poetin and his pet bear Einstein, both cognoscente of good wines and gifted wine-survival practitioner.

A tempting body

Blaye, a dreamy town on the bank of the Gironde at a distance of about 20km from our château, is described by the villagers here as 'a strange corner of the earth; a shadowy town at the end of that dead-end road that end in the middle of a swamp, populated by sullen folk who’s main occupation seems to be to procreate amongst each other.’

On the way there we pass, around lunchtime, restaurant 'La Reigniere'. According to local legend a 'Reigniere' is a seductive woman who, from her hiding place near the coast, tempts passing sailors with her voluptuous body in order to catch them in her nets. With us she succeeded, because we stopped, parked the car and made our way to the entrance.

The sign said that the restaurant was 'ouvert' and that the menu would only set us back by 10 euros. The amount of choice was invidious: on the cozy terrace at the front all the tables were still free…  

But also at the rear terrace there were still a few remaining tables. Because of the summer heat we decided it would be best to consume our lunch inside in the refreshing cold of the air conditioning.


Inside it wasn’t crowded. We were welcomed by a talking television and a dead plant.

This gave us time to have a think on what to take as apéritief. Would it be a nicely-aged Looza from the illustrious year 1982, a refreshing Schweppes from 1989 or should we opt for a slightly more recent vintage such as the fruity Gini from 1993?

We pulled up some chairs, sat down and waited for the things that were going to come.
After a moment or two we heard the rustling of clothes and the shuffling of feet behind is …



Then appeared La Reigniere, in her hands the foremost necessities to sustain French life. She welcomed us heartily and swiftly the seductive women, who from her hiding place near the coast temps passing sailors with her luscious body, served the first course from the menu.


Soupe de poulet aux legumes turned out to be an eatable concoction made from nondescript vegetables along with a hint of something that could be chicken.
We could eat as much of it as we wanted.

After the soup La Reigniere cleared the table and started to fill it, while we became more surprised by the minute, with plates of ham, sausage, pâté, tomato salad with boiled eggs, a Piedmontaise salad, juicy melon slices and a plate of fresh Vongole.   Slightly irritated that we drank so slowly, La Reigniere placed a second bottle Côte de Blaye on the table. 'This wine is home made! Very good!’ she tried to encourage us before shuffling back towards the kitchen.
Klaas Tripe
‘Try everything and keep that which is good.’
Keeping this in mind we ordered Tripes Meunière which spread such an authentic smell that my winemakers hat slid of my head. My son Klaas, who wisely had opted for the Steak Frites, managed to save it form falling in to the bowl of Tripes with a grab faster than the eye could see.

We generously passed on the dessert, the Plateau de Fromages en the coffee (everything included I the menu), so that La Reigniere could calmly start with the administrative part of our gastronomic experience.


A real 30 euro for three people. Free water, free bread, free wine and a free smile which is a wide as the Gironde.

Restaurant La Reigniere, Berson, 33390 Blaye. Téléphone +33 57 64 35 36

The new butcher
slagerij leeg  

The wife of the butcher in our village, madame Dognon, jokingly called madame Cochon, lives up to her name. It’s a bearish woman with a head like a pig’s and small blue eyes, which are always ready to find the most leathery pork chop with the most tendons for an unsuspecting customer.
It’s therefore not the case that customers are crowding into her Boucherie to spend their recently obtained salary checks.

Lluckily last week was marked by the arrival of a new butchers family in our village. It looks like they’re anxious to get started!


In the interest of safety however we would advise you to go to the fishmonger.
Buy two seabreams. Get them cleaned. Fill them with herbs from the garden. Put them on the barby.
Enjoy eating them and dink a nice wine to accompany them.


La Tulipe Premium:
wholehearted Santé et à la prochaine!


The new Winesurvivialguide.
Total revised edition,
with new sights and new wines.
€ 10,-.