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Allô, allô, Bonjour!

March was a turbulent month. The planting of 1000 new vines, a new wine (Slurp Blanc), a collapsed castle wall and a summer harvest that approaches ever more swiftly.

Allez, on y va...



In this Slurp!

The Provence for yourself

The Primeurs

Grapepickers wanted

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Hooray! C'est le Printemps!

Gluttonously slurping the bumblebees are hanging from the recently awoken prunus erectus. The Lilac has exploded into thousands of purple racemes.

The cherry tree looks like a goose down pillow factory had exploded in the vicinity, but also in the vineyards spring is rearing its head, the first vine leafs are shyly popping out of their buds. The festivities can commence!

Between the ranks of vines it's yellow with Dandelions and dragon flowers. But wine-monster Régis couldn't care less. Ruthlessly he works the ploughshares of the infernal machine into the brittle flowers.

Traumatized the wineboer shuffles forward alongside him. Thoughts about the meaning of life or our reason for being on this planet are driven from his mind.

The Provence for yourself

Our Slurpwines are not produced at our Château, but by a friendly wineboer in the Languedoc. Because of that we have to go towards the south quite often. At the beginning of March we went there once more. But the land where, during summer, you could walk from one end to the other on the roofs of the millions of caravans that conjugate there, had yet to awaken from its hibernation.


The houses in pastel shades are dreaming the days away in deserted streets. 'Ouvert le matin' promise closed shutters. The chances of those opening are however minute.

The plane trees under which we greedily enjoy our pastis during the summer, are reaching for the springtime sky with their leafless branches.   No children shrieking and splashing each other. The water of the village fountain splashes with nobody around to hear it.   In the battle for survival the Boulanger has put his baguettes on sale.

Then we happen upon Bar Hotel Restaurant L'Etape; a seemingly lifeless inn with just the right amount of French colourlessness.

The terrace is empty. There is a fly buzzing around. A flimsy chef looks saddened at his broken platter.

Plastic rules. It looks like it's been quite a while since this floral bringer of joy had seen the inside of a dishwasher.   Suddenly the wineboers eyes are wide open: behind the door beckons a half bared ladies leg!

But it turned out to be but a luring doll, and not the only one. The manager seems to have an eccentric taste when it comes to 'décoration intérieure'.

A hanged chicken wishes us 'Bienvenu'. In abundance, because even though it's March, the Christmas decorations are still hanging on the wall; at L'Etape it's always a Joyeuse Fete.

In the restaurant hangs an air of organized coziness created by the interior decorating-wise free thinker.

The children have their meals served in the vacuum cleaner closet. Another sign of refreshing out of the box thinking by this entrepreneur.   Then enters the cheffeuse. Hastily she wipes a few dishes off the menu. After which she turns to us and tells us, with an attempt at a smile, that we can have any of the remaining dishes inside or 'au terrasse'.

When we make our way outside again, the cheffeuse immediately directs us with decisive hand gestures in the opposite direction. 'Much too windy over there, so close to the road'. She precedes us down a dark passage.
'Voilà.' With pride she shows us the courtyard. 'Here you can have your lunch in peace. My husband is messing with his moped, but he's hard at work in the kitchen now.

'On the left you can relax in the Chaises Tropéziennes,' she points, 'or on the long chairs. You have complete privacy here, because we have isolated the courtyard entirely from the restaurant area.'

Suddenly we hear a loud flapping noise above our heads. A swarm of pigeons flies right over our heads and lands just outside the courtyard.

The cheffeuse turns to one of her six cats. 'Tigre, viens!' But Tigre had already spotted them, carefully he sneaks towards the pigeons.
'We feed the pigeons left over fries,' she states. 'And Tigre grabs them and brings them neatly to the kitchen. But the pigeons for todays lunch are already finished. Would you like something to drink while you decide?'

She moves towards a fridge, which is blocked by a few jerrycans of Vin du Patron.   Politely we decline the offer. A quick visit to the 'messieurs' and then we have our lunch inside after all.

In the middle of the 'salle à manger' there is some sort of spaceship softly humming.   At our entering the chef and his assistant remove the Plexiglas dome and reveal, not an astronaut, but the 'Buffet des entrées'.

Without taking note of the protesting gesture of the only other patron, they place the dome with an elegant move right over his laptop, cutting him off completely from the outside world.

The buffet contains the well known routier-salads with celery, carrots, eggs, cucumber, tomatoes, olives and couscous accompanied by some assorted meats. The rosé from the local coopérative is drinkable and the bread is freshly made (and on sale) but which mains remain?

Tripes, Boudin en Andouillette. However much we may love La France, we can't bare the thought of having to consume this offal. The smell alone... joyously we make use of the escape capsule: Omelette aux herbes. Frites are seen as vegetables in France, so technically speaking we're having a 'healthy lunch'. Moreover, the chef seems to have poured all his creativity for the week in the decoration of these to dishes with a composition of kiwi and tomato.

The offered dessert we almost manage to escape by saying we left the kettle on.
But the cheffeuse wouldn't have it. 'Mais non!' confidently she shoves a heavy piece of cream-cake in my hands. 'Voici! Une Tarte Ballerina! 'Tres 'ealthy! Pour la route!'
'But we've already eaten so much, if we eat anymore we'd have to stay the night,' we jokingly say.
  'That's possible,' she answers. 'We also have a hotel, with very nice rooms. Jean-Claude will show them to you.'
Before we've recovered from that scary sentence we're already in the hall with Jean-Claude were we are warned not to smoke by a headless doll.

We follow Jean-Claude up a dirty staircase. Upstairs he opens the door of room nr. 1 without knocking.

Out of the half-open door bellows a disgusting smell of sweaty feet and cigarettes. We hear coughing.
'Please, have a look.' Jean-Claude invites us in. 'Michel doesn't mind, right Michel?'
In way of an answer we hear moist sounding death rattle. We decided that we could travel on even if we did eat that piece of pie-shaped lead.
But just before we touched the first step of the staircase Jean-Claude asks us to at least have a look at room nr. 2, because that one's empty. He unlocks the door. 'Completely redecorated,' he says proudly. 'With thick curtains that keep out the sun... for the siesta.'

Voilà, an adresse. The computer also had trouble with converting this eccentric establishment into words and described it as question mark-question mark-Hotel-Restaurant-L'Etape.   For €45 you'll king (who had been victim of a coup) and for €62 you'll sleep like a king with "free" Internet and half board. To pay with your credit card you will have to break to barrier of €5. Bon voyage, bon appetit en bonne nuit!

Summer Harvest July 2012: grapepickers wanted!
For the Vendanges Vertes, the summer harvest where we pick some of the surplus grapes and leafs.
Fired up by the success of the summer harvest 2010 and 2011, we're going to work again with a Dutch pickers crew. But this year we invite English pickers to join us.

For week 28, from July 8th till July 14th, we need 25 hard workers to give us a hand.

Cliquez ici to sign up.

The Primeurs
Charged with a sinister type of tension, dark clouds are massing together over Bordeaux. Every year in the first week of April an astonishing event takes place here. Unique in France, and unique in the world: for crazy days all about wine, A.K.A: the 'Primeurs'.

At various classy locations young Grand Cru-wines, which still have to mature in the barrel for at least a year, are offered to potential buyers for their approval. Wine Bobos and wine journalists from all over the world gather in the reception halls of chateaus; The Chinese, Americans, Japanese, Russians and all the other rich nations new and old are elbowing their way through the uneven streets of Saint-Émilion.

Both buyer and seller can go crazy with the tension that is created by all that is available for purchase.
One thing though: the prices aren't known yet. That means that reckless buyers will order cases full of Lafitte or Latour without knowing the price, because the wineboers wait with setting their price until the journalists have given their verdict, glorious or horrific. Not until (the beginning of May) the Darth Vader of wine, Mr. Robert Parker, has published his tasting notes do the wineboers come out of their shells and price their wine.

At Château La Couspade (Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Classé) it's a little quieter than at Château Lagrange (3ième Grand Cru Classé). With our winemaker Michel Rolland we taste some of the homemade beverages.

The life of a wineboer is hard: drinking the best wines all day long and not being allowed to swallow even a single drop. The connecting factor this year is that the wines have a lot of fruit and round tannins. According to Michel this millésime will be ready to drink sooner than the wines from 2009 or 2010. That means that you'll not be able to keep them as long and that there will be less interest from the investors' side (there are whispers going around saying that this will mean lower prices).

At the end of the morning we are invited for a diner in a party-tent in between the vineyards. With a view of plough horses who also get to have a lunch break, we have at our Salades du thon aux sauce d'écrevisses fines.

The strawberry pie, ice cream and the in Bordeaux unavoidable Cannelé's we managed to leave on their respective platters.

... Anyone who dares call themselves a wineboer has to enjoy a piece of cheese after the meal accompanied by a good glass of wine...


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