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Allô, allô, Bonjour!

In this life-threatening issue of Slurp! we are bombarded, seduced and exposed to dangerous criminals. For many of you perhaps an everyday occurrence, but how about a simple wineboer? Can he handle such a torture test?!

Allons y!


In this Slurp!

Bombed By Boules Balls

Le Piano à Bretelles


A free Sunday afternoon in the French countryside


Bombed By Boules Balls


It was hot. If you wanted a cup of cappuccino or a glass of water, you would have to make sure that for those few feet between the leafy plane tree and the kitchen door, you kept to the shade. 40 degrees the thermometer showed occasionally. We enjoyed it, but found it did impede decisive action. We became sluggish and inert. Like sloths in a marzipan tree.


Our resident castle rabbits seemed wholly unbothered by these desert-like temperatures. Until one day, it was late afternoon on the 12th of July, they came rushing out of the park to snuggle up together underneath our writing desk. Their breathing was fast and in shallow puffs.


Soon after the sky began to darken. High above our heads, inky black clouds gathered that obscured the firmament. Followed by this was a thunder clap as if Donar had crashed his heavenly cart into a roadside bomb. When this hellish explosion subsided, an ominous silence filled the air.


Suddenly the horizon lit up and the city of Bordeaux was targeted by a series of lightning flashes. This primeval violence was followed by a torrential downpour that sounded like it would go on forever. The rain beat down for hours on end. Just when we were about to set about building an ark, the water subsided.


In Bordeaux town cars had been turned into submarines. Wine cellars transformed into swimming pools.


Our neighbours in Pomerol could relax: they didn't need to worry about watering their grapes this summer.


Because Château la Tulipe de la Garde is located at the top of a hill, we were high and dry and free from water damages. That is, apart from the fact that the next morning we discovered the soil of our most precious vineyard had been washed away. Our treasured terroir right there on the public road!


But any wineboer worth his salt just grabs a shovel and voilà: three days later and the soil was back where it belonged; back in the vineyard.


When a few days later our castle rabbits sought cover under the table once more, we froze in terror.


And rightly so. Less than half an hour later a hailstorm broke out. It only lasted twenty minutes but lashed the earth with boule-sized balls made of ice.


You can take out insurance against hailstones. The premium you pay depends on the value of your wine. If you want to take out a hail-insurance for a Grand Cru, it will cost you a couple of hundred thousand per year. Small-scale wine producers like ourselves have to cough up between ten- and twenty thousand euro per year. But because we'd rather invest in the quality of our wines than in the insurance company, we had cancelled our hailstone insurance five years ago. Perhaps this decision had somehow reached the very highest realms because during this abhorrent hailstorm the hand of God kept us safe.


The Entre-Deux-Mers, half an hour from here, on the other hand was heavily struck. We called our colleague, Jean- Francois. "It's terrible. The grapes that I have nurtured the entire year, I saw them destroyed before my very eyes. A catastrophe. Leaves ripped to shreds, the ground scattered with ripped off bunches. A hailstorm like this means a loss for not just one but two years. Because the shoots that you need for the next year have been broken off as well. Some vines are irreparably damaged. Of course you can plant new ones. But it will take four years before they produce their first wine and ten years before a grapevine begins to reflect the typical character of your vineyard."


The vineyard doctor diagnosed most of our grapes to have come off unscathed. A couple of our vineyards have been lightly hit and have suffered a loss of harvestable crop of a maximum of ten percent. We can live with that, we think.


So at the moment this Slurp! slides into your mailbox, the Tulipe grapes are already back in the pink of health and being pampered on a daily basis. The sky over our Château is once more a spotless blue and free of Boules balls.

Le Piano à Bretelles



Luckily the air brings us more than just Jeu des Boules balls. An accordion for example, produces sound when you squeeze the air in the instrument with its bellows. If you hold down a key at the same time, that air flows across the little strips of brass in the body and voilà: Musique!

No other musical instrument can touch me quite as much. This is because French accordions use registers of three reeds per tone. They each differ slightly in pitch which causes the tone to float. That is the heartrendingly beautiful sound, that deeply melancholy timbre so that even when you hear just a single tone, you immediately find yourself walking past an old fisher's port, or on a windswept platform waving goodbye to a long lost love, or sitting around the campfire eating gipsy goulash with forty bandits.


In France, accordion music maintains its unflagging popularity. It is the pillar of the beloved 'Thé dansants' (which, taking into account the consumption pattern of the participants should more realistically be renamed 'Vin dansants'). With a little bit of effort you can even make it to world champion, like Félicien Brut.


Any true wineboer therefore would most certainly not eschew an international festival of female accordion players.


It's still early, but the first accordionophilic diehards already jostle about at the entrance. The festival organizers are well prepared and have secured some specialist equipment in case an over-enthusiastic head-banger needs to be vibrated back to life.


The prescribed dress code is 'Tenue de village'. Thankfully, the lord of the manor need not feel embarrassed about his dishevelled appearance.


When he discerns the entrance fee, the wineboer recoils with chagrin. But, enchanted by the alluring sounds of accordion music, his heart and wallet soften and he enters the hall of festivities.


Once inside, our grape champion, eager for a dance, is instantly knocked off his feet by a charging speed devil.


But thanks to an unflappable supporting act, 'Orchestre Alain Michel' (Tel. 0553819358), he manages to quickly shake off the shock.


Unfortunately, in spite of the many daily hours the wineboer spends in front of the mirror, he is shunned as a dance partner.


The ladies opt for a 'paso solo' rather than let themselves be snagged by the avidly flirting wine whisperer.


The disappointed grape shark loiters for another fifteen minutes acting the wallflower. Then he decides not to wait for the kickoff of the 'Festival International Feminin d'Accordéons'. He exits the hall carrying a consolatory CD in his pocket and a shattered illusion in his heart.


Once outside he is met with the first and only female attention of the day. 'Voulez-vous danser avec moi?' tempts former Salon de Thé-dancing champion, Manuala. Delighted the wineboer rushes back in with his acquisition. Victory at last!

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A free Sunday afternoon in the French countryside


If you want to find the river, you must go where others turn back. Follow this ancient Chinese proverb and keep driving for another mile when you come to the sign 'End of river'. Then take a right at the semi concealed entrance to a narrow country lane. Muddle on until the power lines disappear and the internet connection fails.


The satnav feels that her umbilical cord is being cut. Frightened she summons you to turn back immediately. And sure enough, a little further on you'll pass menacing signs: "Dead end". "Private property". "No entry". Ignore these and keep going.


A while later you'll be surprised to find a couple of erratically parked cars by the roadside. Around the bend the outline of the Restaurant with no name comes into view.


The restaurant is not much more than an extensive shack by the side of the Dordogne. It's warm and quiet. Alongside the lush green river banks the sandy water slowly makes its way to the sea. A couple of little boats bob anchored to the ramshackle jetty. Every once in a while a little shrimp boat sails silently by.


The surroundings are idyllic and, as far as the menu goes, nothing much seems astray either. However the wineboer, who has close evolutionary links with the animals of the field, instinctively knows something is amiss. As he walks to his chosen seat, the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. Ill at ease he sits down at the table. His back against the wall, all senses alert. What is going on here?


Before the agriculturalist gets a chance to organize his thoughts, a shadow falls across the table. A colossal figure looms over him and, in a brusque tone of voice, commands him to place his order.


But the rosé is perfectly chilled, nice and juicy and comes from a local wineboer.


The 'Salade Basquaise' too, is richly endowed. The wineboer loosens the belt of his suspicion a notch. Could it be that everything is all right?


This dish is called 'friture'. It consists of a plate of tiny crispy deep fried fish that should be eaten whole. Eyes, teeth, brains, bones and all.


The wineboer's lover struggles somewhat with this elementary form of fish consumption. Consequently she puts off the moment of ingestion a little. This avoidant behaviour leads to all sorts of quasi-whimsical creative eructations.


When the main course is served, the wineboer suddenly jolts up as if stung by a wasp. Finally he has got it figured out. Everyone here has their eyes hidden by a black bar!


At that very moment a tremor ripples through the visiting public. Heads are bent chastely over plates, glances explicitly cast away from the entrance. Reptiles scurry to safety. A whispered 'The Eel!' can be heard. 'The Eel's just come in!'


A mismatched company takes a seat at a table. The gent at the top of the table we identify as Jaques Rescine, AKA The Eel. An oft-convicted criminal, renowned for his many bold jailbreaks.
'That man wears his watch in a funny place, doesn't he?' the wide-eyed wineboer lover coos.
'No honey,' the wineboer mutters. 'That's not a watch.'


No internet, no prying eyes. A free-haven. Impossible to track down for the outside world. Ah, the food is good here. The sweet taste of freedom.
'Glorious', thinks the Eel, 'a free Sunday afternoon in the French countryside...'



Want to go there yourself? You'll have to search. 'On the bank' and 'The river', are the only scant instructions to help you find the Restaurant With No Name.
When you ring the number listed, you'll hear a message telling you that this number is no longer in service.
But if you do manage to find this restaurant, either way you'll have a fantastic experience, whether you'll be joined by The Eel or not.

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  Allez, Wholeharted Santé et bonnes vacances!

New wine


Château la Tulipe de la Garde 2009
available at Sainsbury's Supermarkets, UK

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