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Allô, allô, Bonjour!

With a certain irregular frequency we drive back and forth between Holland and France. Free as birds in the wind. Living the dream.
And yet there is one particular matter that manages to throw a spanner in the works of our happiness every time. In a moment, after you have read what this matter entails, you will say: "Come on, stop making a fuss over nothing!' But you will be very wrong. For it concerns an irreconcilable cultural difference that affects us all. A flaming sword of contention, the point of which is aimed straight at us!

Allez, on y va!

In this Slurp!
What drives humankind
What is coffee?
Dutch petrol station coffee
French petrol station coffee
Cop coffee
And all of a sudden you're cheating
Techno info about coffee
What does a wineboer do all week?


What drives humankind

For centuries the great philosophers have bashed their heads against the wall of this question: what is the driving force behind the capricious acts of man? Well, I've figured it out.

It is not greed, not will to power, nor is it lechery and libido. Even wine has to settle for second place.
No, humankind thirsts after coffee.


What is coffee?

Coffee is the opposite of wine. Both drinks are harvested from berries that require much care and tenderness. Just like there are different species of grape, Merlot, Cabernet etc., there are different species of coffee like Arabica and Robusta. Just like wine, coffee is often a blend of those different varieties.
Only the moment of consumption is different: you start the day with coffee, end it with wine. Or, as they say in Italy: 'Caffè da energia, il vino porta pace.' Coffee energizes, wine calms you down.


If you have a grape vine free rein, it would grow meters tall. The same goes for a coffee plant.
So to ease the picking process, both grape and coffee bushes are kept low.


Coffee plants grow coffee-grapes; similar to wine-grapes endowed with sweet juicy flesh. Every coffee grape contains two seeds: the coffee beans to be.


Both coffee grapes and wine grapes are subjected to a selection process after the harvest.


Finally the coffee beans are roasted. The sugars they contain caramelize in the process and they get coffee smell and coffee taste.

But coffee, she comes in many guises

Dutch petrol station coffee


Before crossing the border we supply ourselves one last time with Dutch petrol station coffee, in this country generally of a sufferable standard. For safety reasons we each take an extra cupful with us, because what lies beyond is coffee-wise, to quote Tacitus, 'wild and rough; the life and landscape bleak'.

French petrol station coffee


Arsenic, the urine of a diseased camel, Agent Orange, just a few of the associations that come to mind after taking a sip of coffee procured from a French petrol station. What is more, two cups of this melancholy discharge- which not even the world's greatest optimist would be able to identify as coffee- will easily drain your bank balance by about 5 quid. But, as David Lynch says: 'Bad coffee is better than no coffee'. We knew it would lead to tears and yet we kept on trying. Time after time, year after year.


Alongside the road between France and Holland you will find an entire Panama Canal of all the abhorrent muck that we have been forcefully ejecting through our car window, over our years of commuting back and forth. The amount of money we have wasted on all this discarded coffee? Well, we could easily have opened a chain of coffee shops had we saved it. We could have been lying under a palm tree right now, stoned off our heads.


So did we let ourselves be led willingly to the slaughterhouse all those years?
Oh no! We put on all manner of counter measures. Autonomy! We departed well prepared with thermos flasks full of lukewarm homebrew, when that didn't work out we brought a Mount Everest survivor mini percolator, after that an uber-hip espresso- hand pump (which had the wineboer's lover frequenting a physiotherapist for months on end with RSI). Really, we tried and tested the most draconian solutions, but nothing seemed to work.


But the affliction gets worse. This coffee-genocide is not just confined to petrol stations. The French are on the whole utterly incapable of making coffee. Even when they stuff their cafe's full of rustic looking sackcloth bags, coffee roasting machines and call it, just to be sure, 'Au Bon Nègre', they just don't have a clue. Nowhere in the entire country of France will you find a decent cup of cappuccino.


I sometimes think they do it out of spite. Deliberately plonking those tasteless cups of hot battery acid in front of you. It's that typical stubborn obstinate nature of the French that characterizes them and with which they manage to turn the entire rest of the world against them with great gusto (something that we actually think is kind of endearing). Even in France's most prestigious establishments, where you'll be treated to a complete coffee circus-show for the price of an average day's wage, the quality never rises above the level of gutter drainage.

Cop coffee


Breakfast in French hotels is generally accompanied by cop-coffee. To call up a vivid flavour-impression, bring to mind the following scene: A scruffy police commissioner in a stained vest and trouser braces. In his dreary office a two litre pot of coffee is being kept warm all day on the radiator.


While he paces around the room, he pours himself the occasional absentminded cup and empties it without tasting. A knock on the door, a colleague walks in and refuses the cup offered to him with a mixture of repulsion and affable irony. That is cop coffee: just one sip and you'll turn into your own mug shot.


Do not ever order a cappuccino in France. The French have given the concept, as they are prone to do with almost everything, a totally absurd and uniquely idiosyncratic new interpretation. When you order a cappuccino in France you will be penalized with a cup of coffee that is buried under a towering turd of whipped cream.


Be careful, because when this colossus breaks through the surface, it will sink down to the bottom and you'll be sipping a packet of butter. Swiftly heave it out and slap onto the saucer. But watch out because the wobbly turd could easily capsize and leave an indelible Schettino mark on your clothing.


Cocoa powder is a strong argument for the existence of God. Why other than to punish humanity would He have instilled the habit to poison coffee with this poo-coloured powder? Coffee murder of the first degree.

And all of a sudden you're cheating


Sometimes you just can't take it anymore. Sometimes you just need to empty your cup. So when a novel needs completing, an occasion that calls for industrial amounts of coffee, we fire up the engine of the wineboer-vehicle, abandon Frenchman country and set out for the cradle of caffé.


Whether it arrives in a paper cup, or outside on a terrace escorted by a delicious croissant, right at the very first sip of Italian cappuccino a symphony erupts....

Cliquez ici for techno info about coffee.

What does a wineboer do all week?


Well, drinking wine obviously. Oenologues Bruno and Paul and myself are constantly inspecting all our wines. And not only our own but also the wine of our peers and competitors. We continuously ask ourselves the question: 'Are we on the right track? Are we doing okay? How can we save money? What could we do better?' Not infrequently we find ourselves at ten in the morning, barely holding in the coffee and croissant, sipping on our seventh glass of wine. Hey, someone's gotta do it...


Our wine is well received. Not just by ourselves, but also by the resident castle badger. In order to guarantee his own personal unlimited supplies, he decided to put down roots directly underneath the source.


The other day the wineboer felt ready to do some work and embark on the completion of his latest novel. But fortunately we are saved by our high-speed castle internet, which provides the perfect excuse to throw in the towel.


Recording for a new season of Wine according to Gort has started. The wineboer-mobile is doing overtime and needs much care and tenderness. While the lord of the manor calmly supervises how professionals more accomplished than himself construct a shady shelter for his fleet of vehicles, an aggressive honking resounds from the driveway.


It turns out to be mail-woman Marie-France with a special delivery. Yessssss! We won gold! Château la Tulipe 2011. At the Vinalies, the most important wine contest of France, the Concours des Oenologues. Plus no less than four other victories!



Before this news has had a chance to settle into the mono-brain of the lord of the castle, reports arrive that his Slurp wines too have been rewarded with gold and silver medals in London, Brussels and Bordeaux. That makes a total of ten big fat medals.
This proves too much for the simple agriculturalist and he has no choice but to surrender himself to the scourge of his earthly desires. The wineboer's lover doesn't remain idle and throws herself into the composition of a prize winning mackerel.
Cliquez ici for the recipe.


However, all those medals and all that international recognition have caused an urgent shortage of our chateau wine. 843 Dutch supermarkets are on the phone every day wondering when our famous swill is arriving.


The new vignoble we planted two years ago is looking potent, but we have two wait at least another TWO years before we might be able to harvest any form of drinkable wine from it. Nevertheless a spontaneous decision is made to promptly prepare a new piece of vineyard.


'Let's get rid of those few pebbles', the wineboer muses optimistically as he grabs his rake from the coat rack. But alas, our easygoing slacker is sorely disappointed. For his Chateau is located in an unusual location. As if the primal gods knew exactly what kind of fellow would inhabit that spot 250 million years later they, during earth's creation, took care to move all the rocks of the whole planet to that single spot.


While of course he didn't do shit and merely took a managerial interest while the tough guys in bulldozers ploughed his vineyard free of rocks, the wineboer takes a moment to pose beside the impressive mountain of stones.

  Allez, Wholehearted Santé!



You can find Château la Tulipe de la Garde Bordeaux Superieur exclusively at Sainsbury's supermarkets.
Cliquez ici for more information.

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