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Voilà, a brand-spanking new Slurp about a journey to the other side of the planet.

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French wine from Spain?
Slurping across borders

French wine from Spain?


Slurp-wines are juicy, uncomplicated, organic wines for your daily drinking pleasure. We don't produce them at our Château La Tulipe in Bordeaux but in vineyards that we rent in the Languedoc region of Southern France.


Lately we have been running into more and more difficulty in France when it comes to producing organic wine for a reasonable price, and that is why we decided to venture further South to Spain.


One of the advantages of Spain is that we are allowed to irrigate our grapes there (something that is prohibited in most French wine regions). And as well as that the sundrenched Spanish climate makes for a beautiful even ripening of the fruit, so we don't need to make any use of pesticides.



Recently we have started collaborating with a couple of young and enthusiastic winemakers (m/f) and have leased some vineyards in Manchuala, a high altitude wine region in the heart of Spain.

The weather conditions over there approximate the concept of perfection so closely that we, together with our Spanish colleagues, are making beautifully juicy 'cool climate' slurp wines over there now too.



When, during a lunch celebrating our collaborative success, we were joking with our Spanish manager Gonzales about "French wine from Spain", he pointed out that French wine isn't from France anyway. After all Europe was hit in the 19th century by the Phylloxera- a merciless parasite that destroyed pretty much every single vineyard in the continent with its razor sharp teeth (cliquez ici for the dirty details).

After this disaster new plantations all across Europe were grafted from American vines which had proved resistant to the plaque. There was only one wine producing country that was spared the destruction by the hungry killer louse. And that country still has the original French grape varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Carmenère, which were planted there five centuries ago by (Spanish) colonists.


Naturally such a cool country demands to be visited.
Père & Fils packed their bags and bought a ticket for the big silver bird.

Slurping across borders

Chile. When the Spaniards conquered and colonized this country five hundred years ago they wasted no time getting started with the production of their life blood: wine.
To their surprise they found that the grape vines they had brought over with them thrived in the Chilean soil and soon a lively winegrowing culture had sprouted.
European wine producers such as Miguel Torres, Baron de Rothschild and the Grand Marnier family bought vineyards in Chile and started making wine there.
In their footsteps followed many other French, Italian and American winemakers, which has led to the high rate of modernization across the Chilean wine industry over the last three decades.
The net result of all this is that not only has Chile become one of the biggest wine producers of South America, Chilean wines are also winning some of the highest ranking awards at international wine competitions.


A magical wine country, 12.000 miles down south, on the other side of the world, a source of really tasty wine. Surely we need to find out how they do it? And see whether we can perhaps learn something from them?

We started our explorations with Chile's fattest winemaker: Concha y Toro.
I had rang ahead: 'Buenas dias, I am a famous Dutch winegrower from France. Can we get a tour in your winecellars, please, yes?'
'Si si! No hay problema!'
We were most welcome. We were expected at 3pm sharp.


As it turned out however my thunderous introduction had not made quite the impression I had hoped for: we had to buy a ticket and join the back of the long line of tourists waiting for tour no. 4 of the seven guided tours they do every day, the one starting at 3pm.


Fortunately the fairy tale splendour of our hotel, combined with the ceviche of wild mountain salmon and a bottle of lightly chilled Chilean Pinot Noir (Yummmmm) formed a more than adequate balm for my bruised ego. We felt as if in Genesis 2:15.


So this is what a Chilean Chateau looks like.
Having learned from yesterday's experience I introduced myself here as 'President of Dutch Television' and that worked out much better. We received an expansive tour by chief-winemaker Felipe.


'How is it possible Felipe, that you guys are able to make such fresh white Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnays in this hot climate?'
'Most important is what is called a Cool Climate: warm during the day and cold at night.
Another factor is that we don't squeeze the grapes when juicing them, but lightly bruise them in a pneumatic grape press. Inside the press is a kind of balloon that is slowly being inflated and carefully presses the grapes against the edges.
And of course the vinification process; we use stainless steel tanks in which we literally keep the juice ice cold. Look at those slabs of ice on the outside of the tanks.'


Not only do Chilean grapes grow on French vines, after they have been picked they ripen in French barriques. And not half bad ones either!


'Voilà another success parameter of Chilean wine,' Felipe announces proudly. 'Lots!! Because volume reduces production cost.'
'How much is lots?'
Felipe smiles. 'Lots and lots. We produce millions of bottles a year.'


'Another factor in the mix when it comes to making decent wine is the right proportion of stainless steel and oak. Hygiene is important of course, that is why our employees have to wear slippers and hairnets in the cellar.'


After lunch (avocado, toasted corn bread and king crab) temperatures in this Cool Climate have risen to 33 degrees. While we take every care to stay in the shade, winemaker Esmaralda has us taste a number of different wines that awaken ever increasing levels of envy in us.


As 'President of European Television', to which I have now upgraded myself, you can afford to grab an occasional moment with a South-American beauty.


Wineries in Chile are industrial in scale and fully equipped for visiting groups, but Bodega number three of our bucket list, goes a little bit too far.


Despite the fact that I now have been promoted (by myself) to 'President of World Television', we are fobbed off with tourist guide Conchita.
After a half-hearted tour of the company, during which she is trying to make us believe that hundreds of thousands of bottles of Chilean champagne are bottled manually here, she nudges us into the Ikea-esque gift shop: 'Please buy as many of our choicest products as you can carry home. Hasta la vista and see you never again, señores!'


Quickly on to our next target: Bodegas Miguel Torres. We're burning with curiosity, as we want to find out how this Spanish wine-wizard manages to produce such a crisp and fresh Sauvignon Blanc in the Chilean heat. And in quantities large enough to flood the whole of Europe. How on earth does he pull it off?


Because we're not the only ones who would like to know the answers to these questions, we are stopped at the gate by an armed guard.


After my (very convincing if I may say so myself) introduction as 'President of Universal Televison' we are admitted. And everything has been taken care off, down to the finest details. The bicycles are waiting for us in the Centro de Visitas.


The French Cabernet Sauvigon is looking un-Frenchly beautiful, although the Chai a barriques could do with a quick haircut.


Here too the factor volume rules the roost. But without a hint of loss of enviable quality.


Does all Chilean wine taste this good? In the local supermercado we empty the wine isle and conduct an extensive taste test out on our hotel balcony. For safety reasons we try and swallow as little as possible and shower the flowering shrubs generously with ejected jets of wine. But apparently we still overdid it...


... For the next morning we awoke to a mild yet insistent throbbing of an internal frown. But the garden was looking decidedly more colourful.

Slurping and munching


Chile is a narrow strip of land that extends over a length 2656 miles and spends all day holding back the sea. It comes as no surprise therefore that it is all things aquatic that inhabit the plates accompanying our wine.


Because that sea is the 'Big Ocean', everything that is fished out of it has grotesque proportions. Folks here are fond of spooning up so-called 'monkey brain sea urchins'. They have no problem either gobbling up a dozen of these monstrously huge sea snails.
But hey, with a solid dose of perseverance and a bottle of fruity Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, these excessive ocean dwellers are palatable enough.


After these experiences we are hungry for more insights. Where does the Cool Climate stop? What are the opportunities for us to start making wine here? We got our things together and flew on to Patagonia, the real Cool Climate.


There we hobbled- in our pre-dented rental Nissan Patrol- along endless un-surfaced roads, through panoramic nature where gauchos, cows and woolly grazers are the only inhabitants.


When your car gives up the ghost in this scarcely populated area, there is only one alternative...


This is how one lives here.


And this is how you get to work.


And when you've had enough, you pack up and leave.


Because there is plenty of space. Fertile soil, fresh air and crystal clear water; everything of such an unspoiled expansiveness that a Dutchman cannot fathom.


We asked a passing gaucho for directions and he led us unfalteringly through the mountains to our shelter.


A lodge by a fast flowing river full of ice-cold glassy clear water. Ready to be scooped up by the pitcher full and drank. It seems miraculous to us, but the locals shrug their shoulders, it's normal to them.


Naturally one must fish. Something which led to precisely nothing - beside a whole lot of boyish banter. Of course those fish know better than to get caught by us.


We did however make eye contact with a deer that observed us from the riverbank with mild concern. 'All going well, gentlemen?'


Unfortunately we were then expected to engage in what is known as 'fly fishing'.


This comes with much uncontrolled swinging of rods and low-flying fish hooks. Wherefore our host Raphael saw the need to cover up in eye- and nostril-protective garments.


On the very last day of our trip we could raise a glass of Carmenère to the acquisition of a beautiful patch of Chilean wine soil (more on this later).


After a brief romance in the capital Santiago (much recommended if you are a fan of dirt, stink and noise) we, enriched with new inspiration and wine plans, set off on the journey home.


Merci beaucoup to the Royal Dutch/French airlines. We'll gladly forgive you that last bit of the trip by train.

New website

With lots of photos and movies. Take a look: www.tulipe.co.uk


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

Amazon presents: Surviving France, by the winegrower!



Surviving France : The Merry Adventures of a Dutch Winemaker In France

Twenty years ago, Ilja Gort bought a run down wine chateau near Bordeaux, which, over a period of ten years, he managed to transform into a highly successful winery.

Today his La Tulipe wines are winning numerous awards at international wine fairs and are for sale all over the world.

Surviving France is Gort's humorous account of his first years as a chateau owner and wine maker.
In his unique witty way he details the ins and outs of life at a French wine chateau.
He unearths well kept secrets about wine and reveals what it took to make his dream come true. Sometimes lighthearted, sometimes profound, but always sincere.
A delightful book, and a must-read for every francophile out there.

More than 250.000 copies sold in Holland!

Paperback and ebook (Kindle) now available at Amazon.co.uk

Kindle Edition £ 4.02
Paperback £ 7.46

Cliquez ici!

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