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Allô, allô, Bonjour!

Voici a brand new Slurp! Full of summer sparkle and happiness. With a nostalgic tear for Italy, a smile for France, a happy egg and a park full of happy bees..

Allez, on y va!

In this Slurp!
Gort across borders
Gort back home
A happy egg
Happy Bees
Happy Bees - movie
Receipe: Beet root with goats' cheese

Gort across borders

It is with a bittersweet sense of nostalgia that we reminisce about our recent adventures in Italy, where we filmed our new TV show Gort across Borders. Far away from home, connected to the goings on in the vineyard only via WhatsApp messages.


I wistfully think back to the time we went squid fishing with tough fisherwoman and earth mother Maria, on a paradisiacal little islet of the coast of Naples.


How we tasted the wine of the sweetest winemaker in the world. With a long lingering finish of spiders and ants.


In the eternal city I learnt that it really is possible to live forever. Although in the town of Corleone, people tended to find that hard to believe.


In a vineyard at the foot of the Etna I savoured a ruby red wine with vintner Marco that he harvests right on the edge of the volcano.


I witnessed how two thousand year old olive trees got on their ass kicked because they carried fruit.


With winegrower Stefano I drank 'Primitivo', made from the same grapes that Jesus Christ himself has drank the wine from.


And in Puglia I narrowly escaped the purchase of a so called 'trullo'.

Gort back home

But however impressive my travels through 'the boot', I remained connected via an invisible umbilical cord to my own château.


Spring was sweet and beautiful.
'I'm just putting up some extra wires', winegrower's son Klaas had said as we were leaving for Italy. 'Such a sunny spring is bound to give a rich harvest.'


And indeed; when we said our goodbyes, the grapes had developed quite substantially. But I had barely turned my back or the vineyard was assailed by a last spasm of winter.


In the first two weeks of May, when the spring had long since kissed the vineyard awake, a chilly frost assaulted her and gave her an unexpected kiss of death. To drive out the frost the farmers in the area set alight bales of hay and barrels of oil.


But nothing worked. Temperatures rapidly dropped to far below freezing and the newly sprouted blossoms iced over until nothing moved in the vineyard. All that remained was a barren landscape of dead baby grapes.


Fortunately a vineyard is an organism with the strength of steel that, as long as you treat her kindly and organically, can look after herself very well.
When I returned for a brief visit at the end of May, the vines waved at me from afar: 'Bonjour, master! Welcome home! Don't worry about us, we're back on our feet!'
I was touched and asked a vine about her wellbeing.


The grape plant wouldn't stop her excited chatter. And in her enthusiasm to see me, she started to display some sexually transgressive behaviour; that I could only parry with a quick movement of my spade.


But hey, you can't stay angry with those babies. We shook hands and promised each other that we'd try and work hard for a glorious vintage 2017.


And see: the first tender bunches are yet again bathing in the sunshine.


As I write this, on the 30th of June, they are hard, sour berries. It's nearly impossible to imagine that in three months time they will have transformed into buxom purple bunches, soft as velvet and sweet as love itself.

A happy egg


When we, in an attempt to bring some light into the place, pushed open the attic of one of our many sheds, we suddenly found ourselves face to face with the offspring on one of our resident warblers.
One lonely vulnerable baby egg just lying there in what looked like a messily thrown together nest. We quickly closed the door and left nature to its own devices.


A few days later we found this under the shed window. Incredible how such ostensibly ordinary things can suddenly tug at the heartstrings.
The empty shell of this little bird egg for example. Especially that tiny round hole in the middle where a small, still soft beak, has pecked itself a way to freedom.


Upstairs in the shed, we carefully opened the trapdoor to the attic a notch. Et voilà, could we have some food please? And hurry up!

Happy Bees

Deep in the castle park a loud sonorous buzzing can be heard. Nothing to be worried about, we're used to it now. That relaxing humming noise is produced by the 64.586 castle bees that live there in their wine crate home. However, someone with an expert ear can hear that something is indeed the matter...


Attracted by the sensual scent of flowering grape blossoms the creatures have swarmed an masse to the vineyard, slobbered up as much deliciousness as they could from the flowers and have then returned laden with nectar to their abode. Now the honeycombs are full to the brim and we need to harvest.


In between the foliage the winegrower's son, dressed up as polar bear for the occasion, carefully blows a little tuft of smoke into the beehive.


The idea being that the castle-bees, high from the smoke, look on without alarm as they honey they so laboriously collected is robbed from under their noses.


They don't follow their script however. With a furious war-buzz they descend on the young lord and viciously sting the hell out of him, taking no notice of his polar bear suit whatsoever.


But a winegrower's son that's worth his salt is not put off by the mere trifle of a thousand bee stings, and so the dripping honeycombs are coming with him. Bees or no bees.


With a decisive gesture of a sharp knife the wax is sliced from the honeycombs et voila... La Tulipe Castle grape blossom honey.

filmpje Cliquez ici and watch the happy bees
(Cliquez on the image below)
  If the video stalls or is blurry, cliquez ici

What do we do with that honey?

Betteraves avec chèvre et miel

Beet root with goats' cheese, castle honey and roast pine nuts
(starter for two)

You'll need:
2 cooked beet roots
soft goat's cheese
2 table spoons of castle honey
a handful of pine nuts
4 sprigs of fresh thyme


1) Heat a splash of olive oil in a frying pan and throw in the pine nuts. Oddly enough this is the hardest part of the whole recipe.
The browning of the nuts will take too long for your liking, and you will want to get on with slicing the beets, check your WhatsApp or make a phone call.
The pine nuts, 'Pinoli' in Italian, keep a close eye on you. As soon as you turn your back on them they will turn from dainty little white seeds into inky black charred kernels, quick as a flash. And then you'll need to throw out those, rather expensive, little nuts and start from scratch.
So don't lose focus, stay with it and stir occasionally with a wooden spoon. When they have reached the colour you would like to have after a day at the beach, take them from the pan and leave to drain on a piece of kitchen paper.

2) Slice the beets 8mm thick and drape them artfully on a pleasant looking dish.


3) Slice the goats' cheese and attempt a mille-feuille-esque arrangement of alternating slices of beet and slices of goat. Add a dash of golden yellow honey to the snowy white cheese. Top off with the lightly toasted pinoli.
Now strip the fresh thyme of the twigs and sprinkle them innovatively over your composition.

In one of the images you can see a trio of pinoli that have unlawfully abandoned their goat. Do not let this happen!

Bon appétit.

Wine tip: well-chilled Chateau la Tulipe Bordeaux Sup.




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

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