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the night of a billion bubbles

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If the bottles pictured above were mid-priced champagnes, together they’d be worth over a thousand dollars.   But these are bottles of cremant, roughly valued at $250.00.   Much more my speed.

Cremant is basically a sparkling wine made in the traditional “method champenoise” manner.   The only thing that separates a cremant from champagne is the origin of the grapes  (in order to qualify as champagne, the grapes must be from the Champagne region of France).   And the price, of course.

There are all sorts of sub-categories, like “Cremant de Loire, Jura, Bourgougne, Alscace and Limoux.   Some are called Vouvrays, some are called Blanquettes.   But if it says “method traditional” on the bottle, you know you’ve got the closest thing you can get to real champagne at a fraction of the price.

So I get to thinking:  there’s got to be one or two cremants that rival fine champagne.   A cremant that, in a pinch, I can pour into an empty Dom Perignon or Kristal bottle and pass it off as the real deal.

I must find them.

There are a lot of cremants out there and I have my work cut out for me.   I begin collecting bottles of cremants.  Once I have 20, I gather a qualified international panel of experts for the first annual Degustation des Cremants, Antibes 2014.

My distinguished international panel:

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Vlad Bertin Roudenko

  Vlad hails from Paris.   He is French with Russian ancestry (nobility, of course). Vlad’s life experiences have been limited to consuming only the finer things in life. His dream is to someday eat a bucket of chicken nuggets in boxers while watching crappy television.   He considers tasting faux champagne with the bourgeoisie a step in the right direction.

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Romain E. Lix

Elegance is Romain’s middle name. He was born in the country that REALLY brought us French fries and Hercule Poiroit (Belgium).   You know Romain possesses impeccable taste and refinement just by looking at him.   And if that’s not enough to prove it, he’s gay.

 

14896_10154303726590315_4817333573199544993_nJoc Even 

Joc owns and operates one of Antibes’ finest dining establishments, Miam Miam, 1 Rue Vauban, Antibes, Currently rated #7  out of 433 restaurants in Antibes on TripAdvisor.

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Angela Duley1604516_10104403875180714_1716919940_n  

Angela is an American from Texas.   I know what you’re thinking; how could an American from Texas (the state that brought us George Bush) have any discernment whatsoever?   To that, she answers, “shut up or I’ll blow your brains out!”   Just kidding.  Believe me, she’s a culinary explorer with very discerning tastes.   Proof?  She always orders what I do at restaurants.

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 Adam Duley

He is a brewer and connoisseur of fine beer.   I figured, beer/champagne, what’s the difference?   They’re both bubbly and get you drunk.   Clearly his input is invaluable. Also, he is the only one in attendance who knows how to open a champagne bottle.

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IMG_7127Michel Khoury

Originally from Lebanon, Michel is not a terrorist.   In fact, his background is Catholic, which means he knows his wine.  Very, very well.  On the culinary front, he can down a pound of Haribo gummy tarantulas in less than an hour.

 

 

1016647_10152926550305065_315480438_nVirginie Haziers

Virginie is French, thus her knowledge of wine-based beverages is a birthright..   She is beautiful, discerning with impossibly refined taste. Except in men.

 

 

 

WP_000727Tomislav Jonjic (the man, not the dog)

From the burgeoning Croatian food and wine destination, Istria, Tom knows his stuff.   He also claims to be an expert vinar, stručnjak za hranu, gurman, hortikulturista, renomirane hrana kritičar i srce kirurg.   We’ll just have to take his word for it.

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The tasting.  Notes, comments, scores:

Everyone gets  a list of the cremants in order to score (1-10, 10 is the best) and make comments anonymously.    My notes, the comments and scores follow.

Bottle #1:   Louis Bouillot Perle de Vigne Grand Reserve Brut Cremant de Bourgogne. 2011.

Comments:   “fruity but dry”, “really quite good”   “excellent, fruite” “buttery sparkling chardonnay” “This pleases me” “not bad for less than 10 Euro”

Scores:  from 8.5-10

Bottle #2:  Arthur Metz Brut Millesime 2011 Cremant d’Alsace

My notes:   This bottle exploded all over the place when Adam opened it. I didn’t shake it, I swear!.  We already hate this bottle

Comments:   “appley”   “bitter, flat,” “meh,”  The name sounds like an accountant:   Arthur Metz CPA.  flat and lifeless.    Less bubbly (said one kind soul).   “Sans ebulliance. Triste.”

Scores:  from 3-8 (8????? Wtf)

Bottle #3:  Patriarche Pere & Fils Brut Cremant de Bourgogne

Comments:  “Average”, ” “c’est normal” “comme ci comme ca,”   “I’ve already forgotten it” “You call this cremant?”, ” Not the worst thing I’ve ever tasted”.  “a bubbly glass of hope that dissolves into disappointment.”

Scores:   5-6.5

Bottle #4: Bouvet Saphir Saumer Brut Vintage 2011

My notes:  Vlad says he has crossed from tipsy to drunk.

Comments: “Hey, this is pretty good!”, “She, she, she!!!” , “deeeeeeeelish!”, “why yes, I’ll have another”, light with just the right balance of fruit and dry”

Scores:   7-8.5

Bottle #5: Veuve d’Argent Chardonay Brut

My notes: Talking about Lebanon and the Middle East.   Michel says some people only know Lebanon for hummus and terrorism,

Comments:   “deeeeelish!”   “Fraiche,”   “Dry with a nice hint of berry,” “subtle, refreshing, nice lively bubbles”, “I don’t even LIKE hummus. fuck them!”

Scores:   From 6-8.5

Bottle #6: La Cave de Reine Jeanne Brut Cremant de Jura

My notes:    Joc tells us that Jura is the region where Comte cheese comes from.

Comments:   “comte, wine>crap”, ” Puppies!!!!! ”   “Deeelish!”   What is this shit?”  “She, she she!”, “they should stick to cheese”, “tastes like loneliness.”

Scores:  2-5

Bottle #7:  Wolfberger Brut, Cremant d’Alsace

Comments:   “appley, average”   “mushymushymush,” “deeelish!”, “bitter. Like me,”    “promising dry appley start with a bitter aftertaste.”  ” Milk, coffee, toilet paper” and something in Arabic.

Scores: 5-33

Bottle #8:  Wllm Brut, Cremant d’Alsace.

My notes:   Michel! Pants!

There are only two comments on this one:   “huh?” and “deeeeeeeeelish!”

Scores:   yaaaaaaaaaah!-k

 

my latest sources of intense sensual pleasure

Ulti Jus d’orange, pamplemousse et frambois. 

Nectar of the gods, I tell ya!   Monoprix makes one that’s equally delish under the “daily monop” label.    And not terribly easy to find outside of big cities.   So far, I’ve only encountered it in Paris, Nice and Marseille.   It’s fresh and so good you want to savor it like a fine wine (or in my case, chocolate milk).   With every sip I take, I’m boggled by its deliciousness anew.   I think there must be something in it like crack.

A friend of mine tried it when she was visiting France and is showing signs of a burgeoning addiction.   Now when she calls me, her first question is “are you drinking that juice?” her voice thick with desire.     She’s now planning to retire here, in part, I believe for this juice.

Domaine Ramateulle 2010 Rose

I am by no means a wine connoisseur.   In fact, I never been a big wine fan.   Until I met rose (with an accent over the “e” — someday I’m going to have to figure out how to do a accent grave on my computer).   I always thought they were the white trash of wines, but boy was I wrong (well, either that, or I have white trash taste).   They’re dry but refreshing.   Light, but fuller bodied than white.   They’re jush desilicious.

So far, this is my favorite.   It’s hauntingly good.   I find myself thinking about it at various points during the day, looking forward to the moment my lips touch its cold, dewy glass.  And the best part is, it not only tastes ambrosial, it gets me drunk!    I never want to be without it ever again.

Sun dried tomato/anchovy tapenade

I can’t vouch for all of them, since every recipe is different (and they often have different names such as bagnattou, or croistillade.”   I’m in love with one at the Antibes Marche Provencal that has olives, sun dried tomatoes, basil, anchovies and god knows what else.  They call theirs “bagnattou d’angele”, which seems apt.    Everytime I eat it, I’m surprised at how utterly freaking good it is.   I find myself having it for dessert.   Who knew something without chocolate in it could be so addictive?

Rotisserie chicken from a truck

I have yet to eat a chicken as perfect as those from a truck in France.    I don’t know if it’s that the chickens are better, or fresher, or better prepared but dang, those are good chickens.   Perfectly seasoned, moist, flavorful.   I have sought tastier chickens all over the world and have yet to find one.   Particular kudos to the hot guy and his pretty wife at the Vidauban market (not pictured here).   The best of the best, IMHO.

Oreillettes de Languedoc

I happened upon these babies while waiting in line at Monoprix to pay for my Ulti jus d’oranges, pamplemousse et frambois.   They’re one layer of pastry drizzled with lemon juice and sugar.   I ate the entire box in an hour an am now planning to go to Nice first thing in the morning to stock up on more (I’d go right now, but it’s Sunday).   I guess they’re a specialty of the Languedoc, which is making me consider moving there.

Meil de lavande from La Maison du Miel in Vidauban

I always thought honey was honey.   And lavender honey just sounds like so much BS.   So when Gilli told me people travel from far and wide for this honey, I took it with a grain of salt (or pollen).

Well, over here they have honey degustations (the next gourmet preoccupation?) which I’m glad to take part in (hey, free food!).   After tasting honey from across the land, I’ve come to revise my thinking.   Honey is not honey, and this stuff is amazing!!!  I wish I could describe what it is exactly that makes it taste above and beyond every other honey–a subtle hint of spicy-ness?  The round, almost buttery depth of flavor?   Yes, it’s a miracle honey.   I think it probably cures illness and eliminates wrinkles when applied topically.

Produce

Holy shit!   So this is what these things are supposed to taste like.

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