Many apologies for neglecting my blog for a while. Blame other deadlines, a week in southern Italy and a seasonal cold. I’ve also been to Paris for the Salon des Vignerons Indépendents. If you have time and stamina, this is a brilliant fair, with the whole of France under one roof, in an enormous exhibition hall at the Porte de Versailles. The entrance is opposite aisle K; look to your left and there are ten aisles stretching to A, and to your right they go as far as T, with 40 - 50 exhibitors in each aisle. So that makes about one thousand wine growers altogether. Every region is covered, and they are all family estates, with the name on the label behind the stand, so it is a great opportunity to discover new producers, and to see old friends. I concentrated mainly on Languedoc Roussillon, but did allow myself the odd detour into Provence and across the water to Corsica.
The other attraction is a foie gras baguette at lunchtime. Only at a French wine fair would you find such an indulgence. True, there is nowhere to sit down and eat it, apart from a quiet corner on the floor. But it tastes all the better for that, and soaks up all the tastes of the morning and prepares your palate for the afternoon’s onslaught.
It’s also a wonderful opportunity to observe the French wine drinking public, for this is not a trade fair. I encountered a man who absolutely refused to contemplate a screwcap; there were a couple of guys who were limbering up for what sounded like a very serious wine tasting competition. From the way they described it, it almost made the MW exams sound easy! Rather you than me, I said. Some refuse to countenance anything as obscure as the Languedoc; others are more broad-minded. The parisiens come with trolleys, rucksacks and even suitcases on wheels, with the express purpose of buying wine for Christmas and stocking up their cellars, or cupboards. Some go straight to their favourite growers of previous years; others are more adventurous. Considerable quantities of wine are sold over the five days. I usually attend the first two days, Thursday and Friday, when it is a little less crowded. Avoid the weekend, for then you will also be avoiding babies in pushchairs, and even the occasional dog! And by Monday the best growers have sold out.
So in the interests of re-energising my blog, I am proposing to cover some of my highlights and favourites over the next few days, before I head back to the Languedoc itself after Christmas.