Christmas greetings from the ‘animals outside’……..
We’re staying near St Emilion so had to go and have a look at this famous wine growing area. The wines from this small area of Bordeaux are really worth trying. They are expensive but when you try them you can taste why. Full bodied, earthy, spicy, chocolaty, plummy. We bought a few bottles for Christmas and as presents, not Grand Cru but from 2010 vintage. The taste….the smell…ummm
St Emilion is a beautiful town, set on a hill, with a backdrop of chateaux, limestone cliffs and vineyards as far as the eye can see. Most of the Grand Cru St Emilion wine is grown in the area immediately surrounding the town on the limestone cliffs.
What makes a good Bordeaux wine? It’s a mixture of grapes, terroir, climate, minerals in the soil… nobody can really say exactly what is the ‘Bordeaux factor’ that makes it superior to other wines. The grapes used in St Emilion wine are Cabernet Franc and Merlot.
If you want to eat something unusual and from the classical French menu you could try lampreys cooked in red wine for example, or confit de canard. The whole food experience is there from very haute cuisine at the top of the town to a range of inexpensive and sometimes quirky restaurants down the hillside.
If it’s a nice day and you don’t want to sit inside you could have a picnic from the bakery at the bottom of the hill, good variety of quiches (tomato and feta, quiche lorraine) and they also sell little bottles of wine.
There’s a marked walk around the edge of the vineyards taking in views of St Emilion and some of the grand Chateaux. The path starts to the left of the bakery….
Here are some descriptions of the St Emilion wine:
The Merlot in St. Emilion offers tasters lush, soft textures, richness and concentration with flavours of plums, blackberry, licorice, chocolate and black cherry. The Cabernet Franc adds aromatic qualities like flowers and spice as well as tannin and structure. St. Emilion can also be earthy, spicy and deliver notes of tobacco and truffle, as well as fresh cherries when it ages.
A very cold, crisp but sunny day, just before Christmas – I bought a christmas present here for someone, can’t say who in case they see this! Also bought a lovely painting of flowers (see previous post on Christmas portraits it’s on the mantlepiece) in an old frame and an reproduction of an old Paris clock. This is one of the biggest in the area and is usually on the week before Christmas as well as during the year, check the tourist information pages. The stalls stretch all along the streets in town, vin chaud is served along with hot chocolate. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monségur
Here are some of the animals we’re looking after on a farm near Bordeaux. When you’re looking after other people’s animals it’s a big responsibility. These are Nikki’s ‘inside animals’ – there are plenty more outdoors (more on them later). We thought we’d get them into the Christmas spirit (and keep in touch with Nikki at the same time) and they were quite happy to have a play! There is one missing – the very ancient black cat who is too old and fragile to move around. We just keep changing his bed everyday and he likes a good brush behind the ears.
When you’re housesitting you can do other things nearby. We went to an antique market (‘brocante’ in French) in a town called Monsegur, a lovely bastide town. I bought a picture with a hole in it (see mantlepiece) and a clock that doesn’t work – I was happy. Hope you don’t mind Nikki I’ve rearranged your mantlepiece – just to try them out. I’ll put everything back – promise!
A good website to find out more about housesitting and petsitting is http://www.trustedhousesitters.com
Stella came to help with the equines again – she’s brilliant, de-ticking everyone and cleaning their hooves. She showed us how to put on the horse collars which to the uninitiated seem a complicated mix of belts and buckles.
Bertie is the easiest one to do because he’s so small. We felt really pleased after we’d done it. Satisfied that the animals were more comfortable and no nasty stones lurking in their hooves that could make them lame.
To clean a hoof you start by tracing your hand down the inside leg of the animal and then lifting up the hoof and supporting it with one hand underneath, using the other to scrape around the ‘frog’ shape bit of the hoof. Thank you Ellie and Tony for your demonstration of this action before we came here – forever imprinted on my brain. Although they didn’t demonstrate the bottom biting bit!
The woods here are really varied: oak, beech, hazel, sweet chestnut with an understory of christmas box, holly and gorse. We go for a walk here each morning and evening with the dogs. Although you can’t really go at the weekend as there are too many hunters about. It has to be seen to be believed. We’ve got Nikki’s acres of rough pasture to wander around then.
Since we’re in Bordeaux it’s time to say a bit about the wine in this region. We sought out this independent wine grower as we’d sampled a bottle of her family’s wine in a local shop and really liked it. Jacqueline is holding the sweet white wine they make but we bought a case of their local red. Very full-bodied and fruity, just what you’d expect from a Bordeaux wine. The grapes, are picked and sorted by hand and are a mix of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. http://www.lesbertins.fr
This area the – Cotes de Duras – between Bordeaux and Bergerac is a mix of rolling countryside full of vineyards, plum orchards and sunflowers. Pity we’re not here to see all the blossom and fruits as it’s deepest winter and not a leaf to be seen. Lots and lots of independent wine growers – you could have a very nice holiday travelling around sampling all the wines. Plum trees and vines in winter on the Domaine de Bertin estate.