I’m forever bemoaning the partisan nature of the French psyche, particularly when it comes to regional cuisine. You’ll struggle to locate a raclette outside of the Haute Savoie, cassoulet rarely features on a menu far from the Gers and the delicious Confit de Canard that we take for granted here is absent from the menus of Brittany. It’s fine for the tourists who immerse themselves in duck fat for a week then move on but it’s shame that the best of all regional cuisine doesn’t travel just a little further. The same problem extends to the wine shelves in the local supermarkets and wine merchants. We have aisle upon aisle of Bordeaux blends but try to find a decent selection of white Burgundy and you’re limited to a mighty fine Montrachet at sixty Euros and perhaps an entry level Chablis but that’s your lot. There’s literally just ONE label from New Zealand, Chili and California respectively.
We found the funniest example of how far this regional view extends in the cupboard of our camper van. We bought the camper locally of course. The previous owners had cut some handy holes in the work top to accommodate a few wine bottles without them falling in transit. The system works very well just as long as you stick to the long narrow Bordeaux bottles. Try and take a wide bodied bottle from Cotes du Rhone on holiday and it won’t fit the hole. Pah! Gallic shrug, “But why would you?”
I can hardly claim Chateau Bauduc as a personal discovery since Gordon Ramsay, Rick Stein and an oak barrel full of wine writers have recommended this English owned Bordeaux estate before me. But they all seem to focus on the Sauvigon Blanc which has made the house white in the Ramsay restaurants for the past five years (and is also the house white at Chateau Rigaud as it happens!). What they don’t seem to mention is the utterly delicious, nutty, rounded, Trois Hectares Semillion.
I’m deeply unfashionable I know but I just don’t like all that grassy, gooseberries, cats pee stuff and I never have. Fabian and Alex, our wine tour tutors would both explain it all in better terms but I find it spikey whereas a good chardonnay is soft and round and doesn’t give me “Squinty Eye”.
So the Trois Hectares is a good bit more expensive than the Bauduc Sauvignon Blanc but worth the extra money. I think it drinks like a wine which has cost twice as much. Semillion is definitely the “new” Chardonnay for me and it features in my Christmas stocking this year.
Just a twenty minutes easy drive from Merignac Airport is the Cafe de L’Esperance in the village of Bouliac. We like to send our house party guests here for lunch if they’re flying from Merignac in the afternoon. If you set out to create a cafe to match the bar in Allo Allo then you’d do well to start here. Expect Rene to walk through the door at any moment, hotly followed by a string of stocking clad well rouged waitresses . If you’re going to be disappointed not to catch a glimpse of thigh then take consolation in the fabulous horsd’ouvre table. Why don’t more places embrace the horsd’ouvre concept? I think we should start one at the chateau. This week they had the most delicious Coronation Chicken, (yes, here in France!), plus some very mustardy remoulade, lentils, cucumber in creme fraiche, marinated feta, oh the list goes on and on, leaving very little room for their main act here which is the steak. Take it easy on the steak front though because for dessert they revert to something like the horsd’ouvre approach and you choose as many of the minature portions of tart and mousse as you like. It’s dangerous stuff. If you’re in the area for a wine tour then you’ll be pleased to hear that they offer an impressive wine list with an excellant range of wines by the glass. http://www.saintjames-bouliac.com/fr/index.php