Monday, April 21, 2008

Making Wine in Gaillac

Off to Gaillac I went this Saturday to buy wine for home-bottling, with my lab colleagues Kerry and Philippe and his brother (???). Luckily, this was a Citroen Station Wagon so I had plenty of room in the backseat and the hatchback had plenty of room for our wine we would buy during our trip. Gaillac is not a well know region for making wine in France, but it does make very respectable regional wines that pair nicely with the local cheeses and many duck and meat dishes that are famous from this area.
We stopped at a local, very local, winery for a few tastings and to buy the wine in bulk. This incredibly nice woman who owned the winery with her husband and children is pouring me a glass straight from the holding tank. If you buy in bulk, the price for this red wine was 2 euros/liter and the white was 1 euro/liter. It is the 2007 wine, so the plan for Philippe was to take it to his uncle-in-law's home to bottle it and age it for the next 3-5 years and then have some very good, inexpensive wine for his family. Philippe and his brother have been doing this since their college days and they say they have turned out some pretty good wine over the years. As I went to purchase a bottle from the lady, she pushed my money back towards me and told me that the bottle was a gift for the wine expert American (via translation!). Oh how I have these French people fooled with my interest and studies being mis-interpreted as Expertism. It was a very special gift and one I truly appreciate. For some reason, people are always so kind to me and I hope that I can repay this to everyone I meet along my path of life.
This operation kind of reminded me of old-timers in Arkansas making moonshine in their bathtub, but I guess the end product was to be better. This was Philippe's Uncle-in-law's garage and it had the petrol, weedeater smell to prove it. The bulk wine was poured into thier bottles and then Philippe had a corker that punched the cork into the bottle. After the wrapper was mounted on the top of the bottle, the label was slapped on the outside, and the wine was put into the cellar where it would remain until 2012. I asked Philippe if I could return for a bottle in 2012 and he said sure.
No trip to a Frenchmen's home would be complete without a look into his wine cellar. Philippe's Uncle-in-law had numerous bottles he has been collecting over the years. I guess this is the hidden trade of the French culture because I don't think they ever drink any of the old wines. They just store them to show off like pieces of art. Maybe that is why the wine auction scene is getting so big now-a-days, because so many people have these gems hidden away deep in their dark basements. Many Bordeaux's, Gaillac's, Cahors, and local wines of the region were shown to us from as far back as 30 years ago. He did give us a bottle of very nice Champagne to open when we returned home to celebrate the "Blessing of the Wine!" Cheer's to that!

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