Every culture has its unique eating/drinking rituals specific to their holidays and special occasions. In Turkey, the best example would be the bayram, religious ones in particular. Religious bayrams are usually 3 days. If the oldest parent is actually young, then you as a family visit the elder relatives and family friends in the first two days and wait for hosting even younger families in the last day. Needless to say, visiting days become fewer as the family gets older.
When your family among is the young moving ones, there is a specific challenge: at every visit you will be offered delicious food. The trick is to pace yourself and pick the best ones. Failing at these two aspects leads to two troubles: first, you run the risk of refusing food as a guest. You may well be cursing in the living room of those people. They are equally disrespectful. Second, you risk missing out great food in the next visits of that day. Largely thanks to my unstoppable appetite and endless stomach, I never failed at this game 🙂
The difference we experienced in Europe is that these special occasions usually lead to eating drinking opportunities outside. In France, vine fairs are the greatest occasion of this kind. They can be before the holidays or they can appear out of nowhere! While they are really good to find nice deals when you want to but large quantities, I think the best thing about these fairs is the independent vine producers (vigneron independant). These producers pour into your small village (yes, they also go to Paris, but I don’t think there is any surprise element there), with 3 or 4 different types of vines they produce in their small vinery. Most of the time, these amazing vines cannot be found in the supermarkets; they are available either at fairs or at caves.
This is an amazing success against big corporations. We are living in the era of Amazon, Walmart and Carrefours. Yet, these people succesfully run their small businesses despite them. Of course, the main credit should go to the producers themselves, but one should admit that this could not happen if the French people continued to prefers fairs and caves over convenient supermarkets and the government had not supported these small producers. Otherwise, big corporations would smash these small guys and there would 4 or 5 different vines from every region in France. French people would be the biggest obstacle in this dispotic McDonaldsization of vine. I know a couple of them who would be willing to kill and end to stop this 🙂
Both Ürün and I love these fairs and we try to go every time one pops up around us. Every time we set a budget and every single time we spend at least three times of it. I am kind of used to it by now but Ürün is still getting angry with me and herself when we come back and calculate the amount of money we spent 🙂
Anyways, another fair hit our small French town Annemasse last weekend. Our immediate reaction was to go there and spend every single penny. We indeed bought some nice vine, but I want to talk about the “side dishes” of fairs.
These fair usually have “produits du terroir”, which is basically charcuterie and chesse, and cognac/armagnac. Armagnac is basically distilled vine, aged in oak barrels. As any distilled drink, aging happens in barrels and stops when bottled. As most of the French unique food, armagnac must come from a specific region, which is called Armangac, located in southwest France. Of course, it is not malt based as whiskey, but it is as complex and tasty as whiskey. If you are into whiskey or other sorts of high alcohol, complex smell sprits, you should definitely try armagnac, which is drank in cognac glasses, in a very long time.
After spending two times of our initial budget on vine, Ürün realised that I was stalking the armagnac stand. After she insisted (she asked me once), we found ourselves before the Le Domaine de Luqet stand. The owners, who are from Bas-Armagnac, were like armagnac: sweet old people that have things to say 🙂 They spent maybe 20 minutes with us, explaining how to drink it. The rule is apparently to keep the glass in your hands and warm it. This allows the excess alcohol to evaporate and leave you with more aroma. After the 20 minutes of beautiful explanation and tasting, we decided to buy the 2003 bottle. It is indeed amazing.
The plan for the rest of the month is basically to eat the corks of the vines we bought. I have absolutely no regrets though 🙂