French winemakers set candles and straw ablaze to save vines from frost

fires at vineyards

French winemakers have lit candles and burned bales of straw to try to protect their vineyards from sharp spring frosts, with the forecast of more cold nights this week raising fears of serious damage and lost production.

Temperatures plunged as low as -5°C overnight in wine regions including Chablis, in Burgundy, and Bordeaux, which could hurt shoots already well-developed because of earlier mild weather.

Outside Chablis, known around the world for its fruity, acidic white wine, a deep orange glow from tens of thousands of candles hung over the rolling vineyards in the early hours.

Winemaker Laurent Pinson said he had put between 300 and 600 large candles – burning cans of paraffin – across many of his 14 hectares of vines.

“The harvest is at stake over a few nights – one, two or three nights – and if we have no harvest, that means no sales, no wine for consumers,” Pinson told Reuters. [ . . . ]

Continue at source: French winemakers set candles and straw ablaze to save vines from frost | Reuters

This extraordinary $16 French rosé proves that 2020 was a good year for pink


RECOMMENDED | Also, another exceptional French rosé, a Loire white, and two juicy reds from Chile and South Africa to savor.

April 2, 2021 at 12:00 p.m.

Spring is here, and the weather is warming, if inconsistently. Let’s welcome rosé season. And here’s some great news: From my initial tastings of 2020 French rosés, the vintage was outstanding. Here are two examples that could almost convince me that I don’t need any others for the summer, they are so good. A caveat though: Shipping woes from the pandemic — even before the Suez Canal incident — have slowed the arrival of wines from Europe and elsewhere. Luckily, there are plenty of this week’s recommendations in stock, including an amazing Muscadet from France’s Loire Valley and two juicy, spicy reds from Chile and South Africa.


Domaine des Herbauges Eléon’Or Rosé 2020


Loire Valley, France, $16

One of my favorite activities of spring is tasting through the new crop of rosés in anticipation of dinners on the patio or cool refreshment after a trail hike. This beauty suggests the 2020 rosés from France will make our summer of 2021 especially delicious. The blend is grolleau noir (an obscure Loire grape), gamay and merlot. The color is a bright pale pink that somehow seems to refract light into flavors of strawberries, cherries and candied raspberries. Stock up on this, even as you explore others. Alcohol by volume: 12 percent

Continue reading “This extraordinary $16 French rosé proves that 2020 was a good year for pink”

France’s lockdown vice? Cheese

French households feasted on cheese last year as they turned to home cooking and sought gastronomic comfort during coronavirus lockdowns that shuttered the restaurant trade.

The amount of cheese purchased by French shoppers for at-home consumption increased by more than 8% in 2020, compared with just 2% the previous year, according to figures from farming agency FranceAgriMer and market data firm Kantar.

That was part of a shift in food consumption in many countries last year as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded, with households initially bulk buying staples like pasta and flour, and later settling into home-eating habits with extra purchases of products like butter.

In France, mozzarella saw the steepest rise in demand among major cheese categories, with a 21% volume jump, followed by a 12% increase for raclette – a winter favourite eaten melted with potatoes and cured meats. Continue reading “France’s lockdown vice? Cheese”

France: Exports Of Wines And Spirits Fell 13.9% In 2020

The global pandemic and a trade war with the U.S. delivered a one-two punch to France’s wine and spirits industry in 2020. According to the Federation of Wine and Spirits Exporters (FEVS), exports fell 13.9% last year as the industry hopes a new presidential administration will deliver some relief [ . . . ]

Continue at: France: Exports Of Wines And Spirits Fell 13.9% In 2020

Wine with Leslie: French wines to enjoy with a croque monsieur

— French wines from €10; and an easy cocktail to make with a new gin

A recent spate of watching French movies and TV ( SpiralLupinCall My AgentUne Fille Facile etc.) sent me into my samples corner this week to see what I could find from la Belle France. In addition, Lidl have their annual ‘Taste of France’ promotion in store this week and I’ll be stocking up on Normandy Cider, Saucisson Sec, Breton Butter Biscuits and of course my guilty pleasure — Croque Monsieur sandwiches.

The Croque Monsieur is admittedly best consumed in a dive bar with a bottle of Stella Artois and a Pernod chaser but it seems unlikely I’ll get to do that this year. France is easily the country I’ve spent the most time in besides Ireland and 2020 was the first year I didn’t get to visit since around 1993 — I miss it.

While there is little good to be said about Brexit, a small positive is that it will draw Ireland closer to France with more ferry crossings already in operation and hopefully more opportunities for Ireland’s produce to sell there and vice versa — there is no doubt the French will appreciate our better produce far more than our nearest neighbour ever did.

I think what I love most about France is that my rather obsessive food and drink-focused life is considered perfectly normal there. I love its huge diversity of wine styles and its pursuit of perfection in all areas of gastronomy. The Appellation d’Origine Protégée (formerly ‘Controlée) system covers not just wine and cheese but also chickens, prunes (Agen), lentils (du Puy) and even chilli powder (the wonderful Piment d’Espelette from the French Basque country).

Of course, the AOP system is by no means perfect and more a guarantee of typicité than of quality but it is still miles ahead of any similar system and of huge benefit to rural France where a tiny region can gain fame for a cheese (there are more than 400), an eau de vie or a white pudding (Boudin de Rethel) made by only a dozen or so producers. We should be aggressively pursuing similar IGPs (Indication of Geographic Protection) for Ireland — Cork needs an IGP for spiced beef, drisheen and maybe even things like buttered eggs.

Selections this week are all from France and are a mixum-gatherum of wines —about 20 of which I tasted over the past fortnight. I think only the Dunnes Daronton Ventoux has appeared before and that was a from a different vintage. Bon Appétit et Vive la France!

Wine Under €15

Jean Cornelius Riesling, Alsace, France — €9.99



Jean Cornelius Riesling, Alsace, France — €9.99

Jean Cornelius Riesling, Alsace, France — €9.99

Alsace is the only French region where Riesling is permitted in an AOP wine and thank goodness as it loves the Alsace climate. The best Alsace Riesling from producers such as Trimbach or Zind Humbrecht are among the best white wines in France. Entry-level but with typicité, this has lively apple and pear fruits and good balancing acidity with lingering tart apples on the finish.

La Roche d’Argent, Saint Émilion 2018, Bordeaux — €12.99


La Roche d’Argent, Saint Émilion 2018, Bordeaux — €12.99

This is my pick of the Bordeaux in the Lidl French promotion, still a bit young but from a ripe year so drinking well now. Dark red-purple in colour, dark plum aromas with some violet hints, full and concentrated on the palate with crunchy textures and ripe black fruits. This will soften a little over the next five years.

Terroir Daronton Ventoux 2019, Rhône, France — €12.50

Terroir Daronton Ventoux 2019, Rhône, France — €12.50


From the Rhonéa Cooperative, which has 236 growers in the Dentelles de Montmarail mountains (geographically Provence but classified as Southern Rhône). Made in a deliberately fruit-driven style, this is packed with red and black fruits with noticeable spice notes — fruit-driven palate with a bit of grip and structure thanks to its youth, but very drinkable and suited to rich casseroles or a mid-week pizza.

Wines Over €15

Puech Morny 2019 Gigondas, France — €16.99



Puech Morny 2019 Gigondas, France — €16.99

Gigondas is a half-hour drive north-east from Châteauneuf-du-Pape and good examples have similar weight and power (if perhaps a little less elegance) than the best wines of its more famous neighbour. This pours a rich purple-red with aromas of dark cherry and blackberry and is fruity and supple with good creamy concentration and richness. Lingering spicy red fruits on the finish and a solid example of Gigondas, a wine that generally costs at least €22.

Kuentz Bas Mosaïk, Alsace, France — €16.69


Kuentz Bas Mosaïk, Alsace, France — €16.69


We associate Alsace with varietal wines but there is a long tradition of blends, often field blends from the same vineyard. This is made from 30% Sylvaner, 20% Pinot Blanc, 15% Pinot Gris, 15% Muscat, 10% Gewüztraminer and 5% Chasselas and, as you would expect, floral Gewüztraminer is detectable on the nose but also pear confit — textured and almost lush on the palate but with balancing acidity. This matched a Tartiflette perfectly.



Château Crabitey Graves 2019, Bordeaux, France — €24



Château Crabitey Graves 2019, Bordeaux, France — €24

White Bordeaux is often rather overlooked and although it represents just 10% of the wines of the region, it can offer excellent value and quality at all price levels and ages beautifully. A blend of 70% Sauvignon and 30% Sémillon, this has stony citrus and apple aromas that follow through on the palate with the Sémillon flavours rounding out the mid-palate and adding complexity and length. The red version is also recommended.

Source: Wine with Leslie: French wines to enjoy with a croque monsieur

Paris is Turning Its Dark Underground Parking Lots into Organic Mushrooms Farms

The startup Cycloponics is growing 100-200 kilos of mushrooms a week in underground parking lots in Paris, Strasbourg, and Bordeaux.

What can you do with a dark underground parking lot that isn’t being used anymore? Think fungus.

Unused parking garages around the French capital have been turned into organic mushroom farms, thanks to a company called Cycloponics.

Allowing an extremely nutritious crop to be grown and sold directly in Paris, the initiative is part of a number of renovation projects the City is encouraging and sponsoring.

Along with shitake, oyster, and white button mushrooms, Cycloponics grows chicory—a French delicacy that can grow in the dark—as well as microgreens like mini broccoli. These are delivered via bicycle to local organic grocery stores.

Their location in Paris is called “The Cave,” and it’s one of three such converted garages that have been co-founded since 2017 by the coincidentally named Theo Champagnat. Continue reading “Paris is Turning Its Dark Underground Parking Lots into Organic Mushrooms Farms”