Tag Archives: France

Café Culture

If there is one thing that I could import from Europe if would be the café culture. If you can believe it, what’s happening in this photo is illegal in my country.


Why is it illegal – because it’s 8:45 am and I’m the only one drinking coffee. And before you judge, none of these men are getting “loaded”, they are meeting in a café for a small glass of wine and a beer. Yes, a morning verre de vin blanc et une petite pression of Heinekin. They were also hilarious [at least my limited French vocab thought they were]. In fact, I think the reason that I’m sitting alone at this table is because I’m the only guy drinking coffee. Although as my friend Rob notes, one of the men may be giving a “thumbs u to the Canadian for drinking coffee this late in the day”.

I asked brother-in-spain why we didn’t have places in North America that served half pints and small glasses of wine for 2euro – and he pointed out that if there was a place serving $2 beer then we probably wouldn’t want to sit there because it would be full of people trying to get “loaded” for cheap.

I’m not saying I need a beer or a glass of wine in the morning [I actually don't need or want one] but it’s clear that there is a big cultural gap – café cultural.

Summer wines

Drinking rosé this summer? We do in France.


Mon café

This just in from the espresso trail files. This cost me 1 Euro 60

The espresso is ordered “noisette”and it comes with a little cookie and a shot of jus. Yay France.
Disclaimer – it also cost me the price of a plane ticket to Europe and 2 weeks accommodation

Rosé again

This is from our day trip while in France last summer – there were 30 tables at the outdoor café set up this way.  Those French are clever people. This is beautiful

If you aren’t drinking rosé this summer then what’s wrong with you?

Battle Bernard – Let’s go Louis

Bring it on Louis Bernard – I challenge you to a throwdown.

I’ve got a Weinfrischhalter Geschenskset  and I’m not afraid to use it.  Truth be known I look forward to it. With my “WG” I can open two bottles and compare. I have a limited  taste memory and I’m hoping that this “training” will improve it.

 Louis Bernard makes both the Côtes du Rhône at $12.95 and the Réserve de Bonpas at $13.95. Both wines are the GSM blend – Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre – and I decided to open them last night. So what do you get for a dollar more? A way cool label that looks like a $45 wine label and more dried herbs in the taste. The Réserve de Bonpas was also darker and more refined but the Côtes du Rhône had the earthiness that I like in a Rhône wine. I liked them both but my “WG” made comparing them more cost-effective.

Hooray that my Weinfrischhalter Geschenskset  saved both my bottles for another day and helped me in my taste training plan.

La Vieille Ferme – everybody can’t be wrong


Did you miss the results of my blind tasting party -  the winner, with 4 out of 7 first place votes, was …

LCBO 298505 |  Price: $ 11.95

Et en francais …

Too much time on my hands

A colleague regularly accuses me of having too much time on my hands – just because he doesn’t have time to raise children, coach soccer, and blog about wine.  I don’t think I have too much time on my hands – but maybe I am just a little bit different. You tell me.

When you think of France does this little map pop up in your thought bubble?  When I say Loire do you say “Sancerre”?  When I mention the Rhone river do you ask “North or South?”. Do the cities Dijon and Lyon make you think of mustard and soccer or Burgundy wines? The thought of Paris makes me want to turn right and end up in  a Champagne cellar. Isn’t that normal?

map wine.gif (14370 octets)

Wine Lesson Number Two

I had a great childhood – my Dad taught me how to start a chainsaw, shoot a puck, and fillet a pike.  That’s a good Canadian education – experiential learning that you don’t get in regular school.  I am slowly learning how one gets an experiential education in wine – and it’s not about drinking. It’s about embarrassing me again.

I went to wine school a couple of times in the summer of 2008. My earlier post Wine Lesson Number One recalls how I embarrassed myself trying to “parlez vin” with a Frenchman – the story of Wine Lesson Number Two is a little easier on my ego.

Wine lesson number two also happened in Antibes, this time in a small wine store. My teacher was an aspiring négociant named Alexandre.  I insisted that he speak to me only in French until I didn’t understand anymore (which happened often – a reminder that knowing 15 words doesn’t make me bilingual).  It was exciting to be in France and try its great wines.  I was even ready to spend too much money.  After a lengthy conversation (he seemed to enjoy practicing his English when I “let” him) I left with a local $10 red wine.  This would suffice until I thought about my serious purchases overnight.  I would buy some great wines tomorrow.  Alexandre would be impressed by my purchase tomorrow – none of this “local wine for the tourist from Canada” stuff.

Of course the wine was fantastic and the next day I purchased more wines from Provence.  What did impress Alexandre was my appreciation for the local wine. I had learned wine lesson number 2 – that the local wines from Provence were way too good to pass up.  They weren’t expensive and they were fantastic.  Each day after that we talked about Provençal wines.

When I came home I started looking for wines from Provence on the LCBO and Vintages list – there really aren’t any.  After my initial disappointment I realized that I hadn’t really learned the lesson that Alexandre taught me at all.  What he was trying to teach me was that the local wines are what I want to drink.  I only live 140 kms from Niagara and some great wine!  Alexandre taught me that being a locavore (I need to come up with a cool word like that) is wine lesson number two.

I hope Alexandre comes to Canada some day – I have some learning to share with him.

Remy Pannier Muscadet – everyday white

How chic is French wine?  If you can casually drop the words Chateauneuf du Pape and Pouilly Fuisse at a party you elevate your party status to “interesting” at least.

French wines are classic, like French cuffs and berets.  This dry white wine from the Loire is a great everyday white.

LCBO 13821 | Price: $ 12.95

This wine is from the Loire near the Atlantic.  I love a white wine that is flinty and minerally.   This one also has some floral and citrus that balances nicely with the “geology” character.  You will wish you had somebody shucking oysters for you right now.

Wine Lesson Number 1

Sometimes the best lessons we learn are learned “the hard way”, which is a nice way to say that we learned them “because of something incredibly stupid that we did”. 

So it’s Christmas time in my house – actually in many other places as well – and the decision of what is the best wine to drink for Christmas dinner was on my mind.  As I pondered, I realized that I forgot wine lesson number 1 – a lesson I learned the hard way.

While visiting France two summers ago I engaged Roger  in conversation. Roger is a Parisian, a man who has lived through a coffee shortage in WWII, married well (a beautiful Brazilian professor),  is smart enough to now live in Antibes, and of course is an expert in all things French.  As we were talking  I thought that I might impress him and get some information at the same time. 

“What is your favorite region of Beaujolais?” I asked, thinking myself clever that I know a little about the wine regions in Burgundy.  Roger paused (sighed), looked at me closely (too polite to spit at me), and with a slight tilt to his head (instead of shaking it) replied, “It depends on what you are eating”. 

It depends on what I am eating. For me, time stopped as wine lesson number 1 slowly worked its way through my brain. I wanted to raise my arms, look heavenward, and scream out loud “Of course it depends what I’m eating!”. 

The French are well-known for their patience with stupid foreigners, and yet Roger graciously allowed the conversation to continue.   The sumac encrusted frenched lamb chops that I was going to make would require a Fleurie – of course I wanted a Fleurie! – but what I really wanted was to go back about 5 minutes ago so that I could stop myself from asking a stupid question.

So what did I learn?  Don’t try to impress a Frenchman with a wine question, a lesson I will do doubt forget before my next visit.  Also, that I wanted a Fleurie.

Come to think of it, for Christmas this year I want a Fleurie.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 571 other followers