Saturday, November 10, 2018

Domaine de L'Ile Margaux

Domaine de L'Ile Margaux






Yesterday afternoon, I went to the Hong Kong International Wine and Spirits Trade fair for a few hours. Toward the end of the day, after having visited and tasted wines from Germany and Spain, then indulged a little in the Japan Sake Pavillon and the Mauritius Rums Pavillon, I was wandering around the French wines section to try to find one last wine before leaving the fair (as it was already nearly 6pm and I had to go shortly after). 

It will have been easy for me to go taste some wines I already knew, as many booths bared names I'm very familiar with, but I wanted to discover something new. Probably bored for some and almost annoyed for some others (or both), some people behind their booth were looking at me, while I was passing by, and more especially at my badge stating in big letters "BUYER". 





"Buyer" means "Business" for them, as most participants are here, at the fair, to find new opportunities to place their wines (and spirits), but I'm not easy to convince and the eyes' language says it all: look at me with an inviting smile and I might come to taste your wines (whether I will like them or not is a different matter), but continue to look at me with these bored, almost annoyed eyes, and you can be sure I will keep on walking and totally ignore you, your booth and your wines. 

It might be mean, but how will you react yourself when having to choose between someone happy to promote his/her wine(s) with a smiley face and someone with a frowny face, obviously unhappy or tired to be here?  To me, a smile goes a long way...   

So, I was walking the aisles, looking at the booth's names, when suddenly my eyes stumbled upon "Domaine de l'Ile Margaux". I recently discovered this Domaine via Facebook and Instagram and even started to follow them, yet I never tried their wines. In fact, I started to follow them, not because of their wines, but because of their photos and posts, which are usually good and often intriguing, artistic in a way and triggered my interest more than once. And now, I was standing in front of their booth, a good opportunity to taste their wines.  

Funny is the fact to realize that most people befriend other people on social media without knowing them and will so rarely, or even never, meet them in real life. Well, this was a good occasion to contradict that fact, get more acquainted with this particular Domaine and meet with a member of the family who runs it.     

Behind the booth stood a tall, thin, blondish, mid-long haired, bearded, smiley and seemingly sympathetic young man, Pierre Favarel, that I recognized immediately from pictures and posts I saw previously. We introduced each other, exchanged cards and the conversation went on. 


Pierre Favarel of Domaine de l'Ile Margaux
at the Hong Kong International Wine and Spirits
Photo by ©LeDomduVin 2018



Pierre's Parents bought the whole Island of Margaux back in 2001 and Pierre has gradually invested his time and himself ever since to promote and market the wines of his family all around the world. And although Pierre lives in Paris, he is nowadays going to the family's estate more frequently. Not having studied agriculture nor viticulture or oenology, Pierre is slowly learning by watching the "vignerons" and participating as often as he can to the main events (harvest, fermentation, aging in barrels, etc...).   

I don't know about you, but frankly, prior to this impromptu tasting, and despite having read a little about it and saw some pictures on the internet and social media, I knew nothing about "Domaine de l'Ile Margaux". In fact, Pierre told me that this Domaine had always been very discreet and was never heavily promoted. On his wife's suggestion, Pierre has recently opened a few pages on several Social Media to build a follow-up and increase the visibility of the brand along with the tastings and events he participates to. And although more and more efforts are made for the name (or brand) to be known and recognized,  I don't even think that many people know the Domaine exists (even in Bordeaux). 



Satellite view of the Gironde Estuary Islands courtesy of www.google.com/maps/
with Island names added by 
©LeDomduVin 2018


Take a guy like me for example, born in Bordeaux, grandson of a winemaker from the Cotes de Bourg, who has lived his childhood in a small village called "Comps", only a few kilometers away from the Gironde and roughly facing right across the Island of Margaux on the other side of the Gironde (see map above), and although I looked at this island from far away countless times in my life (especially when I was young), I never realized wine was produced on it. And I never heard of the name of this Domaine in my 27 years working in the wine and spirits world on 3 continents, prior a few months ago.   

So, let's discover this Domaine together... 


L'Ile Margaux 



L'Ile Margaux - Photo Courtesy of www.estuaire-gironde.fr


Location


Part of the commune of Margaux, "L'île Margaux", commonly called that way in the wine world, but officially called "île de la Tour-de-Mons" (or even "île de la Tour du Mont"), is one of the islands of the Gironde Estuary, located between the left river bank of the Gironde (near the vines of Chateau Margaux) and a very long island formed of several Islands attached to each other ("Ile de Macau", "Ile du Nord", "Ile Verte", etc... see maps below), forming a river arm called the "Macau Arm", prolonging the Garonne estuary and giving into the Gironde. 


Satellite view of "L'Ile de Margaux" and surrounding Islands courtesy of www.google.com/maps/
with Island names added by 
©LeDomduVin 2018


History


Vines have been planted on the Island since the XVIIIth Century, and back in 1855, during the Bordeaux Classification, the vineyard of Ile Margaux was part of the property of Chateau Margaux.   

In 1999, after the storm, the Island was flooded and it was believed to be lost. But thanks to its owner Gérard Favarel (Pierre's father), who bought it in 2001, she survived.

Since the beginning of the 21st century, L'Ile Margaux has been engaged in an ambitious sustainable development of the estuary, coastal agriculture based on environmental quality. (*)  

The organic certification (AB - Agriculture Biologique) process was initiated in 2011 and it is certified organic since 2015. (*)



Domaine de l'Ile Margaux Vineyard and Cellars - Photo courtesy of www.bordeaux-tourism.co.uk


Geography, Climate, and Vineyard


The Margaux island is about one kilometer long and 300 meters wide (at the widest). It has a surface of about 20 hectares (roughly 50 acres), of which 14 hectares are planted with vines at about 1.5 meters below sea level, protected by the trees and also the levees/dikes surrounding the island.

The island encompasses about 365 different varieties of fruit trees, forming a natural barrier, protecting the embankment from the passing Garonne who lends its rhythm to this natural oasis. 

Benefiting from a micro-climate regulated and tempered by the mass of water of both the Garonne and Gironde estuaries,  and from a location allowing for plenty of winds favorable to dry up the vineyard from the constant humidity in the air,  the island is unfortunately also subject to the tidal range of the river, which can sometimes exceed about 4 meters (between the low tide and high tide) and overflow the levees (or dikes) surrounding the island, thus occasionally flooding the vineyard planted about 1.5 meters below sea level.

The vineyard is about 35 years old on average, planted with a density of 5,000 to 6,200 vines per hectare, depending on the area on the island.

The Favarel family does not live on the island all year long, yet spend quite some time a year on the island to take part in the main phases of the wine production and assist on most major events. The work in the vineyard and at the cellar is done by a local, a "vigneron" tending the vineyard and helping with the winemaking, who lives on the island.

Pierre (and his wife) live in Paris and are in charge of the marketing and promotion of the wines, yet, as stated earlier, not having studied agriculture nor viticulture or oenology, Pierre has to leave the French capital more frequently nowadays to go to the island, where he is slowly learning by watching the "vigneron" and participating as often as he can to the main events (harvest, fermentation, aging in barrels, etc...).

Type of Soil


Ile Margaux has a special hydrogeological structure: a gradual sedimentation of blue clay and sand layers, alternatively hydrated and drained 4 times a day, following the tides rhythm and providing a permanent protection to the vines against heat and water stress or excess.

Grape Varieties


The vineyard of Domaine de l'Ile Margaux is planted with 5 grape varieties, which confers complexity, texture, and structure to the wines:

  • Merlot (45%)
  • Cabernet Sauvignon (20%)
  • Petit Verdot (15%)
  • Cabernet Franc (10%)
  • Malbec (10%)

Vinification, Ageing, and Production


After the manual harvest, the wines are vinified according to traditional Bordeaux methods, with the gradual incorporation of modern oenology technologies  (temperature management, cold maceration, etc...). The wine is then aged between 12 to 18 months in oak barrels (depending on the quality of the vintage and the time the wine will need to arrive at desired taste and style), with a third being new barrels and two third mix of 1 and 2 years barrels. Bottling is done on site and the annual production varies between 80 to 90000 bottles a year. Certified organic since 2015.   

Oenotourism


To encourage people to better know the wines of the Domaine as well as the Domaine itself, a guided tour of the estate, the cellar and a walk around the whole island among the vineyard and fruit trees, followed by a tasting of the wines, is available. Send an email to Pierre Favarel at p.favarel@bordemer.net for more details. I guess the short boat trip from the river bank on the Margaux side to Margaux Island can only add for a thrilling and adventurous experience.


 -------------------------------------------------------


So, here you are, now you can say that you too know a little more about Domaine de l'Ile Margaux. Well, knowing about the Domaine is a good thing, but how did the wines taste? (I can hear you say...). 


Pierre was now boasting a Taxi Driver's Robert De Niro face-like ("You talkin' to me?"), and personally, I could not wait to taste his wines.  



Pierre Favarel of Domaine de l'Ile Margaux
at the Hong Kong International Wine and Spirits
Photo by ©LeDomduVin 2018




Tasting Domaine de L'Ile Margaux Wines


Pierre had 3 vintages to taste: 2015, 2007 and 2000. He explained to me that he and his family were very proud of the 2015 vintage as it is a good vintage first, but more importantly because it is their first vintage certified organic. And he made me taste it first.


Domaine de l'Ile Margaux "Bordeaux des Iles" (AB - Agriculture Biologique), AOC Bordeaux Superieur, 2015

Estimated Retail price between 185 - 235 HKD (20-26 Euros)

My god, what a very pleasant surprise!!! The robe was bright, medium to deep with good intensity. The nose was quite expressive, fragrant, delicate and inviting. The palate was impressive, harmonious, balanced, soft, well rounded and textured, fairly long and well structured. Nothing over the top, but just very pleasant and satisfying, gentle and inoffensive nor aggressive. Everything in this wine was quite suave and integrated already despite its youth, and yet it showed good potential to be cellared for a few more years prior being fully mature and delivering its true flavors. Highly recommended.

It was so good to my palate and felt so much like a Margaux wine, that a few questions immediately came to my mind:

  • First, how come I never really heard about or even tasted this wine before? 
  • Secondly, how come a wine made on an island surrounded by muddy waters and constantly exposed to humidity in the soil and in the air could be so good?
  • Thirdly, is it me or is this wine an undiscovered fantastic value for money?

I guess its proximity to Chateau Margaux, its soil composition of layers of Peebles, clay, and sand as well as the interesting blend of grape varieties including the unusually high percentage of Petit Verdot (about 15%), which normally never exceeding 5% wherever it still exists and whenever it is still used in other Chateaux, must have something to do with it. (***)



Domaine de l'Ile Margaux "Bordeaux des Iles" (AB - Agriculture Biologique), AOC Bordeaux Superieur, 2000

Estimated Retail price between 210 - 250 HKD (24-28 Euros)

The 2000 vintage shows evolved aromas on the nose, more autumnal notes like mushroom, underbrush, earth, and slightly toasted nuances. The palate was still alive, soft and supple, lighter and less extracted than the 2015 vintage (which is perfectly normal with 18 years of age), yet showed good concentration and structure still, in a soft and delicate way, but still present and fairly long somehow. To be honest, I was not expecting much and was even thinking that it could have been gone by now, but I was wrong, it was still alive and kicking. Another very pleasant surprise, more especially when one thinks of an 18 years old Bordeaux Superieur from a rather unknown vineyard planted on an island. Definitely recommended.

Pierre told me that his family and himself were very proud of this wine, as it is their first vintage (they bought the property in 2001), and although they did not participate in doing the harvest, they did part of the vinification and supervised the aging of the wine in oak barrels. The fist vintage is always sentimental.


Domaine de l'Ile Margaux "Bordeaux des Iles" (AB - Agriculture Biologique), AOC Bordeaux Superieur, 2007

Estimated Retail price between 220 - 235 HKD (24-26 Euros)

I tasted the 2007 vintage last and was definitely not expecting anything from this particular wine, as 2007 was a difficult vintage overall in Bordeaux, which I did not like in its youth. Yet, I recently tasted some 2007 which have evolved and aged quite well in the bottle, rounding some tannins that were rough and even slightly green in their youth and getting more harmonious as time passed by. And it happens that this particular 2007 was probably one of those, as it confused me by its softness and easy drinkability. Nothing of the harshness I was anticipating. The fruit was still present and really enjoyable. The palate felt a little short compared to the 2000, and more especially the 2015 vintage, but not by far.


Conclusion


Tasting these 3 vintages side by side, I could see a pattern, a style, the Domaine's footprint was definitely showing. And to my surprise (again..?!?), they all had this elegance and delicate softness often associated with Margaux wines as well as this undescribable Margaux taste and feel in the palate. In fact, they tasted so good and so Margaux-like to my palate that if tasted blind, in a Margaux wine tasting, I'm sure that one could definitely mistake them with more glorious Margaux Chateaux, which, at 20-25 Euros a bottle, makes them an even greater value for money in my opinion (more especially that the Domaine de l'Ile Margaux wines are "only" AOC Bordeaux Superieur, not AOC Margaux, but from what I tasted, they have nothing to envy their neighbor (**). I will definitely recommend you to discover and keep an eye on this up-and-coming Domaine producing elegant, structured and textured wines, which were already good but can only get better now that they are certified organic. A very pleasant discovery.



And this how I ended up discovering Domaine de l'Ile Margaux, a Bordeaux Superieur that taste like a Margaux with a very good ratio value for money (in my opinion) and definitely a winery to keep an eye on.



Pierre Favarel of Domaine de l'Ile Margaux and
LeDomduVin a.k.a. Dominique Noel
at the Hong Kong International Wine and Spirits
Photo by ©LeDomduVin 2018


That's all folks!!! for today... hope you will try to find these wines and buy a bottle to taste them and make your own opinion about them, and maybe you can leave me your comments below and let me know if I was right or wrong on the quality of these wines.

Sante! Cheers!

LeDomduVin a.k.a. Dominique Noel


(*) Info taken and/or partly taken from www.bordemer.net (BORDEMER was created in 2003, to promote the valuation and trading of the best products of the coastal agriculture, and in particular the wine from the Margaux island.

Most info provided during my discussion with and by Pierre Favarel and/or sourced mainly from www.bordemer.net, and/or www.bordeaux-tourism.co.uk  and/or www.estuaire-gironde.fr


(**) Personally, I have always thought that Margaux is a difficult appellation as there is a huge gap in quality and inconsistencies in between the Chateaux' styles and tastes. And among the 5 most prestigious Appellations of the Haut-Médoc (Margaux, Moulis-Listrac, Saint-Julien, Pauillac and Saint-Estephe), despite a few usual suspects like Chateau Margaux (and I hear you say ..."...but of course"... yet again not every vintage) as well as Chateau Palmer (definitely Palmer...), and maybe Giscours and Du Tertre (and there again, not every vintage for both), I must admit that Margaux is usually my least favorite, as it always feels to me like the less homogeneous. (Once again, I'm not going to make friends by writing things like this....sigh...but I can't deny my feelings and I have never been an "ass-kisser" either... so there it is, I have said it!)


(***) Most Chateaux in Bordeaux do not possess Petit Verdot anymore as it is an awkward, late ripening grape variety with low yield, and therefore difficult to grow and maintain and not commercial or lucrative enough... (too bad, as it is a good addition for the texture and structure of the wine generally...)


©LeDomduVin 2018


#domainedelilemargaux #ilemargaux #bordeaux #bordeauxsuperieur#france #mylatestpostonmyblog #wineblog #ledomduvin #leblogadom#lesphotosadom #hongkong @ledomduvin #wine #vin #vino #wein@domainedelilemargaux #pierrefavarel


Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Public Bathroom Behavior: The Ultimate Toilet's Signs and Rules (for men mostly...)



Public Bathroom Behavior:

The Ultimate Toilet's Signs and Rules (for men mostly...)



Like it happens from time to time on this blog, today's post has nothing to do with wine. 

It is a long overdue rant against men's behavior and hygiene in the toilets (public and/or private). 



The Ultimate Toilet's Signs and Rules (for men mostly...) by ©LeDomduVin 2018 (left side)



We are told that the world is doom, that men have no more morals, values, respect, or even discipline, and I couldn't agree more, especially when it comes to going to a public toilet (at work, at a mall, at a gas station, at a metro station, at a restaurant, etc, etc...). 

And personally, I cannot take it no more and I have to vent it out. 

How many times it happened you walked into a filthy public toilet where someone did not flush, peed on the floor and/or has left some floaties in the toilet's bowl and/or some yellowish drops (if not brown pellets) on the toilet's seat often leading to a puddle of piss in front of the toilet? Nearly everytime, right? Or at least it feels like this. 

So, guys (men mostly... you know who you are...), get it once and for all in your tiny brain: your behavior, attitude, and hygiene in the toilet is atrocious, and more importantly 

NO ONE ELSE BUT YOU IS SUPPOSED TO CLEAN YOUR LEFTOVER PISS OR SHIT (OR BOTH) !!! 

Not your mum, not your sister, not your wife, nor your maid or anybody else should clean your mess. YOU and only YOU should clean it. A bathroom, toilet, lavatory, WC (water closet) or whatever other urban names you call it, is only as clean as you left it. 

And don't tell yourself either that "some people are paid for that" or "I don't care, someone else will clean it", as it is respectively not true and unbearably egoistic. 

People cleaning the toilets are not here to clean your shit but to clean a lavatory that is supposed to be dirty to a certain extent, ok, but not because of your leftover piss or shit. 

Personally, I think that if you conduct yourself like this in public, you probably do that at home too, but don't worry, your reputation precedes you (people around you know who you are and talk). And if you don't do it at home, so why doing it in public so then? But you probably don't care... 

So I prepared this little list below for you, yes, YOU... You know who you are and will recognize yourself. No point to hide or try to leave like nothing happened, we know and you know who you are and you know what you did. 

The Ultimate Toilet's Signs and Rules (for men mostly...) by ©LeDomduVin 2018 (Right side)

   
Whether at home, at work or anywhere else, Toilets are public places used by at least 2 and often way much more people. So, keep it clean and be considerate to others, by not leaving what you might think was "impressive" for others to see. Moreover, no one wants to smell your stench or see your left over.  

Statistically, people, in general, go to the bathroom/toilet on average between 10-14 times a day, divided into (at the least):
  • 4-6 times at home, usually morning and evening/night  (1 of them including a number 2, per day for some or every other day for others) 
  • 6-8 times at work or other places (1 of them including a number 2, per day for some or every other day for others, when not done at home in the morning or at night)  


Toilet Daily Average Frequency per person ©LeDomduVin 2018


Which, as you can see in the table above, represents between 3276 and 5096 times per year going to the toilet (including both pee and poo), basically between 63 and 98 times a week. 


And the average time spent "in" (or "on" depending on how you see it)  the toilet is between

  • 3-5 minutes for number 1 (on average, some of you might be faster or longer) 
  • 15 to up to 45 minutes for number 2 (here again, it is on average, some of you might be faster or longer)
Toilet Daily Average Time per person ©LeDomduVin 2018



Which, as you can see in the table above, represents for a person going to pee 8 times and poo 1 time per day,  a minimum of 39 minutes/day spent going to the loo, or basically a minimum of 14,196 minutes a year (or roughly 236 hours/year or basically 10 days/year), or 273 minutes a week (or 4 hours 33 minutes/week) visiting the throne.

That's a lot of times and time spent in the toilet, so please keep it clean and be clean, and, once again, if you missed, clean it!!!


These figures do not necessarily include people with serious handicaps for who it might be more difficult and may need more (or less) times and time. However, they give you a rough idea of how many times and how much time on average a person goes and spent in the toilet urinating and/or defecating.

The average time spent on the toilet vary greatly depending on what you have in your hands...



Toilet Average Spending Time by ©LeDomduVin 2018


So, for all that time spent on the public crapper, you should at least be considerate to others, make it your own and clean it from all your unwanted leaks and feces leftover. You clearly have an unfinished business to take care of.

Here is the list again, just has a reminder....


The Ultimate Toilet's Signs and Rules (for men mostly...) by ©LeDomduVin 2018 (Full)




Personally, I'm cleaned and I have always been (I probably get that from my mother who is very cleaned too). Did I sometimes miss the toilet bowl on the number 1 (or even 2)? Sure, like anybody else, it happens, but I made sure to clean it properly every time. First, because of I considerate that it is not the job of others to do so; but more importantly because I do not want others to say something, comment or judge me for what I did not do. As previously stated above, your reputation precedes you and people know and talk. And even if it was not you, people assume and blame easily.



GROSS PUBLIC TOILET - WHO DID IT??? by LeDomduVin 2018



Of course, in some case scenarios, it is difficult when the toilet is really dirty and disgusting as someone dropped a massive bomb and you're likely stepping in a pungent puddle left, not only, by the previous persons, but also by a bunch of other dirty pigs who also contributed to the layers of excrements, pee droplets, and other unidentified defecations found all around the latrine.

Sometimes, I even wonder how some people do it? There is some everywhere inside and outside, on the seat, on the floor and even on the surrounding walls....?!? ...they must have been a few to do it together, not possible otherwise... ...unless, it was someone with a serious handicap or an even more serious digestive problem... which makes me also wonder in which states their clothes must have been...

I mean, let's take a few examples...   

Toilets Rules by ©LeDomduVin 2018



Toilets Rules courtesy of Dj@Party3 revisited by ©LeDomduVin 2018



So, unless you have a crossed-eyes condition, a serious handicap, a disease like Parkinson or a urination anxiety that makes you jittery and shaky, as a grown-ass adult, stop peeing all over public toilet seats! And, please, clean your mess, for goodness sake.

I think I just became a bathroom blogger.....



Bathroom Blogger - Photo courtesy of here



Sorry for this rant, but I had to vent it out... now that it is done, I feel much better, even if I know that the dirty pigs and other culprits with bad bathroom behaviors will not change and will continue with their bad habits... (pissing and shitting everywhere, not flushing, not washing their hands, spitting, stinking the zone, redecorating the throne, etc....) ...but at least I got it out of my chest...

That's all folks! for today...

LeDomduVin a.k.a. Dominique Noel



©LeDomduVin 2018

#attitude #bad habits #bathroom #behavior #hygiene #ledomduvin #men #mensbehaviorandhygieneinthetoilets #rant #throne #toilet #toiletrules #toiletsigns #wc #lesillustrationsadom #ledomduvin @ledomduvin



Thursday, October 18, 2018

Memories of my grandfather and my childhood in the vineyards


Memories of my grandfather 

and my childhood in the vineyards 



My Grandfather old "Pressoir" at my mother's house @LeDomduVin2013


Not sure why, but I'm thinking about my grandfather and my childhood in the vineyards (*). Probably because I was recently looking at some old family pictures, like this old "Pressoir" at my mother's house (in the picture above). It was the one my great-grandfather and, in turn, my grandfather used back in the days, and it reminds me of this period of my life, growing up in a small village of the Côtes de Bourg, with my grandfather, surrounded by the countryside and vineyards.

In any case, I always think about my grandfather and will always remember him. He was like a father figure to me and taught me so much about life, food, and wine, and so much more. He taught me invaluable principles, values, and morals about life and people and how I should try to conduct myself with myself and others, with respect and humility.  He taught me that simple things in life are always the best and that a happy life is not the result of what you can earn or buy, but what you make of it.  

Growing up in a lower-middle-class family, we did not have much money and were not doing much traveling, but we had a decent life overall, without extras or excess. We did not need any extras or excess anyway, or any other superfluous things money can buy, as we were happy, our own way, and thankful for what we had. We had each other and life was simple. It was the life of the countryside rhythmed by the seasons and the vineyard's life cycle. 


My grandfather holding some bottles and his dog in front of his garden @LeDomduVin 2010


Despite having worked as a construction worker, my grandfather was also a "vigneron", a person who tend the vines and take care of the vineyards, as well as a winemaker, in the region of the "Côtes de Bourg" (north-east of Bordeaux on the northern part of the right bank), where I grew up.

Originally from Vendée (a department in the Pays-de-la-Loire region in west-central France, south of Nantes, facing the Atlantic Ocean), he moved further south to the Gironde department later on to live the rest of his life. He has lived all of his life in the countryside and never really liked the big cities. In fact, even if only 50 kilometers away, going to Bordeaux was a chore to him and he seldom driving there if he could avoid it.

He was a man of simple taste and small needs. He had been a blue-collar his whole life, and his daily attire consisted of his "Bleu de travail" (commonly known as the French worker jacket or "chore" jacket... coming back in fashion by the way), that he was wearing on all occasions, seven days a week, even well after retiring, as in fact he never really stopped working, and at the end of the day it was the only clothes he really felt comfortable in.

As you probably noticed on the picture above, another essential part of his daily outfit was his "Béret", (from the word "berret" in Occitan (Gascon) meaning “cap”), the unavoidable soft, round, flat-crowned black hat worn by most countrymen (and even women sometimes) in the southwest of France (and other regions of France too). This traditional Basque Béret never left his head no matter what he was doing or wearing (except maybe at night). He very rarely dressed in a suit, only on special occasions, weddings and funerals mainly, and it was a real burden for him to have to dress up. However, even wearing a suit, the Béret had to be on too. Most men of his age that I knew or met at that time dressed the part the way he did.


Côtes de Bourg Old Map - 1949 © by L. Larmat


Throughout his life, he lived in different houses prior to settling in the house I've always known. He even lived in the dependency of a Chateau at some point, when he was working at Chateau La Grolet, a 17th-century manor house producing a classic Côtes de Bourg wine, with a very good ratio value for money, where my mother and her siblings grew up for the most part of their childhood.

He settled down in the little village of "Comps" (you can see it on the above map), near the house of my great-grandfather on my mother side (a house that my mother inherited at some point when I was still a toddler and where I spent most of my life between the age of 10 and 18 years old, and she is still living here nowadays).

Back in the days of my youth, Comps was a charming and tranquil "bourgade" of less than 300 inhabitants living in houses outspread in the vineyards, with a few patches of green fields where cows, cheeps, horses, and even a donkey were grazing quietly. There was even a wild-boar farm, where one could stop by to feed them through the fence. The village has a quaint little church in which (I can proudly say) I got married back in 2005. It felt very intimate and private.


The quaint little church of Comps - Photo courtesy of Jack Ma


My mother's house (also in Comps as mentioned above), was only a few parcels of vineyards away from my grandfather's house and therefore I was often at his house. My grandfather's house was rustic and showed sign of the passage of time, but I felt comfortable there with him.

It was a decent size farmhouse with quite a few dependencies, surrounded by a garden comprising lots of varieties of fruit trees (Apple, Pear, Cherry, Fig, Plums, Nuts, Chestnut, Lemon, and even Kiwi), a vegetable garden where you could find pretty much all vegetables as well as a wild variety of flowers, plants, and herbs too. (You can see some of the pictures I took of his garden in a previous post I wrote back in 2010 where I was also writing about my grandfather, read it here)


Some of the vegetables and fruits of my grandfather's garden @leDomduVin 2007


This collage of pictures of some of the vegetables and fruits from my grandfather's garden brings back some sweet memories of him and of my childhood. Even the blue dots (or drop stains), on the tomatoes above, bring a smile to my face, as it is what we call, in Bordeaux, "La Bouillie Bordelaise", a blue-colored mixture of  "Sulfate de Cuivre" (copper sulfate) and some "Chaux" (lime), that my grandfather used to prepare himself prior to using his old portable copper "sulfateuse" to spray it around, while I was watching all of it with big eyes hoping that he would let me try....

In case you don't know, "La Bouillie Bordelaise" is still used as a fungicide sprayed in vineyards and gardens to prevent eventual damages caused by downy mildew, powdery mildew, and other fungi.


Old Copper "Sulfateuse" to spray "La Bouillie Bordelaise" ©LeDomduVin 2007


Apart from a multitude of vegetables and fruits in his garden, his farmhouse was also full of animals. Hens and roosters, rabbits, guinea pigs, turtledoves, goldfishes, cats and a dog were all living in harmony in this peaceful garden of heaven on earth. It was really fun for a child growing up in the countryside like me. I liked to pet them and feed them. Although all well fed, the hens were always hungry, running after me when I visited their "enclos à poule" (chicken coop) and always checking what I had in my hands for grains or other stuff to eat. The rabbits and more especially the guinea pigs were the same, you couldn't enter their coop without being harassed for food. And evidently, they eventually ended up on the table for the Sunday lunch or in Patés jars...  (hehehe...  evil mischievous quiet laugh... well, sorry, not my fault if we, as humans, are at the top of the food chain... I love these animals... in my plate too 😊)

As you can start to understand (after reading the above), I did not grow up like some kids from rich parents, going on vacations, by the beach all summer long and skying in winter and traveling all the time (and whatever else rich kids used to do). Nope. In fact, I was rich too, not of money, but of what Mother Nature had to offer and the freedom of doing pretty much all I wanted, as I spent most of my school year's vacations and summer vacation, often alone at my mother house and visiting my grandfather leaving nearby, while both my parents were working. My parents divorced when I was 6 and half years old, and therefore school days were usually at my father's house and weekends and vacations were at my mother's house (for the most part).

And despite part of my family and a few cousins, I did not have many friends living around in the countryside, but I did not mind either.
  • If raining, I usually spent my days drawing all sort of things or writing stories and poems (that I never published, unfortunately...), while listening to vinyl discs or the radio. Or otherwise, I was reading French/Belgium Bandes Dessinées and American comics, and eventually some books too... but not too many... (as I preferred to write stories rather than reading stories).  I was also watching a bit of TV sometimes, but when I was young only 3-5 channels were available and the programs were not that great - and I did not have Canal + either - so, I was not watching much TV after all - and I did not have a computer or a Minitel either... and smartphone did not exist... sigh....  Nowadays city kids will never understand... 

"Les Carrières" (or stone-pits in English) near Prignac-et-Marcamps and Tauriac (Gironde) -
Photo courtesy of
www.sudouest.fr

  • And if sunny, I was riding my bike everywhere in the neighboring villages (and further away, up to Bordeaux sometimes - roughly 50 kilometers far). Sometimes stopping by the Gironde river bank, near Prignac-et-Marcamps and Tauriac, to admire the scenery and landscape. Sometimes walking in a nearby forest overlooking the river bank to access and get lost in "Les Carrières", the numerous stone-pits found everywhere along the famous limestone plateau going roughly from the Côtes de Blaye (to the north) down to the Côtes de Castillon (to the south), from which the world renown "Pièrre de Bordeaux" was extracted to build the beautiful city of Bordeaux as well as most villages of the Gironde (Saint-Emilion being probably the most famous village built entirely with these limestone stones). Covering kilometers of galleries carved by men and running deep underground, the "carrières" (stone-pits)  were my hideouts (very similar to the one on the above picture courtesy of www.sudouest.fr).  

However, whatever I did, after a few hours I usually ended up visiting my grandfather for lunch and spent most of the rest of the day with him, most days. That is how I spent most of my vacations (including summer vacations). For some people, it must not sound very exciting, but back then that's all I knew and could do anyway, as we did not have the money for me to go anywhere else or do anything else. I had my bike, my freedom and the countryside and vineyards to myself and was keeping my grandfather company. 

It was instructive to be with him, as he was doing pretty much everything himself and knew how to do pretty much everything (more/less). He was part of these old generations who grow up and lived during the war. He lived through hard times with far less than what our society of consumption imposes us to have or buy (directly or indirectly) for our daily needs nowadays. 


Dominique Noel (me) in my grandfather's garden at the back of the house @LeDomduVin2007


All (or most should I say) fruits, vegetables and herbs we ate at his house came directly from his own garden, where he nurtured them daily with careful and close attention. It was great to have to wait for the right season to eat certain fruits and vegetables, it makes you fancy them even more (not like nowadays where you can buy pretty much anything you want the whole year long and at any seasons).

Here, this little table shows you the vegetables and fruits you should expect to find only in season at a French Market. Stop buying imported food, buy local and buy what's in season, it healthier for you and better for the environment.

Vegetables and fruits you should expect to find only in season at a French Market by ©LeDomduVin 2018 


My grandfather rarely bought his vegetables or fruits at the local Saturday or Sunday market (as he had pretty much everything he needed in his own backyard), yet it was still going there regularly to buy meat and fish, talk with friends and other people he knew, and often ended up buying a few vegetables and fruits to help the little "artisans" 😊. Sacré Papi, he was a genuine and generous man, always trying to help and please people, one way or another.

The eggs came from his hens. The "Paté de Lapin" came from his rabbits (mixed with pork meat he used to buy from a local butcher or at the market). I loved his "Paté de Lapin" and helped him a few times to prepare it. It was my favorite food in the world. He was not necessarily following a recipe either, he was more preparing it on instinct and depending on the meat supply too (sometimes more rabbit, sometimes more porc).

He also used to make his own jams from various fruits found in his garden, his eau-de-vie of plums and/or pears, as well as all of his "bocaux de legumes" (vegetable conserves), "bocaux de fruits" and Patés for winter.

There was always a "Jambon de Bayonne" (cured ham leg) hanging and slowly curing "dans la remise" (the dependency behind his house where he stored all kinds of things), in a cured ham cage made especially to prevent flies and other bugs to get in while allowing for plenty of ventilation for the ham to properly age. This Jambon was always coming handy for afternoon snacks or when it was time to take "L'Apéro".


Cured Ham Leg - Photo courtesy of here


L'Apéro (short for "apéritif") is a typical French traditional and cultural ritual, consisting of a non-formal gathering before dinner, marking the end of the day and usually inviting the family and friends or guests present in the house to stop all activities and have drinks and snacks while casually conversing about anything and everything prior the dinner... It is a great way to talk, open up, relax and cool down after a hard day at work or full of activities...

Just imagine, you leave your smartphone, tablet, TV, and computer aside and you communicate to and with "real" people while enjoying a drink or two and snacking goodies (charcuterie, cheese, pickles, olives, nuts) as a prelude to the dinner. You've got to love the French way of living... just for that... 😊  ...you should try it some days, it is usually a cheerful moment worth having at least 3 times a week (Fri, Sat, and Sun).


Sunday lunch was traditionally a family lunch and usually the day of my grandfather's classic roasted chicken, or his famous sauteed rabbit with garlic and parsley, or the popular "Entrecôte Echalottes" (with shallots on top) grilled on the Sarments (the vines shouts cut then collected into ballots during winter), usually served with vegetables fresh from his garden. The french fries made with his potatoes were so rich and tasty and a delight with the Entrecôte (I remember picking them in "La Remise", then washing them, peeling them and cutting them prior frying them). Everyone invited was giving a hand to prepare Sunday lunch, and we always ended up being 6 to 8 to 10 people sometimes around the table. Family gatherings were always fun (I miss these days deeply....).


My grandfather cooking his very popular "Entrecôte Echalottes" (with shallots on top)
grilled on the Sarments (the vines shouts cut then collected into ballots during winter) ©LeDomduVin 2007  

Look at those rugged hands... I love these hands. My grandfather hands. These are the hands of a man who worked hard all of his life, in construction at first, then in the vineyards, showing signs of the passage of time as he was handling everything with his bare hands (on the construction sites, in the vineyards and at the cellar, in his garden, with his animals, repairing tools and machines when broken, etc..). Like most countryside men, he was not afraid to get his hands dirty and was accustomed to physical labor since his very early age.  

In fact, my grandfather was a humble and quiet man, more comfortable working with his hands than delivering a speech or writing an essay. A man of a few words in general, except when he was talking about the good and bad memories of his life prior, during and even after World War II. He had countless stories about this period of time, which fascinated me. The hideouts, the resistance, the Nazis, the wine, the scarcity of the food and supplies, how some people help to quietly fight, their own way, and how some people collaborated with the enemy. How difficult things were back then and how people learn how to be strong, how to do everything themselves and learned how to survive and continue living despite a certain danger at their door.

Picture of an American commissioned officer with farmers and bottles of wine in Normandie WWII -
Photo courtesy of www.histomil.com 


I loved my grandfather for who he was and what he represented to me, for his knowledge and skills. He learned a lot of things through age and experiences of course, like anybody else. However, most of his knowledge came from the fact that when he was young, growing up in a farm during the war, he only had a dictionary, a few books and some volumes of a collection of something similar to Encyclopedia Britannica to read. (Imagine how smart your kid will be if he or she had to read the dictionary and/or Encyclopedia Britannica every day?). I was always learning just by listening to him talk. 

As you surely understood by reading some of the paragraphs above, my grandfather was an excellent cook (he raised his 3 kids practically alone, so he had time to experiment...). He was always preparing more food than needed (because he was a generous man first, but also probably as the result of not having had enough during the war) and his door was always opened for impromptu guests passing by to say hello or trying their luck by inviting themselves. Life in the countryside always brings people together, and usually, family and friends do not live far. Moreover, in a small village like "Comps", everybody knew each other back in those days, so visits around lunch or dinner by family members, neighbors or friends were quite common and, in fact, necessary to keep up with the latest gossips and stories.


Impromptu guest for the lunch by ©LeDomduVin 2018


My love for food first, and, then later, for wine, definitely came from him. As he was also a winemaker, making his own wine and wine for other sometimes too, consequently I have been introduced to and acquainted with wine since my very early age. I remember having my first sip of wine when I was about 6 years old.

It was a beautiful and warm day, in the afternoon, a Saturday or maybe a Sunday, as the family was around. My uncle, my grandfather's son, was sipping a glass of red wine and I was watching him lifting his elbow to bring the glass to his lips and sip it slowly. He looked at me and asked me if I wanted some. I said yes, and I guess the members of my family gathered around me, surely waiting for my reaction (something like that in the US will probably be denounced/reported, but in France, it is a common tradition, maybe not that early though....). So, I put the glass to my nose... it was fragrant and nearly made me sneeze. Then, I brought the glass to my lips and drank too fast a generous sip of that red wine, which made me cough for at least half an hour after that. Of course, I ridiculized myself and my whole family around was laughing out loud about this risible situation. But I kept a great souvenir of it.

I must admit that my grandfather's wine was not a "very good" wine. It was one these Cotes de Bourg wines of the late 70s, early 80s, made in quantity not necessarily in quality (like it was common practice back then). It was what we call in France "du picrate" or  "de la vinasse", basically a simple, "not-necessarily-bad" but "not-that-great" either, everyday wine. Drinkable it was, sure... but most importantly it served its purpose, being an accompaniment to the food on the table. My grandfather himself even used to cut it with a bit of water to cut the edges of it (acidity, tannins, bitterness, etc...), and finally, it was not so bad after all. We got used to it. 😊


My grandfather wine eduction or how kids get acquainted with wine in France by ©LeDomduVin 2018


And that's how from the age of 10 or 12 years old, I (and most of the kids I knew back then) started to have some wine in my glass when eating at my grandfather's house. First, I filled up my glass with water to which my grandfather added a few drops of wine to add color and some taste. I found it acidic and sour, but with food, it wasn't so bad. The older I got, the less water and the more wine the glass contained. By the time I reached 15 years old, I was drinking wine with no more water in it.

Same for beer, around the same age I started to have a touch of wine in a glass of water (10-12 years old), my grandfather also offered me to occasionally drink "Panaché" (a.k.a. "Shandy", basically a mix of beer and "limonade" quite famous back then in France, Belgium and Switzerland), a good alternative to beer, as it tastes more like a carbonated lemonade and the alcohol content is usually about 2% max (usually more about 1-1.5%), instead of 5% (and much higher) in general for beers. Anyone remembers "Panaché Chopp" made by the brewery "Kanterbräu"?.... no?... It was a classic back then in the early 80s. That is what I used to drink during the hot summer afternoons with my grandfather, seating on the bench in front of his house.

Here, this French Publicity below might remind you of something...  


French Publicity for "Chopp Panaché" back in the 80s - Photo Courtesy of ebay.fr


At the back of the house, "La Remise" (a huge dependency that he used as a room to store all sorts of stuff), was a real cavern of Alibaba. Once inside, it is was like an organized huge mess. Food (from the "patés" to the conserves, the ham to the potatoes, etc..), as well as some old mopeds (including the legendary "Solex" and other cyclo-motors like the classic "Peugeot 102" and the iconic "Peugeot 103" or even the "Motobecane AV79 and AV88" and other broken junks and detached pieces (kept just in case...), mingled with a mountain of coal "pour le poêle a charbon" (coal burning stove) and some wood logs for the "cheminées" in the various rooms, as well as some old barrels and a old "pressoir".

Without realizing it, my grandfather was surely affected by a hoarding disorder, as he had real difficulties to discard an impressive multitude of objects of all sorts that he accumulated over the last few decades. I could always hear him say that they could be useful one day, yet, that day never came and more junks and old stuff kept coming and piled up as I grew older. In fact, a museum of all these stuff could have been opened as he had such a huge collection of them, and some were real treasure for collectors and amateurs.

However, if you ventured a little further toward the back, this is where he established his cellar and put his barrels to age his wine. As the vines that he was tending at my mother's house, were uprooted when I was about 9 years old and that my grandfather did not have any other vines to tend to, he only kept 3-4 barrels only in the back of "la Remise". Once bottled, he had enough wine to last him for a good part of the year. The rest of the year, he was buying his wine by the "cubi" (old glass bottle or plastic bottle containing between 3 and 6 liters) from neighbors and friends that still owned some vineyards and were selling their wines as bulk rather than bottled.   

My grandfather and my son in the back of the dependency behind my grandfather's house ©LeDomduVin 2007

I love this picture above of my grandfather and my son in the back of "la Remise" back in 2007, or maybe was it in 2008?... not sure anymore, as my son would have been about 1 year old, but he seems bigger on that picture, maybe 2 years old?... maybe it is the "Afro" that makes his head bigger than it normally is 😊.. I'm only kidding, I love my son's hair, beautiful "Afro" style... for those of you who may not know, my wife is Afro-American and my kids are mixed. We have 2 beautiful kids with great curly hair and an arousing skin complexion. Love my kids.  

I want and I could write so much more about my grandfather and my childhood in the countryside and the vineyards, but I think that I will stop here for this post, which is already long enough as it is. I will write the following of this post in another post later on this year or next year, will see...

Meanwhile, you can always read a previous post I wrote back in 2010 where I was also talking about my grandfather, his garden and his famous "Escargots a la vinaigrette" recipe (read it here)

As for you, Papi, wherever you are now, I hope that you are resting in peace and that the wine is also good up there (wherever that is...). Simply know that I am thinking about you very often and I will never forget you. I'm ending this post with this classic posture of yours once you finished your meal... falling asleep on your chair for a little "siesta" after lunch... I love you Papi.

My grandfather falling asleep on your chair for a little "siesta" after lunch ©LeDomduVin 2007


That's all folks for today...!

Hope you enjoyed this post.... and always remember, that people only cease to exist in your heart and in your mind when you stop thinking or talking about them... so always remember and continue thinking and talking about the ones you loved and lost...


Cheers! Santé!

Dominique Noel a.k.a LeDomduVin

@ledomduvin #mygrandfather #mychildhood #memories #souvenirs #thoughts  #myfirstglassofwine #mychildhoodwithmygrandfather #mychildhoodinthecountrysideandvineyards #ledomduvin #lesphotosadom #lesdessinsadom #lesillustrationsadom #lesaventuresadom #wine #vin #wein #vino #cotesdebourg #bordeaux #france #food #vegetablesoftheseason  #fruits  #patedelapin #frenchmarketseasonalvegetablesandfruits

©LeDomduVin 2018

(*) Probably as well as it has been 21 years since I left France to live my life abroad, and it has been 5 years already that I have not been to France on my own or for work, and 7 years with my kids, for several reasons. Thinking of it, it is insane and sad for a French (American) guy like me. One day I will go back... one day... soon I hope...