Suipie has of late been amusing himself by reading the stories about Bruno, Chief of Police, by Martin Walker. They are set in a fictional village called St Denis in the Dordogne, in France.
Suipie has been to France three times and once was to the area where the Bruno stories are set, between Bergerac and Sarlat. While they are of course about Bruno, the real heroes are the local food and, naturally, wine.
The area itself is inland from Bordeaux, say 30 or 40 kms, and while they do produce a lot of wine there, it is not regarded as one of their prime wine areas. That’s not to say their product is not good, far from it!
What they do have, however, is foie gras, which translated means “fat liver”. This is something that has become pretty controversial in modern times.
The process was actually known to the ancient Egyptians, and even the Romans used it. It involves force feeding ducks (for 12 days) or geese (for 17) by pushing food done the bird’s throat using a tube. This is perhaps understandably regarded by some nowadays as inhumane.
The end result is that the bird’s liver grows to about ten time its usual size. The product, however, is truly delicious, albeit rather rich and fatty. It is a prized delicacy and is served in many different ways. Most agree that a sweet white wine, a Sauternes perhaps, goes best with it.
Suipie has indeed been lucky enough to have had foie gras and it was a treat for sure. Is it cruel? Suipie is not sure. Battery raised chicken could be cruel. Boiling crayfish alive? All Suipie knows is that in the one Bruno book, a new Magistrate who tries to impose her own anti-foie gras views gets short shrift!
Bruno does a fair amount of hunting for wild game, as the French seem still to be wont do. You might think that in what is after all not that huge a country there would not be all that much natural bush about for wildlife to occupy, but it seems there still is. When Suipie was staying near Bergerac there was a small wood just across the road, from which came regular shotgun blasts. The place did not really seem big enough to cater for much shooting but clearly there was something there, not that Suipie ever saw anything come out. No shotgun pellets hit Suipie’s house, or Suipie himself come to think on it, so maybe the French are careful hunters!
Bruno also talks about truffles. These are known as black gold, a sort of underground fungus perhaps, which only grow close to the roots of trees. They are located by dogs that are specially trained to smell them out, as well curiously enough, by pigs. They can cost thousands of dollars per pound. The truffle that is, not the dogs or pigs. The thing is that this delicacy grows completely underground and you can only find it by using those trained animals to smell it out. Pigs have a far better sense of smell apparently but the problem with them is that it is difficult to stop them from eating the find. Dogs are far easier to train.
Suipie once had a truffle, but it was end of season and pretty tasteless, not very much use at all. Thackeray wrote, in 1841,
“presently we were aware of an odour gradually coming towards us,
something musky, fiery, savoury, mysterious – a hot drowsy smell, that lulls the senses, and yet inflames them – the truffles were coming”
Well, what Suipie had was certainly nothing like that, but at least he can claim he has tried it! He is certainly most unlikely to ever eat one again!
The Bruno books are great fun though.
Interestingly enough, Suipie believes there is a truffle industry starting to develop in South Africa. In fact, the KZN Midlands has been identified as a good area. We can make pretty good wines here, after all, so why not truffles too?
Mention of wine, just the other day Suipie cracked an Abingdon 2011 Viognier. Still drinking beautifully, maybe was about as good as it was going to be, a complete delight.
Viognier is not really seen as a long-lasting white wine but Abingdon’s certainly has that capacity. A grape that does last well is Rhine Riesling and Suipie had another from la Vierge, also 2011, Suipie mentioned this a little while back, and it was still lovely. They are presently selling their 2015 which shows that they too appreciate the benefit of aging this particular varietal.
What is it about old things (leaving aside the fact that Suipie is one of those himself)? Old motor cars are far more shapely than new ones. Suipie is not really a Petrolhead person but he thinks that if there ever has been or will be a better looking vehicle than the 1964 Ferrari GTO he will be truly astounded.
Find a better looking aircraft than the Spitfire.
Taste anything as good as a well-aged and properly cellared Cabernet Sauvignon.
Suipie thinks that the modern world has lost something and that is value. This is not in the sense of economics, but in the sense of worth. Quality, if you like.
Suipie once read, well to be quite honest, tried to read, a book called Zen And the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. It is apparently the all-time best selling book on philosophy. Suipie thinks he sort of understood it. Well, bits and pieces anyway. If there is a point Suipie got, this could be that motorcycle maintenance may be tedious drudgery or a pleasant pastime, depending on attitude, but the point is that it is the same thing at the end of the day.
This, Suipie thinks, is what wine is about. If you drink with the right attitude, its about companionships, friendships, and all that’s good about our existence on this lonely rock we call our home, this tiny bubble of life sustaining air in a huge and mostly empty place we call the universe. Lets be honest now: very few other experiences come close! PS, no, Suipie was not enjoying a glass when writing this………