wine

Where there’s wine, there’s bound to be an Australian…

It’s not very often that TC and I call in on perfect strangers and introduce ourselves, but perhaps we should do this more often. Today’s adventure starts with a recommendation from our friend Thierry back in Perth.  Thierry owns and runs the fabulous Whisper Wine Bar in Fremantle’s Essex Street,  a place close to our hearts as we spent many hours over a chilled glass of white, plotting and planning our “escape to France” before we came here.

What has that got to do with wineries here in the Languedoc? Well, Thierry told us that a young man who had worked for him a while back, was now back in France and working in a winery not far away from us and what’s more, the winemaker at this winery is also Australian. Not needing any further  excuse than to say “hi” to a friend of a friend from Australia (and the chance to meet another Aussie living and working here), we set off as soon as we could.

Which of course was the very next day, why delay?  On the bikes and off to Prieuré Saint Jean de Bébian!

The ride through local wine country was lovely. Sunny and warm, we arrived having worked up a decent sweat.  Just outside the winery is the 12th century prieuré – gorgeous!

Priure de Saint-Jean de Bébian Bike against wall Courtyard

Coming through the gates into such a pretty courtyard that I could have just sat and soaked it up all day. We were met in the cellar by a lovely lady who, on being told that we must say hello to Benoit, rushed off immediately to fetch him. After passing on the greetings from our mutual friend, we had a look around the cave (that’s just the name of the cellar door in France) and then started tasting some of the wines.

Well the wines were great (we managed to squeeze four bottles into our backpacks, despite also having our water bottles taking up space!) and had a wonderful chat with the winemaker, Karen Turner, who was so lovely and friendly that, despite these two strange Aussies turning up out of the blue (and in the middle of the harvesting season!) was kind enough to show us around a little and explain some of their wines and processes.

I LOVED the barrel cellar with its thick covering of cobwebs on the windows – deliberately left there to help keep flies at bay – and we were shown the nifty rack system they use for the barrels. Each one is on individual rollers in its rack, allowing the barrels to be rotated to stir the wine and also allowing single barrels to be removed easily  – something quite impossible if barrels are all stacked against each other!

 

 

 

Unfortunatley, there was no vendage happening while we were there. Karen explained that they only harvest in the mornings so that the grapes are fresh and while they had been harvesting some of the white grapes, the reds simply weren’t ready yet so there was to be a break for a few days.  A pity for us, as we would have loved to see the grapes being brought in, but this day it was not to be.  We did get to see the original stone tanks still used by the winery for the resting and maceration of the red wine grapes.

Chatting with Karen, we discovered that she and her husband also have their own winery, Domain Turner Pageot, specialising in biodynamically produced wines in the Languedoc region. A little more snooping on my part revealed they are part of a group of wine producers called “The Outsiders”, describing themselves as:

“…a group of Languedoc-Roussillon wine producers. Working in the south of France, they are creating exciting wines which make full use of the region’s highly diverse soil types, climatic conditions and grape varieties.”

If you get the chance to try some of these wines, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed and, even better, if you get the chance to call into the winery here just outside the beautiful town of Pezenas, you definitely won’t be disappointed!

Cheers and santé!

Winery sign

ps Yes, West Australians can taste some of these wines in Whisper’s… but shhhh…. I’ll be back there soon, leave some for me!!

Snapshots from Bordeaux 1: Saint Emilion

Saint Emilion is gorgeous! Snapshots for now – the food and wines are delicious.
Very much over this incessant rain and cold weather though. We need the sun to come out to play.

à bientôt!

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Dress rehearsal scallops

scallops cauliflower mash 2

We have invited friends over for dinner this week and I have volunteered to cook the entree – seared scallops with a cauliflower vanilla puree and crispy pancetta.

Since I have never actually cooked scallops before (despite them being one of my ALL time favourite foods EVER), I decided to leave nothing to chance and have a trial run tonight. For someone who doesn’t do a lot of savoury meals (this is best left to TC in my opinion), I found it surprisingly easy. Granted, there are only 3 main ingredients to the dish, but I had heard so much about how not to cook scallops and how they must be cooked just right, it was a little bit daunting beforehand. However, TC pronounced them “approved” for the opening night, so that means they are (so far) a success. You do have to be quick with these scallops – I used a timer and was glad I did!

Please enjoy my dress rehearsal scallops – I do plan to make some fine-tuning changes on the night, so I will let you know how I get on. scallops cauliflower mash 1

In the meantime, TC and I enjoyed this rather special little entree with a nice drop of red. (Yes I know you are supposed to have white wine with seafood, but its cold out, and we were following this with a spicy pork stir-fry, so we just went with a nice red, ok??)  2008 Les Ferrandes Minervois la Liviniere

And quite a nice syrah it was too, especially for the price (7€). We have become quite fond of wines from the Minervios region (amongst others) as we taste our way through the amazing bounty there is available in the south of France.   I think we might need to get some more of this in for “the dinner” later in the week. This is also for The Drunken Cyclist, who asked in his post, “what was your wine of the week?” If you like wine, head over to check out his blog!

Bon appétit, à bientot!

Recipe:

6 scallops

6 slices pancetta

fresh thyme leaves, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, mild chilli powder

1/2 tbspn olive oil

knob of butter

200g cauliflower

200ml milk

vanilla pod

knob of butter

For the cauliflower puree: add the cauliflower, milk and vanilla pod to a saucepan, bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 10min or until tender. Strain the cauliflower, reserving the milk, discarding the vanilla pod. Process the cauliflower in a processor until smooth, adding just enough reserved milk  and a knob of butter to achieve a smooth and not too thick consistency. Set aside.

*Note – the puree can be made a day ahead and reheated for serving. I am trialling this and will let you know how it reheats tomorrow.

For the pancetta: to get this crispy, it may be best to sprinkle lightly with olive oile & bake in a hot oven until crispy.

“Note – I fried mine in a very hot, non-stick pan, but I did not achieve the crispyness I wanted.

For the scallops: remove the roe with a sharp knife or scissors. Season with salt, pepper and mild chilli pepper. Heat the olive oil and a knob of butter over high heat. When the pan is very hot, add the scallops. Add the fresh thyme leaves and cook for  1 1/2 minutes on each side. Serve immediately on the cauliflower puree. Top with the pancetta.

“Note – when frying the scallops, set them out in the pan in a clockwise direction, starting at the handle so that you know where you started and the order to turn them. I used a timer for exactly 1 1/2 minutes and I thought they were just cooked perfectly. I would possibly go another 30 seconds but no longer. Having the pan very hot is important to caramelise the outside of the scallops – just beware, they will splatter and splash at you so stand back!

P.S. If you look closely at my pic, you’ll see that I actually cooked the roe as well and hid it under my pancetta! If you’re a fan, like me, you don’t have to remove it.