As today was our first official day of class, we received our first assignment: buy a cheese at the local farmers’ market. I thought I could handle that- but it was easier said than done considering the huge selection of foreign cheeses to choose from and the language barrier! Luckily, our professors were there to help. As a class, we entered the town center and immersed ourselves in the Saturday market that united farmers, retailers, vendors, and townspeople on a weekly basis. The market was more than an opportunity for the French to purchase their food for the week; it was a hub of socialization where news spread, business deals solidified, and friends reunited. Vendors were not limited to selling cheese and produce, as many stalls offered flowers, shoes, clothes, spices, and much more! After a crash course in French shopping vocabulary and brief introductions to some of the vendors, our professors sent us on our way to complete our assignment. I picked up Brie du Meaux, as well as some other snacks and souvenirs.
After plenty of time exploring the Saturday Market and the shops within the town of Cluny, our class reconvened in our classroom back at the hostel for our “Cheese Show and Tell”. Each of us introduced our cheese, recalled the experience of purchasing it, and divulged as much information about it as we could gather from the vendor with our limited knowledge of French. Cheese selections ranged from different types of goat cheeses to the smelly Epoisses to the unorthodox Lavender Gouda. I’m pretty sure I tried more cheese during that Show and Tell than I had in my whole life!
Naturally, after experiencing some cheeses we had to switch gears and taste some Burgundy wines in order to get a proper introduction to the course! So after our Cheese Show and Tell, we headed to the cellar of a wine shop in town owned by Alice, a friend of Dr. Healey. In the cool, dimly lit cellar, we tasted three Burgundy wines and listened to a introduction about the region’s wine production and “terrior”- or the environmental conditions (soil, weather, climate, microbiology, and vigneron’s decisions) that impact the quality of wine.
#FoodSciOrDie Fun Fact: Within the Burgundy region 90% of the white grape varieties are Chardonnay and the remaining 10% are Aligote. In terms of red wines, 80% are Pinot Noir and 20% are Gamay. However, Burgundy wines are not typically labeled with their grape variety; instead, Burgundy wines are labeled with the village and specific vineyard in which they were produced. It is assumed that most white Burgundy wines are made with Chardonnay grapes and most red Burgundy wines are made with Pinot Noir grapes. In our first tasting, we tried Chenas Les Darroux 2011 (Gamay), Saint Veran Les Morats 2016 (Chardonnay), and Givry 2015 (Pinot Noir).