This morning started off the way that I think all mornings should: walking back from the bakery in town savoring a pain au chocolat (chocolate croissant) still warm from the oven. And, like most days studying abroad, my day only got better from there! You see, after a few days of establishing our understanding of cheese and wine fermentation via lectures, our professors ushered us onto a bus for a jam-packed day of experiencing these subjects first-hand.
|Our first stop was an elevated vantage point overlooking the wine-making appellation of Pouilly-Fuissé. Underneath the magnificent rock formation of Roche de Solutré, a scholar who specialized in Medieval wine-making provided us with a historical overview of French wine-making. Looking out onto the seemingly endless rows of vines sprawling out into the valley beneath us, the concept of “terrior” that we had been studying suddenly made sense. Although we had discussed the concept of soil diversity being like a patchwork quilt- with one area being drastically different than a neighboring area as little as a meter away- the concept hadn’t clicked until I saw the perfect illustration of this principle in the valley.|
|Next, we visited Sonia, whom we had met previously at Alice’s wine shop, at the winery that she and her husband own together- Domaine Perraud. Because this wine production facility was constructed relatively recently and was, therefore, very ergonomic, it provided the perfect opportunity to walk through the process of wine production from vine to bottle. Starting at the vines, we learned about agricultural measures taken to ensure that grapes of ideal sugar concentration are produced, including precautions taken to protect the grapes from disease, pests, and physical damage by weather. We then followed the grapes’ path inside after harvesting, cleaning and sorting to the maceration tanks. At this point the wine-making process diverged depending on whether white or red wine was being produced. I couldn’t believe that to make red wine, Sonia had to climb inside the tanks and crush the grapes with her feet- almost like in the famous episode of “I Love Lucy”! After maceration came fermentation, aging in barrels or steel tanks, bottling, labeling, and shipping.
#FoodSciOrDie Fun Fact: Labeling does not occur directly after bottling. Instead, labels are applied when shipments are sent out. The same wine may sport different labels based on the country and target market. For example, in terms of Burgundy wine labels, grape variety (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, etc.) would be included on U.S. labels but not French labels, as the grape variety is implied in France.
After our tour of Domaine Perraud, we tasted some of their wines and had quite a sizable picnic on the patio of the winery- indulging on countless types of local fermented meats and cheeses atop fresh french bread.
||Full from our picnic, we traveled via bus to another wine production facility: Domaine des Poncetys in the St. Veran region. This winery was particularly interesting because it was part of a trade high school (Lycée Viticole de Davayé) that primarily specializes in teaching wine production, wine marketing, and goat cheese production. Not only did this vineyard act as a classroom, it also acted as a research laboratory piloting new techniques for the wine industry! Because wine production here executes research and development of contemporary agricultural practices, it was interesting to compare and contrast the wine production processes of Domaine des Poncetys and Domaine Perraud. In particular, Domaine des Poncetys had a greater focus on the preservation of the environment, as it was implementing viticulture practices ranging from integrated pest management to holistic remedies based on moon cycles. Additionally, Domaine des Poncetys used a particularly interesting piece of equipment to macerate its grapes that essentially gradually expanded a balloon within a tank to distribute equal pressure on the grapes. This crushed the grapes without extracting bitter flavors from crushed seeds or stems.
Of course before we left, we had to taste test Domaine des Poncetys’ wine and check out the goat cheese production facilities- mainly the adorable goats!
|Just when we thought we had maxed-out on goat-cuteness for the day, we headed over toward Margaretha’s gorgeous, secluded farm and climbed into her enclosure to be surrounded by more goats. Margaretha has to be one of my favorite people I have met in France- except she isn’t from France at all, but Holland! She typically keeps to herself in her rural, mountain oasis living with her mismatched herd of goats, proud billy goat, mythically-named horse, unwanted collection of stray cats, and Buddy the Dog. In addition to running an entire farm by herself and making absolutely phenomenal Maconnaise goat cheese, Margaretha is a celebrity vendor at the Saturday Market and an active participant in musical groups within Cluny. Margaretha was so hospitable, friendly, and kind to our class as we visited not only her farm, but her home.|
Today was so great. It’s quite apparent that when our professors plan “excursions” for us, we’re really going to pack a lot into the day! I am so excited for our future excursions, as I definitely learned a ton from these hands-on experiences.