Windmills and the Water of Life.

We’re currently travelling at 250kmh on the fast train to Venice from Rome.The speed creates amazing amounts of pressure when we pass through the tunnels and the release inside your head means a constant popping of the ears…a sort of continual feeling of a plane taking off.
After we left Bordeaux, we managed to spend some time with our friends, the Devereaux’s. Les Alleuds, as I mentioned previously, has a very large ex-pat English community.
Attracted by a simple quasi-rural life, fresh produce and a much better climate, work is readily available & constant as word of mouth is a very successful form of advertising. As the community grows, so does the need for services.
Make no mistake, France is a rural country. Hunting is still prevalent in groups on a Sunday morning and the vicinity of shotguns whilst cycling along country roads can be a little disconcerting.
All around us in Les Alleuds were cornfields and in nearby Cognac, vineyards stretched as far as the eye could see. Making the most of acres of flat countryside & fuelled by winds from the nearby coast, the skyline is dominated by wind turbines.
Like giant, tacit sentinels with whirling scimitars, they stand almost whisper quiet. A single blinking red eye is all that alerts you to their presence in the thick black, blinding night.
Being semi-rural, everyone has a garden with seasonal vegetables and fruit trees; subsequently there are many homemade jams, conserves and of course Eau de Vie.
Eau de Vie can be made from just about anything that ferments. Once you’ve fermented last year’s fruit for a year, you take your stock to the local still for distillation: in this case, a travelling Alambic Still, fired by wood and operating in each small village for a couple of days. I tasted plum, grape, peach and a also a very strong Sloe gin. Aged, rough, warm and very very flavoursome: the rusticity of the spirit reflects the people and the countryside.

A day trip to the leviathan flagship Cognac house Hennessey, showed that even the multi-billion dollar companies that produce the expensive spirit in hand-cut crystal bottles follow the same recipe and methods as the 90 year old neighbour of our friends…albeit on a slightly grander scale.
The thousands of ageing barrels of Cognac only hint at the incredible task of the cellarmaster and his blending team, who year after year, must create the exact product so that brand continuity and assurance can be achieved regardless of vintage variation of the base wine product.
I’m not sure having access to almost 200 years of stock makes this job easier or harder.

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wicker baskets don't always mean moonshine.

The week flew and all too soon we had to say goodbye to our friends in Les Alleuds, but with the promise of a house swap over a Christmas in the near future. They love Sydney and we loved the area, the people and of course, the Water of Life.
Next stop, Burgundy with its revered Grand Cru vineyards that are worshiped by Pinot Noir lovers the world over…and to complete the odyssey of David Lloyd’s wine.

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