Monday, February 06, 2006

Goodbye, toes. Hello, wine!

I woke up on saturday to find that the snot factory in my head was still chugging away, and I didn't really feel much better. But, like the sport I am, I put that all aside because it was the day of the Percee du Vin Jaune! Catherine came to town in the morning, then we went to the train station in the afternoon to go over to Lons-le-Saunier.

There's a few things I should explain. First, that we wanted to take the first train that went into Lons after the Percee open in the afternoon -- so, everybody wanted to take the same train. Also, there are two types of trains that run on that line -- older, larger and new, small, futuristic-looking. For some reason, they decided to run the newer trains, with only two cars. I was getting nervous seeing about 200 people waiting at the station, then felt even worse when that tiny train already packed with people pulled up. We squeezed in, somehow. The train ride was about a half hour. That was a half hour of having my back so firmly squeezed against the girl behind me that I could feel her entire skeletal structure every time the train went around a slight curve.

Lons was really nicely decorated with little garlands of paper flower and people raring to get liquored up. When they handed over my 10 drink tickets, I could only count myself among them. I have to admit, I was a bit disappointed when I realized that they actually poured tasting amounts.

Over the four hours we were there, I probably consumed two modest glasses of wine. Those two glasses were immediately metabolized, too, in order for my body to not die of the cold. We also got some tartiflette to help stay alive. As we were eating, Catherine said, "I'd never eat this much back at home. I'd also never eat a whole meal of potatoes covered in cheese."
"God, me neither!" I said, "I guess these are the sacrifices we makes to be part of the culture."

Most of the vineyards had tables set up in the little cellars underneath stores and buildings. To get the wine, we had to go down the stone steps into a little dusty, cobwebby cave.

It was actually kind of charming. Plus, all of the people crammed into the small spaces created a bit of heat, otherwise totally absent from the day.

We stumbled upon a vintage wine auction, which was probably the coolest part of the day. First of all, I understood all of the numbers as they were being called out. This was one of the difficult things about learning french that I didn't expect. In this language, like a lot of other, the numbers seem to compound a lot of more significantly. For example, 98 is said "four-twenty-ten-eight." 170 is "hundred-sixty-ten." 16 is "sixteen," but seventeen "ten-seven." I was rather proud of myself that I have learned it all well enough that I could follow along with the bidding.
The part that might be interesting for you is the ages and prices of the wine. They were selling off bottles of wine from the mid-80s all the way to 1934. That one, the vin jaune from '34 (which does keep that long) , cost about 500USD. Most of the wine was from the 60s and 70s, and ran around 120 - 200 euro.

I might have misled you saying that they didn't have enough wine to get people drunk. In addition to the 10 samples glasses, they also had bottles for sale at all of the vendors. At very reasonable prices. And they'd open the bottle for you right at the table. So, groups of people were walking around town, sharing a bottle on the street. Ahh, france.

We had fun! Then we went home and ate a much more american meal: salad. Oh, and endive soup. We finished off the day by sharing a bottle of Cremant du Jura and three episodes of the first season of Project Runway.


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