Wine

Food Alert!

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If nothing changes by the end of 2014 the TAFTA (Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement) will be in force; a catastrophe for those who believe that food and drink are serious issues not to be messed about with so much.

If the agreement comes into force as planned then you will soon be saying hello to genetically modified milk, beef hormones, and chlorinated chicken, not to mention shale gas and oil… And then you will have to say farewell to managed environments, free-range, freedom foods, and a pleasant and green landscape pleasing to the eye as well as our collective conciseness. The influx of products will adversely affect our European food security for what I ask? A populist agenda and cheap shopping!

This project opens the doors to American domination so that they can make by 2029 $0.03 per person with nothing in it for Europeans I venture. The deal will remove trade barriers and tariffs designed to keep safe our own food supply, our own farms and associated businesses. American companies will enjoy commercial equality with our European companies. European jobs will be lost, a new recession is peering at us over the horizon at the end of the decade.

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European social structures will be damaged, possibly beyond repair by this agreement. Social standards will be diminished, economic standards will be diminished, industrial, cultural, and personal freedoms will be diminished because this agreement will attack our basic democratic freedoms through an unprecedented level of influence that will be exercised by the American mega-companies vying to control our food supply chains.

What gain for Europe? Well its suggested that Europe will gain 0.5% of total European GDP but its also said that this figure should be treated with scepticism, it might not happen!

There is also the further very thorny issue of energy supply. The agreement allows for free trade across Europe of energy supply but there is no universality of agreement between European states on the status of energy supply. In some countries certain types of energy (shale gas) is illegal. This is without question a massive area of concern not currently addressed by the agreement or the EU. Democratic rights will certainly be trampled under the American free trade boot when it comes to energy supply.

The European project seems to be under threat from our American cousins attempts to sell Europe food and energy that it does not need or want in most cases. Do we honestly need more Americanisms? Our food is currently too fast, more not less McDonald’s cannot surly be a good thing.

Symbols of Success

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For the last 2-weeks my house has been on the market for sale.  No big deal that, you might say but for my wife and I it is actually.  We plan to move out of a house we own and into rented accommodation.  Of course there’s a plan and we will buy a house in the South of France all being well.

For many years I’ve harbored a desire to live in France, particularly the South of France.  From my first visit on a student exchange programme when I was 13 years old right up to now I still have this desire, indeed it is now a burning desire, and for her sins my wife has agreed to putting my plan into action and buying a place, not a big place, but our place in France.  I’m sure initially it’ll be a holiday home and perhaps our extended family and friends will make use of it.  But eventually we will settle there to live our elder years out.

Thinking of this project has led to some personal revelations.  I think the feelings were always there just pushed down within myself.  Career wise I would be classed as one of those ‘self-starters’, motivated to succeed and ambitious.  I began in my current industry (factory applied coatings) 23 years ago as a factory laborer; the lowest employment level in the factory food-chain you could say.  Anyway, a shade over 5 years ago I bought the company I work for (with 3 others that is) for a couple of £M’s.  So I have a successful career by most people’s measures.  I enjoy my work but it’s not the reason I get up in the morning.

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So because of my career I own a nice house, in a nice part of town (very leafy), a new car (Alpha Romeo – very sporty it is too).  I holiday abroad 2 or 3 times per year, at least once on long-haul and my wife doesn’t work (she doesn’t need too).  All these are symbols of success! Well to some people anyway.

But actually what I really like is good food, good wine, being in the sun and fresh air to breath.  But I don’t want or feel the need to pay lots of money for these privileges, these should be just part of life and I don’t think I can get them often enough if I stay put.

Success is too often measured in financial terms, the stuff you own and how much you spend when really its about quality of life.  These are the symbols, the indicators, that a lot of people use to mark-out success and I have been guilty, all too guilty actually of using these self-same symbols as measures of other peoples and my own success.

I’m not saying these measures are bad or wrong at all.  No, they are valid, just no longer for me and I think my wife as well (well I truly hope so anyway).

Success for me means living life through experiences, by meeting people, seeing, watching and hearing beauty.  Success means really good food, wine and a clean environment to live in.

I truly hope I live my life as a success, I’d hate to think I was remembered and measured by the things I own rather than the contribution I made to the community I lived in, the experiences I had and shared with others.

derouler le tapis rouge

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Well here we go again, ding ding, round two.

Before he’d even uttered his closing words about a Euro in-out vote Mr. Cameron was being heckled from across the Channel. M Laurent Fabius the French Foreign Minister speaking on the radio station France Info said “Si la Grande Bretagne décide de quitter l’Europe, nous déroulerons aux hommes d’affaire le tapis rouge”  or in other words, they’ll roll out the red carpet for British Business.

A reference no doubt to the comments made last year by Cameron regarding the French Corrective Finance Bill or as we all know it the 75% tax take on those earning €1m+ where he offered to roll out the red carpet for French Business.  Saying they could pay for the British Health Service, Schools and everything else, so completely realistic then eh Mr. Cameron?  No, I didn’t think so.

During the interview M Fabius pointed out that Europe is not “a la carte”, its a set menu, the members cannot choose which bits they want and which bits they don’t.  Well the French may be playing football and they may think the Brits are playing rugby but heck they’re both team games so it would seem the war of the metaphor is about as enlightening as the red carpet digs.

Anyway my plaudits go to M Michel Sapin the French Ministre du Travail who suggested that rolling out a red (or any other colour for that matter) carpet over the Channel might get it wet.

All this said, countries do actually pick and choose in reality on so many things and as far as I can tell always based on National rather than EU interest; just have a look at the Common Agricultural Policy and try to work out if it applies equally to all nations.  No, you don’t think its applied evenly across the EU?  Well perhaps not but the history of the CAP is based on French farmers concerns regarding keeping produce local so limiting the amount and ensuring a high price and to be honest I don’t mind paying if what I’m getting is authentic.

Long may these exchanges continue, highly entertaining I think.

The EU will almost certainly benefit from more integration but it’s gotta keep localized production processes to make the very most of the range and quality of food, drink, clothing, cars and any other product produced in a specialized way. Why would anybody want Bordeaux wine made anywhere else but Bordeaux?

M Sapin, I’m with you, wet carpets aren’t much fun and a devil to get dry.  After all with an ENS education he’s a clever chap.

Anti-Malbouffe

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Millau, 12 Aug. 1999 sheep farmer and Roquefort producer Jose Bove & a few friends decided to dismantle an under construction McDonalds in the South of France. His action was precipitated by an EU-US trade dispute at the WTO where the cheese had been punitively subject to a 50% tariff. 

Some accused Bove of nation bashing, of national chauvinism. But Bove himself made himself clear that his target was not the national origin of the restaurant. Rather, it was the quality of the food it served.

It wasn’t anti-American, it was anti-malbouffe (against bad food). It was a struggle against global free trade and capitalism. It was about the logic of a certain system, of globalization, of homogeneity, it was not directed at those who carry an American passport. 

In a later incident Bove was detained for setting fire to a field of genetically modified crops. At the same time a group of peasant Indian farmers were touring Europe as part of an international caravan. After Bove’s arrest they insisted the French Authorities arrest them too, the meaning of the golden arches was just as objectionable to them. 

Bove is part of an international movement, one that is far from knee-jerk. It’s a movement that would like to turn the clock back to a time when food was the result of traditional cooking. 

The amount of time spent cooking in UK homes has fallen dramatically in the past hundred years. This has happened as a function of women’s changing role in society, the possibility of long food storage and preservation, longer working hours, the availability of food which is quicker to prepare, and the sense that there are better things to do than food preparation. 

Bove is aiming to return the meaning of food to one of celebration rather than one of requirement. When people no longer feel the need to eat together at home or cook for themselves then the family will begin to disintegrate. Those who do this are complicit in the march towards universal alienation. 

Children tend to do better when they interact with adults and mealtimes are the best time to interact this is not, I offer rocket science. Bove is making a much deeper point though, adults do better when taking time to eat, to appreciate the ingredients and the process of cooking. 

1934 = average time to cook a meal 150 minutes (2.5 hours)

2010 = average time to cook a meal 8 minutes 

Good reasons to love Bordeaux wines

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Freedom, diversity, simplicity… and much more! 

The 7 Bordeaux appellations account for 54% of the Bordeaux wine region, 63000 hectares and 5000 winegrowers, making it the world’s largest fine wine area. With such a wealth of wines, there is something for every taste and every fancy, an infinite variety of pleasures.

They are simply delicious wines.

Elegant, delicate, balanced… There’s no shortage of words to describe Bordeaux wines. They can be drunk with any meal from the simplest of country fair to the most elaborate of dishes, from the most traditional to the most exotic.

They can be drunk at any age. Bordeaux Superieur can give the best when young.  The fruity quality is a delightful experience on the palate. But they are also capable of aging for a few years to offer a more subtle bouquet.

Famous all over the world for quality, Bordeaux is now available at more than reasonable prices. They are well within the reach of everyone’s pocket.

Bordeaux reds boast a wide range of nuances and combine their qualities in a 1000 ways. But diverse as they may be they all share the same quality; the ability to express the fruit to the full.

When most people say Bordeaux they are referring to the Chateaux. But Bordeaux is so much more. Wine blended by wineries of trading houses or cooperatives can be equally excellent too. Behind the label you’ll fine wine of a consistent nature year-on-year variations in the terroir notwithstanding.

Vines that are often ancient, a minimum maturing time of 12 months, long periods in oak barrels… If you want to earn the Bordeaux Superieur Appellation you have to comply with some really strict rules designed to give an optimum expression of the terror. But the wine maker will also show off their talents too. Each bottle will contain an imprint of the maker. The wine will be a reflection of the specific expertise, personal style, each bottle will have the taste of the vintage, something quite special.

Consumed young the wines are generally eloquent, but with some patience they will reveal aromatic richness, and fruity flavors endowed with woody, leathery, spicy notes as well as plenty more. Bordeaux Superieur do not age they simply get better with time.

My advice is discover the wines, share the wine. There is no need for a special occasion or ceremony open a bottle and enjoy.