Âllo, âllo, Bonjour!

Here, totally French – meaning late- a brand-new Slurp! A sluggish spring has finally kissed the vineyards into awaking. But now they’re off! Allez, on y va!


‘La floraison!’ Paul rang excitedly! ‘You have to go into the vineyard and smell the vines, Ilja, wonderful! The grapes are blossoming!’ It would have been more surprising if that hadn’t been the case and more to appease Paul I strolled towards the vineyards to smell the blossoming grapes. But how right he was. In between the opening vines hangs an almost tangible tension. It smells like the start of new life. Delicate white flowers stretching themselves towards the sun like microscopically small white tulips.


Already after a few days the flowers are letting go and float down to earth. Like a salute with which they declare the baby grapes born.

Last autumn the Maitre de Chai, Philippe, trimmed the languishing castle-rose, which it now getting back at us by blindingly laughing at us every morning.   But the wineboer doesn’t let himself be distracted; at a pace of 1 cappuccino per hour he steadily continuous writing his book.

About the Gaza of wine

The Bordeaux-region is more than just the most famous wine region in the world. This seemingly rustic part of France is a prime example of the immensely unfair inequality upon which our society is based.

Because the Bordeaux consists of a poor side (where I just happen to be located) and a rich side. The two opposites are strictly separated. Not using fences with 220 volts coursing through them, miles of barbed wire and minefields, but by some water.
A deep river, which is about 2.5 km wide with very strong currents, separates the princes from the paupers: La Gironde, slang for ‘The Gorge’.

We get to cross, because we have been invited by my friend, who has a wine château on the rich side. No, wait he has two wine châteaux there. Hold on, he has three of them. Oh right, and another one in Italy.

We cross over to the beau monde from a small city called Blaye. Famed for its lively Saturdaymarket, but it isn’t here, which six out of seven days is the case, and those six there’s there is absolutely nothing to do. Wonderful. The purchase of the tourist train has been heavily debated by the town council , but the decision has been made: the sponsors have been found and the train has arrived. Now all they need are the tourists.   At 11.00 'o clock we take the ferry, which in France is called ‘a bin’.

We make our way to the open waters and soon enough the thirteenth century fortified town became smaller and smaller until it disappears in the distance, leaving just a vague coastline.

Our only fellow passenger is a disappointed murderer. Sadly he stares out of the boat’s window, while he thumbs the sharpened edge of his axe under his coat. ‘Shit, once again no one to kill…’

We drifted over the poverty line. There is no distinct difference with the poor side: empty stone villages sleepily basking in the afternoon heat. Every now and then a swallow flies over the street, the only thing that disrupts the silence it’s the loud chirping of some birds seeking shelter in a hedge.   But a well observing builder would recognize the pantalon blue of a Château harvester who, before he starts with his exuberant lunch, enjoys a moment in his Jacuzzi with one of his maîtresses.

Further more, the castles here aren’t made from stone, like our Château, but from candy, filled to the brim with whipped cream and covered in chocolate roof tiles.   Compared to this our castle is more like a dollhouse.
So embarrassingly small, that we do everything in our power to save visitors form this disappointment.


Which is the opposite of what they do on the rich side, where the infrastructure is designed to optimally attract wealthy tourists willing to spend all their money on wine. Preferably arriving busloads at the time.

Oh well, we have to keep in mind that we are on the gold coast of Bordeaux, where they trim their lawns with a pair of nailscissors.   Where every newly planted grapevine doesn’t get one, like everywhere else, but two piquets (stakes).
Where it is almost considered a mortal sin not to salute their vineyards if you happen to pass by.  

Where the amounts the lords receive for their wine are so high, that they can permit to hire four people to take care of one square meter vineyard, while our Régis has to handle twentythousand of them by himself.

They Château that belongs to my friend is fairly easy to find, as they named a road after it.

Rightly so, because it is breathtakingly beautiful, with grounds amounting to 300 hectares, which dates back to the twelfth century. With a park of 20 hectares, in which you find dreamy ponds and swans right out of a fairytale.


My friend produces a wine here that is so delicious that you'd start putting cameras at cash points, just to get another sip of it. this luscious Margaux is ranked amount the best wines in the world. It is a 'Troisième Grand Cru Classé du Médoc' which is an unattainably high status, but in a reelection (which will never happen) it would certainly end up being a 'Deuxième Grand Cru' if not a 'Premier'.

(Cliquez ici to read all about the Grand Cru Classé’s du Médoc).

  It’s quite a company. Obviously with a souvenir shop. Look at how Stessi holds the wine, with so much love, like it’s a recently born baby! If a bottle of this divine nectar happens to be slightly outside of the budget, you can always buy a postcard depicting the bottle. Or a t-shirt, a cap, or a keychain. Pas de problème.
The castle room that is rented out for weddings and parties has a fireplace so big that the hospitality manager Marc Verpaalen can stand in it up right without much bother.

‘People form the capital of your enterprise’ is what my friend believes. Which is why he named Maïté, the sweetest cook in the whole of France, head of the department ‘round tummy’.  

On this extraordinarily ordinary Monday the staff was treated to Quiche à Lorraine en Quiche de canard aux fleurs de courgettes.

But to my endless sadness we were not to partake in this feast as my friend was awaiting us at his second château. An at least as beautiful, if not more so, castle dating from 1143 with 80 hectares Margaux. This is also a ‘Grand Cru Classé’, though this time a ‘Cinquième’.

It’s hot. The pool immaculate and sparkles temptingly in the sun.   It does seem like the lawn suffered some what under the frequent coming and going of my friends Sirkorsky-helicopter.

The château has been decorated with such immense taste, it’s so overwhelmingly beautiful…

… that this simple winemaker has to keep his shades on to keep from being blinded by all this beauty.


But the lumch is served 'à l'exterieur', im thre shade of the archways. to avoid that a rogue ray of sunlight reaches our lunch, virgin maid Lisa put up an extra parasol.
Soft music, of unsurprising quality, emanates from carefully placed, and therefore invisible, speakers.

How lucky can you get

In his book ‘Omdenken’ Bertold Gunster says that we are to accept every setback and to turn every dire situation our advantage. The more dire, he writes, the better things will go. Well, then he should be very proud of my friend, who is called Eric Albada Jelgersma, as he is a prime example this.

Five years ago one of the most terrible things that can happen, happened to him: During an unfortunate fall he broke his back and from one moment to the next he was totally paralyzed. Ever since then he has been stuck in his wheelchair. And that is much more than not being able to walk or to drive a car, no in this situation you’re constantly depended on the assistance of others: you can’t feed yourself, you can’t call or mail, you can’t get out of bed, go to the loo, you can’t turn over in your sleep, you breath goes into your lungs through a tube and you have to drink though a straw.

An average person, including myself, would have fallen in an abyss darker than is imaginable and eventually handed the reins over to Maarten.

Not, however, my friend Eric. With sheer, superhuman willpower he found himself in his way in this abysmal situation, more over, he took his fate in his own hands. Of course, surviving becomes easier when as wallet size increases but you can’t buy willpower.

Rarely the feet of someone stronger willed have touched this earth; Attila the Hun, Napoleon and Alexander the Great, all softies compared to my friend.

Even though he can’t physically do anything, he has a joy of life and an energy, which are incomprehensible for us mere mortals. Twenty-four hours a day he is cared for by four highly qualified nurses. But however resilient they are, on tour they all have to take a few days off every once in a while because they can’t match Eric’s energized spirit; making calls, sending faxes, reading reports, having lunches, eating dinners, receiving business relations, everything goes on. With the same feeling for detail and etiquette which always marked his doings.
Mirjam, one of his four caretakers, all of which unite a unique combination of beauty, intelligence and dedication within them, says: 'He is so energetic and wants so much, we just can’t keep up!'

The lunch was delicate, playful, light and delicious. But Eric’s wines we much more than that. To be honest: they are too good. It takes beyond human amounts of self-discipline not to fill your glass every time you finish it.

The shoulders of Alexander van Beek wouldn’t exactly win the first price at the world championship bodybuilding. Still they carry the full weight of all four of Eric’s chateaus. Yet he manages to sip the annoyingly good Rosé de Giscours totally relaxed.   Our Château de la Garde Bordeaux Supérieur 2007 did, in all modesty, expertly match up with the plateau de fromages.

It was a joyous reunion. Culinarily speaking perfectly structured and vinologically excellently supported.
It wasn’t until late that afternoon that we started to more our way back to the poverty line. We still had some time to make a brief stop as some huts belonging to wine refugees who illegally swam across…   … and still before sun down we boarded the bin and weltered back to the dimension of this world meant for us ordinary folk.

Retour à la Réalité

The next day be decided, fired up by the most serious of intentions to get everything out of life, to have a feast. Juicy melons, oysters on the grill, grilled farmers chicken and ripe French cheese that you can smell from miles away. As a simple run of the mill wine maker, we can’t really afford servant girls, nor sturdy nurses, which means that for the daily bread we have to face the perils of the market ourselves.


The problem with the local market is however that one, as popular winemaker, will be chased by sex-crazed groupies.

meloen kip

Firstly the melon. Fellow winemaker Jean-Marie speaks the local dialect, which sounds like he is trying to swallow a mouthful of rusty nails. He advises me to, before initiating the purchase, test the melons of the stand-owner Brigitte of their juiciness by squeezing them firmly. Because I'm not entirely certain I'm fully able t grasp his meaning, I decide to forget his advice and rush over to Marc, also known as ‘The Chicken’.


You have to be an early riser, because Marc only brings a few chickens to the market and before you know it they’re all gone. It's something I've noticed before: at some point market traders start to resemble the product they’re selling. Marc the Chicken lives up to his nickname; he looks like he could stretch his neck and start clucking loudly any second. And meanwhile accidentally saying an egg in his trousers.
His wife - the woman with the mustache, more about her in the next Slurp! - sadly isn’t there, but is replaced by there lovely daughter Lidy, who is studying at the Academy d’Aviation to become a pilot. Biological?
‘No idea,’ Marc answers. ‘We have a few chickens, which wander about, look for worms and snails, we feed them corn and every once in a while we kill a few for the market. That’s all.'


Then on to Céline for a head of lettuce something’s up with her leg. Today she has to direct her son Lou as to how to properly conduct business, all of this from her deckchair. Not an easy task, because the chances of Lou being awarded the next Nobel prize are fairly slim.
Moi: 'One head of lettuce please, Lou.' Lou grabs a plastic bag and starts to fill it with fistfuls of potatoes. ‘No you moron!’ Céline yells from her deckchair. ‘Lettuce, he wants lettuce!’ She puts aside her needlepoint and eagle-eyed she follows his movements. The piece of cardboard in between all the lettuce with 0.60 euro eluded Lou. He picks up a calculator and starts crunching random number while looking like he’s trying to find the solution for cold fusion.
‘Sixty cents you idiot!’ Céline bellows from behind him. As she has corrected him from giving e back 19 euros and 40 cents on the fiver I gave him I leave their enterprise and rush onward to the cheese-wagon.

kaas oesters
Cheese-makers Marie-Anne and Jean only have Chêvre. Their business is also not biological for as far as they know. They have a pasture full of goats, which eat grass, they milk them and make cheese of the milk. And with that they go to the market. Before noon everything is sold out and they go for a good lunch in the shadow of a big oak tree, in front of their farm.   'Oysters on the barbecue?!?!' On the rosy-cheeked, round face of Martine appears an expression that could be either ridicule or pity. She was born and raised between the oysterbanks and the calm sea, but she’s never come across something that sounds this unappetizing. 'Oh well, if you really want it,’ she says remembering we’re just idiotic foreigners from the north, ‘then I’d at the very least take some of the big ones.’ And she fills a bag with 13 of the biggest, wettest ones.

Receipe roosted oysters
snor oeters

Chop a red union, some parsley and some garlic, as fine as possible without losing fingers.
Mix that with butter that has been out of the fridge for a while. Make a fire form twigs and branches. When it gets going properly, you throw the staves of a used winebarrel in the fire.
Pour a nice glass of wine and go and have a cozy chat with girlfriend, boyfriend, husband, wife, child or pet.
When the staves no longer seem to hold a flame and they have changed into a red glow, you have a braise. Get the oysters out of the fridge and put them on the grill above the braise. After a few minutes they’ll open by themselves.
Pry off the top half, put a dollop of oyster-butter in them and put them back on the grill until the butter begins to boil in the oyster.


Receipe chicken without melon

In the absence of melon it became ‘chicken with lemon’ which was promoted to ‘chicken with lime’ due to the lack of lemon.

Buy a chicken from Marc the Chicken.
Cover the inside with salt and pepper.
Make small cuts in its skin and squeeze cloves of garlic, fresh thyme and slices lime into them.
Cut two limes in to pieces and shove those up the egg shoot.

Prepare the chicken by putting it in the oven for half an hour, cut it in two and put both halves on the braise. This can be done at the same time as the oysters.

The chicken will indicate when it’s ready by doing a skillfully executed double backflip right onto your plate.

Receipe cheese
Buy cheeses from a real cheese farmer. Take them out of the fridge three hours in advance. Put them on an old wooden board and but a savagely big knife next to it. grill pieces brown bread on the barby. Then open a good bottle of Château de la Garde 2006 Make hot cheese sandwiches for each other.   This vivacious, young Chêvre is called a Cendré, ‘rolled though ash’. A thousand year old habit from the time when salt was still used as currency and therefore was too expensive to add to cheese. Because ash contains salt, it was used instead.
Crape off the ash before you eat the cheese.

Golden wine for golden woman

Here they are: the La Tulipe Premium Restaurant wines. All three won medals, all three won gold. The first bottle was opened by Thérèse Boer, viticulturist, sommelier, hostess, manager, wife of, mother and bombshell from Restaurant De Librije in Zwolle.

Cliquez ici for the summery of all the medals for the first half of 2010

Allez, hartelijk Santé et à la prochaine!


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