The majority of our trip to France was to get off the beaten path and see what kind of food and wine there was to be had. France, one of the great centers where all great food and wine comes from. We wanted to see, feel, smell and taste our way through Bourgogne. One of our stops was to visit a wine maker in St Sernin du Plain, the town we were staying in.
the scene of below St Sernin du Plain, Bourgogne, France
St Sernin du Plain is a small town reachable by car, and sits on top of th hills filled with vineyards. There is only one part-time restaurant in this town, and it is only open during the warmer months. The view from our B&B window was the rolling hills of central Bourgogne. The closest train is about 1/2 hr drive by car, so not many on-foot tourist make it up to this little town. Much of the land in St Sernin du Plain was passed down from generation to generation, so the vineyards have been tended to by the same families for at least 400-500 years or more. Some of the houses in center town are just as old, and rarely come up on the market for sale.
the church in the town center
What I noticed about Bourgogne, including St Sernin du Plain, is that the town centers are where people live, and they all go to their vineyards, gardens or farms to work. It is a community based living there. Rarely do you see a house on the vineyard, garden or farm property in Bourgogne. Here in the USA, you see more single house structures on the edge of a farm unit, where each resident or farmer is self isolating themselves from everyone else. I much prefer the Bourgogne community development method of centralized living, but still have family farms. I suppose back in the day 100s and 1000s of years ago, centralized living was imparative for water supply and commerce all done by foot, as there were no cars, trains or motorcycles. I assume because the USA is so young, and born out of single family unit expanding into the the west, the single isolated house on a plot of land was the development design here.
Herve Girard, St Sernin du Plain winemaker
Anyway, back to France - We met Herve Girard, a winemaker from a long line of winemakers of at least 400 years in St Sernin du Plain, Borgogne, France. The Girard vineyards are young compared to some of the neighboring vineyards, which have a record history of at least 100 years longer than their vineyards. Herve's sister Isabelle and Herve have been running the family business of wine making. They only sell their wine in France, and mostly in the St Sernin du Plain area. We have no hope in finding any of his wine in the USA, let alone TN. We could only bring back a couple of the Girard bottles in our checked baggage on the plane because we don't think we could mail ourselves because of import rules, and alcohol crossing state line rules. I heard from some friends who honeymooned in Germany, France and then Great Britain, that they tried to mail a case of wine from Germany to themselves in TN. The box never showed up. I suspect the USA Mail or the USA border patrol officials stopped the box, and the officials have gotten to enjoy some really good lip smacking wine.
Herve and Isabelle's barrels in their cave
Back to the Girard wine making, it is amazing how less fussy this family is about wine making than any of the wineries I have visited in Napa, Sanoma, PA or TN. There is a trend that I have seen in Napa and Sanoma to over young oak, over process and over bold the wine. The Girards simply have giant 40 year old oak barrels that have no vanillian to give, and they use to age their wine before bottling. They also have giant concrete vats to age. I asked about oaking, and Herve looked at me with a knowing grin, and he said that if the grapes are excellent, there is no reason to oak the juice. He said most of years, the grapes are of such high quality, the wine must speak for itself, and not be covered by oak. I understand this with the analogy of smoked BBQ. Good smoked BBQ needs no sauce because it is so tasty and speaks for itself. BBQ sauce is usually used to cover up bad BBQ food. Herve seems to be less fussy than Napa and Sanoma wineries, and his wine is just delicious. The 2003 - 2005 pinot noirs we drank were straight forward, no oak, smooth and delicious. There was no added sulfites to the Girard wines either. We could just sip on the Girard's wine all day, and on a couple days, we did just that.