Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Bernache!

red wine grapes yet to be harvested
Right now it is a busy month for the vignerons with the vendange going full tilt. We don't notice it here in Charnizay. Apart from one small outpost near Bossay sur Claise all the vinyeards of the Touraine AOC are well to the north of us.

There is an added bonus to the vendange activities in September though: you can buy 'Bernache'. It's a name particular to the Loire which is given to the fresh fermenting grape juice. It is only available at this time and is a real treat. About 5% alcohol, it is cloudy, often very unctuous and sweet. As it matures it changes, losing a bit of its sweetness and gaining a vague hint of the wine it will become. Vague for ordinary people like us. Expert vignerons can tell from the older Bernache what their wine will be like--but it takes a trained palate & experience. Sometimes you can find Bernache in your local supermarket; we go to the Co-op at Francueil and buy a few bottles of wine as well.

bottles of bernache
There's nothing fancy about it. It's sold 'en vrac'; not bottled. You either bring your own container(s) or they'll fill re-cycled bottles for you. 1ltr 1/2 Cristaille water bottles seemed to be the re-cycled bottle of choice. It's rather like going to a filling station for gas. You line up and they squirt the Bernache into your bottles from a large gleaming and chilled vat. In the bottle it looks like cloudy apple juice. They make a small hole in the bottle cap before handing it to you to allow the natural fermentation gases to escape; so you need to keep the bottle(s) upright. It is good practice to wedge the bottle(s) securely for the drive home. Otherwise after the 1st bend you come to you'll find your car awash with sweet sticky Bernache and smelling like a winery! 

Niall: vine photography in action
Chatting to the lass who was manning the bernache 'pump' we heard that the vendange is proceeding reasonably well, despite the heavy rains last Sunday. The rosé Bernache, made from the red wine grapes is due in a good week or so, which means we will be going back for some of that. After all, it is a speciality which you can only enjoy for a brief time.


[apologies for the fuzziness of bernache bottle pic. We were in a rush as the bottles were going to a friend]

13 comments:

Food, Fun and Life in the Charente said...

Interesting I have never heard of Bernache. I saw a field down the road at the weekend busy with crowds of pickers. There is not a huge amount grown around us, they are mostly a bit further South or West toward Cognac. Diane

GaynorB said...

So do you keep this Bernache or drink it fresh?

Jean said...

I have never seen or heard of Bernache ~ perhaps we're never around at the right time.

We walked up to the château at Etableau, along the lane that goes behind it, and there were a few rows of vines there. I wondered whose they were as you don't see many vines in the area.

(PS word verification is PEISTH !!)

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Diane - it seems to be particular to the Loire region. The co-op at Francueil advertises its arrival. You do -occasionally- see it elsehwere. It's then called 'vin neuve'

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Gaynor - you drink it fresh and keep it in the fridge. It doesn't keep long.

@Jean - it's only available during the grape harvest -- so September.

Tim said...

The fuzzinezz wazn't down to the Bernache then!!! ;-)

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Tim - LOL not this time!

The Broad said...

France really is a never-ending learning experience!

the fly in the web said...

There used to be...probably still are.. bernache and chestnuts celebrations.
Lovely combination...icy bernache and hot chestnuts straight off the brazier.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@The Broad - you might be able to get it in the Quercy region which is your neck of the woods I think. If they have it they'll probably call it vin neuve.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@fly - couldn't agree more! Last year we went to the fete/brocante des marrons in Genillé and had exactly that. Looking forward to going again this year on 16 Ocotber.

JEH2011 said...

Remind me to visit in September too ;-)

Lovely photographs and interesting to read too - hadn't heard of this before!

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Jane - it's very much a Loire thing. Pretty sure you'd like it :-)