Monday, September 2, 2013

10 Things to Survive Salon des Vins.

Seriously, this weekend was just the best. As you all know our town's 28th Salon des vins took place this weekend, but the awesome sauce started well before the drinkers mosied up to their first booth.
One of the great things about living in France is that you get accustomed to eating fruit in season. And one of the bad things about living in France is that you get begrudgingly accustomed to eating fruit in season. Behold! The first Bio (that's organic for my Americans) apple of the season. I've been dying for a sweet, crunchy Bio apple for over 2 months now, but there have been none to be found. Once the granny smiths are back I'll be over the moon, because I'm craving some green juice as well. Regardless, I looked to this little treat on Saturday morning as a true sign that the annual Salon des vins is truly the official start of fall, and not, contrary to public opinion, when Starbucks starts serving up Pumpkin Spice lattes. (#sorrystarbucks) 
What other treasures did Doc come home with from his early Saturday morning marketing? (Not kidding, it's typically just him and a bunch of little old French ladies if he goes to Migros when it opens on a Saturday morning...and he loves it. He does well with the over 60 crowd...but I digress...) Well, aside from the major success of finding his very pregnant wife Bio apples, he also came home with 29 lbs. of pumpkin (so, yeah, look for some more pumpkin recipes coming up) and a kilo of figs. It really is the little things...
I know, I know the above ramblings of excitement over food shopping does indeed make me feel old, thanks for noticing. But wait there's more! Our la poste lady dropped off some new baby swag that we ordered too! That's exciting, right?! Right?!
Ok fine, on to the booze then.  
Being our fourth Salon des vins here in Thoiry, we've learned a few things over the years:
1. Choose wisely. Every stand is an investment in time, as well as what your liver can be expected to handle. There is no, "I'm going to just try one wine." Be prepared for 15 - 45+ minutes per stand, and multiple samples of an assortment of wines.
2. Bubbly and cognac last. A wise man once told us, "Never start with cognac or bubbly at the Salon des vins." Well, we typically start with the Cerdon stand (read: bubbly), but that's because they often sell out, but the cognac is always a last booth kind of deal.
3. Ask away. If you've got the French linguistic skills, ask questions (and hell, even if you don't, try). We've found out so many interesting things about the wines, eau de vie, Armagnac, cognac, etc., because Doc can talk the talk (and his talking the talk gets better with each wine sample - funny how that happens!). Don't be afraid to ask questions about how the grapes are grown and how long they ferment - the vendors love to talk about their wares.
4. Stick to the order. Don't think that just because you want to try a specific wine at a table that you can just ask for it, or taste wines in any order you want. Often the only choice you get at a table is if you'd like red or white, and then the vendor will give you your samples in a very particular order that they choose. If you choose to start out of order and skip wines, they often won't let you try the earlier ones as there is a palette method to their madness. Be patient, you'll get to your 2001 Jura Savignin eventually, but you've got to work through the 6 younger Jura wines first.
5. Bring water. Seriously, do it. And maybe a snack, like a baguette or granola bar. Not only is our Salon des vins hot as balls each and every year (regardless of the outside temperature), but water can be used to clean your palette and most importantly, stay hydrated. Why spend valuable wine money on buying a water at the event (if they even have it), when you can bring your own.
6. Don't lose your glass. Vendors have their own glasses and wash them in between uses, but if you're gonna pay the 4 euro for a sweet Salon des vins souvenir glass with the year on it, make sure it leaves the booth with you. Everyone forgets or almost forgets it at a booth at some point, so just keep it in mind.
7. No need to carry your purchases around with you. A few single bottles are fine to carry around, but anything more can be cumbersome. Vendors will gladly hold your wine behind the table until you're leaving. Just remember what vendors you need to go back to at the end of the day, and ask what time they are leaving. Some vendors leave early if the crowds thin out.
8. Do take pictures with famous scientists. Ok this one isn't a Salon des vins survival suggestion, just a chance for me to brag share that we got a picture with physicist and Director General of CERN, Rolf Heuer. You might recognize him from the Higgs Boson announcement back on July 4, 2012, or maybe in the awesome way that he handled questions from the press following the announcement. We were pretty stoked to see him at the salon, and didn't hesitate to ask for a picture with him.   
9. Have a "must buy" list. It's easy to spend all your money at the first three stands. The question you need to ask yourself is, "what special goodies has Chateauneuf du Pape brought with them this year?" I knew that I wanted to get a bottle of Chat du Pape from 2010 to put away, as that is the year we got married. We were able to snag a bottle of that to put away for our five year wedding anniversary, while still being able to enjoy ourselves at other stands with leftover cash in hand.  
10. Go in a group. Why? Not only is it more fun to go to the salon with friends, but it also takes away the pressure of feeling the need to buy something at a stand because you feel guilty. If it's just Doc and I, and we spend a lot of time tasting a vendors wares and learning about the process, we sometimes feel compelled to buy a bottle or two because we took up so much of someone's time (and wine). If there are 6 of you, someone is inevitably going to fall in love with some of the wine and buy it because they can't wait to drink it, rather than out of guilt.
Hey, speaking of friends, our dear friend Marc was in town for a bit, and somehow we were lucky enough that his trip lined up with Salon des vins. Living the expat life can be a lonely one, as there is often a revolving door of people coming and going, sometimes after a year, sometimes after five. It's even harder when you lose people to new jobs who have become like family in that time, and Marc is one of those friends for us. We were both so happy to get a little time with him on this trip.
How did I pass the time while our friends boozed for five hours, you ask? Well, all that standing around was tough on my 33+ weeks pregnant feet, so I had to sit and take breaks quite a bit. My big goal was to not be a big 'ole wet blanket for everyone else, while still taking breaks as needed...
...and of course I drank plenty of this wonderfully vintage Pelligrino in my very own Salon des vins glass. Le sigh. Next year Salon des vins, next year...
As far as my earlier mentioned wishlist of wines is concerned, we did a good job of knocking some of those off of the list. In the end we came home with six bottles of Cerdon, two bottles of a 2001 Beaujolais, a peach vine liquor, a 2010 Chat du Pape, a 2005 Jura Vin Jaune, a 2011 Jura Traditonal white, an Alsatian white, and another white that escapes me now because I was sitting on a bench while Doc bought it. All in all, thirteen bottles to add to our ever growing cave. Not too shabby of a Salon des vins if you ask me!
How was your weekend?
A la prochaine friends...


  1. Oh wow, this looks like fun. I hope you can fully enjoy next year!

    1. I hope so too! I did see some ingenious uses of strollers to carry cases of wine while there, with babies nowhere to be seen...interesting. ;)

  2. CERN is just the coolest thing ever and I can't believe I "know" someone who knows someone who works there. blowssss my mind.
    also, salon des vins sounds awesome. and YOU are awesome for taking one for the team this year - there's always next year! maybe i can come. :)

    1. It really is the coolest thing ever Taylor, it's so nice when other people realize that! I still have to pinch myself sometimes that I can come and go as I please, with my "wife ID" and all. Though I will say, my ID definitely doesn't open all the same doors that Doc's does - which is probably a good thing! And the Salon des Vins is a 3 day event - surely you can take a weekend to fly out here, right? :)

  3. Thirteen bottles is not too shabby at all!
    And besides Salon des Vins next year, I think you guys are due to visit Chateauneuf du Pape! Meet you there :)

    1. We are DEFINITELY due for a visit to Chateauneuf du Pape! We were actually just discussing that, and that we'd have to try to twist your arm to come out and join us. :)