Friday, April 3, 2009
Chestnuts, chateaus, chatus, and churches
I was hoping to post more than this, but again my time is limited. Most of our trip to the southern Ardeche (3 days) has involved things like chestnuts, chateaus, and chatus (plus churches).
In the southern Ardeche there are plenty of chestnuts, chateaus, and wines made from the Chatus grape variety. While in the area we visited the chestnut museum in the town of Joyeuse. Joyuese is a bustling little town with a delightful old center up above and a modern commercial center below, where the main road runs through town. The chestnut museum is located in the old center, next to the medieval church, and we spent some time there one afternoon. The museum was filled with fascinating information about the cultivation and use of chestnuts in the Ardeche, and the importance of chestnuts to the local economy and the daily life of the population for hundreds of year. Although chestnuts have declined in importance in the area, the southern Ardeche still produces a fair amount of chestnut products, including chestnut honey, soap, liqueur and flour.
I previously wrote about the wines from the Ardeche made from the Chatus grape, so I won't say any more about that. But as to chateaus (and churches), there are plenty of those in the area. And besides Chatus, there are an amazing number of interesting wines, despite the fact that the southern Ardeche has almost no AOC (appellation d'origine controllee) wines and must make do with Vin de Pays wines. A restaurant owner told us tonight that there is only about 15 years of bottling wine here (previously it was all sold in bulk), so no AOC is on the horizon. But many producers are making amazingly good wines. His restaurant was a simple pizza plus ravioli place, but he clearly liked his wines, and we had a great red and then a rose from Chateau de la Selve, a local producer of Vin de Pays de Coteaux de l'Ardeche.