Sur Lie, Muscadet, Domaine de la Pépière, 2011

It is probably typically Belgian, this love for the underdog, but I allways have been very keen on the best wines from wineregions with a bad reputation. They deliver an excellent price/quality and they make you remember where the region got its reputation. 

The Loire is one of these regions, and especially the Muscadet has a special place in my wineheart. Ever since I had my first fruits-de-mers combined with one of these dirt-cheap fresh and vibrant wines I fell in love with them, and the idea of resolutely going for the cheapest wine on the list and then finding out it was actually the best combination is great. I also frequently experienced that when going for the slightly more expensive Muscadet on a winelist I stumbled upon the very best of the region, sometimes in very unpretentious restaurants where you would not expect them.

Recently I drank a bottle by Marc Ollivier, an impressive figure and an excellent winemaker. and unfortunately an exception in the region as he works his soils and does not use weedkillers. In the nose it was mineral with a vague hint of apples, but the ones you will find on farmers markets and bio-shops, the old varieties I mean. In the mouth the same earthiness, the taste of soil and old apples powdered with dust, and in the finish, that was quite fresh, a surprising little touch of honey.

I paid 9,5 euro for this bottle at Delcoeur in Eupen, Belgium. Marc also makes an unpretentious but very good red, and some top-cuvées in white that I still have to find (and taste). If you ever drive through Eupen, this is and a good wineshop and a good restaurant : www.delcoeur.be

I wrote this message because I stumbled on a very interesting article on my favorite wineblog, Wine Terroirs. It has some nice pictures of Marc Ollivier and explains very well the circumstances in the Muscadet region, where wine-heaven and wine-hell are often neighbours. The picture of Mr Ollivier also comes from this article. http://www.wineterroirs.com/2013/05/muscadet_vineyard_man...


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The Falcons of Fire and Ice, by Karen Maitland

A fable relates how once a falcon refused to return to his master's fist. A cockerel, watching this, thought, I am just as fina a bird as any falcon, yet I am forced to scratch fro scraps in the dust at my master's feet. Why should I not ride upon his fist and be fed choice meats from his fingers ?

So the cockerel flew up on to his master's fist. His master was delighted and praised the the bird for its cleverness. The he killed it, and held up its body as a lure for the falcon, which at once returned to his fist and devoured the cockerel's flesh.

This quotation comes from the book The Falcons of Fire and Ice by Karen Maitland. I am a big fan of historical fiction, almost an addict, so whenever I spot one I buy it. This story plays in 1564 and starts in Portugal where the Inquisition spreads its wings of terror and decides to annihilate the Marrano's, former jews that were forced to convert to Catholicism. It ends in Iceland, where a vicar plays a deadly game to create a draugr, some kind of demon, and a Siamese twin in a cave tries to stop it. It mixes historical facts with talks of the supernatural, and it is definitely a page turner, well written, and a very pleasant read.


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Pat Barker: Toby's Room


When I bought this book in a bookshop in Canterbury, I had no idea of the Virginia Woolf link. I just like Pat Barker's style and the way she writes about the impact of WWI on young lives, and next year we commemmorate the Rape of Leuven in 1914. For the moment the University Archive of the Leuven University collects family pieces that have a link with WWI to scan them and add them to its image collection, and a friend of me and my wife prepares the big commemorative expo that will be held in our town. So, more than enough reasons to buy this book, I think. The link with Virginia is the artist community of Charleston Farmhouse, where part of the book plays. Virginia had lots of friends there and was a frequent visitor. http://www.charleston.org.uk/

I started reading the book during a professional stay in the Black Forest and was despite the lack of time that week very quickly fascinated by it, and I loved every letter. It talks about a brother who gets missing on a French battlefield, his sister who is a talented artist and helps surgeons reconstruct the faces of wounded soldiers and the people around them. I love the way how Pat Barker mixes the years before the war with the terrible impact it had on the lives of these young people, and how she describes the hope and optimism of that generation and how it is shattered to pieces. The book is written so well that it sometimes seems that you are in these peoples minds. 

Pat Barker wrote more books about this periode (the Regeneration trilogy is brilliant and is a must-read, certainly now) and the way she contrasts the normality of these soldier-boys with the terrible things they endured is brilliant. There are scenes in these books I will never forget...

My own grandfather got shot in the leg during the fighting in Werchter in 1914, one of the few times the Belgian Army actually got into an offensive. He was hospitalised in Antwerp and later carried into neutral Holland where he spent the next four years in captivity together with about 35.000 other Belgian soldiers. After the war they were seen as deserters, despite the fact that most them were ordered to cross the Dutch border by their officers. They lost part of their civil rights and never got their wages for these four years. As my grandfather was literally carried over the border on a stretcher he was one of only 400 who did get their wages (400 francs) and his front-chevron as a proof that he fought bravely at the front during one year. It also gave him the right to have a 50% reduction when travelling by train...


 In order to get his rights, grandfather needed proof that he was never a deserter and this is the confirmation he got from the army administration. 12 months at the front, 40 months behind the lines and, most important, no unauthorised period in Holland with surfeit of all rights. He was,they say, quite proud of this. We still have the papers for his war medal and his front chevron, so he must have thought it very important.


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