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Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Wine and Cheese Tasting!

It has been a while since I have had a "care-free" day. The other day was exactly that as I enjoyed the sights, smells, culture, and history of Strasbourg. So come, take a walk with me...

 When I was moving into my apartment, I took a quick look down the street and I was sure I saw a boat at the end. I was a little busy at the time, but I could have sworn that I saw a boat moving down the street. Taking a walk a day or two later, I discovered that I wasn't wrong, exactly.

At the end of my street, and running north-south, connecting the rest of Strasbourg, and France in general, is the Rhone-Rhine Canal. Running along Strasbourg and, in a way, connecting the northern and southern waters of France, this canal also runs behind my street and carries boat tours. Offering a different perspective of Strasbourg, it is used mostly as a path on which runners, cyclists, and dog-walkers do their stuff. It was very pleasant to see and I look forward to riding my bike along it. Indeed, I was in the city the other day and I saw where the canal joined the city and was excited for this alternate route into the city.

The next day, my classmates and I enjoyed some wine and cheese! Some of us arrived a week early to partake in some French language classes. The classes have been really helpful for everyone and I personally and happy to re-learn and expand upon my knowledge of the French language. As part of the classes, we have been enjoying afternoon activities and this day, we were able to sample some fine wine and cheese from France and especially the Alsace region.

Wearing some of my fanciest duds (vest, dress-casual suede shoes, pocketwatch, dress shirt), I enjoyed the chance to expand upon my cultural experience. I do not like the taste of alcohol and I don't normally drink alcohol for this and other reasons. But, quand en France (when in France), and also, one of my goals here in France is to try anything which comes my way.

Because I knew I'd be relating it all to you later, because I'm methodical, and because I knew I might forget otherwise, I took notes in my notebook of the different wines and cheeses. Prompting some comments, my classmates thought my efforts were neat and prudent.

The first, was a Saint-Emilion wine, 2011, a Bordeaux (and thus from Bordeaux, a south-western region of France). A red wine, I was actually quite shocked by the experience. Smelling like alcohol and most other wines I've sampled, I was surprised because the first taste I had was not of alcohol but of the fruit itself. I dislike the taste of alcohol so much that often it is the first and only part of a wine, beer, or liquor I experience, but this time the sweet, fruity taste hit me first, then the alcohol along with, I don't know, a richer taste? I am not a wine connoisseur, but this was struck me as classy, elegant, and not hard hitting. And the after-taste was minimal which, for me, was a good thing.

I sampled some pieces of baguette between wines, to clear my palette and because I love bread. The baguette was light, buttery and almost sweet, it was really good bread but what did I expect?

The next wine was a Kleinbuhr-Gewurztraminer, 2011, from the Alsace region. A fellow classmate, Robert, from Croatia, told us about how the soil is better along the Rhine river and so many of the grapes of the region are grown there. A white wine, the smell was subtle, but the alcohol was harder hitting. It was very dry, but had a minimal aftertaste. My palette hasn't yet expanded that I was able to discover the nuisances behind the alcohol, so the harder hitting, the harder it was for me to write notes on it.

After this, a Kleinbuhr-Riesling, 2011, white. This wine was interesting in that its smell differed greatly from the smell. I judge all food by its smell. It's not my final judgement, but I smell all my food and drink before I taste it. Often, I smell books before I read them. My mom says I smell everything, but I wouldn't know anything about that, haha. Anyway, this wine had an extremely subtle smell. I could barely smell anything from the bottle or the glass. However, the alcohol was the hardest hitting, and it felt like a punch in the throat. However, after that initial feeling, the taste was very sweet.

Next, a Mercurey, 2011, red, from Bourgogne. It was strong, sweet, had a strong aftertaste but seemed a good compromise between the sweet, rich taste I hoped for, and the strong alcohol taste I expected.

Finally, I tried a Monbazillac, 2011, known as a yellow wine. The fermenting process was halted halfway through the process so the wine was very sweet as the sugars were left. When I say sweet, I mean it was really sweet. The other day, while eating plain yogurt, I was not happy with the taste so I took a spoonful of sugar and dumped it in. Not sure if this would do, I added another spoonful of sugar. I had overdone it and could see sugar crystals in every spoonful. Well, this is how the wine tasted. Not bad, but a little odd. It was a good wine but I'm sure no one could drink it for long as the sweet taste might be too much or the alcoholic content may be too low for some.

Taking a break from this, I went over to the cheese section!

The first was a Roquefort. It had a pretty strong smell, and taste, but I enjoyed it. Oddly enough, it was my favourite, as the first wine I tried was also. Some people didn't like it, or many of the cheeses, complaining that they smelled like mold, but I mean, cheese is mold, of a sort, the entire concept of dairy is just plain odd. Anyway, the Roquefort was strong, but had a very earthy taste and I enjoyed it.

Next, was a Brie. Now, I have had Brie, in Canada, but it was nowhere near this strong. This Brie smelled almost sour and no matter how much I tried, I didn't like it very much. Perhaps it would go better with something else, but on its own, it was not very good, in my opinion.

Munster cheese was next, and it was a roller coaster of sensation, no, actually, more like a see-saw. First thing I noticed was that it smelled bad. I mean, usually good cheese smells off, or so I'm told, but this didn't smell good at all. The taste is where it goes up and down. First, it seemed to taste bad, then I liked it, then it had a slightly bad aftertaste. I guess it's a cheese I would eat with something else, but I guess wasn't the worse thing I've ever eaten.

A Rustique Camembert was sampled just after and I think I stood there smelling it for a good 30 seconds before I tried it. It took me about that long to realize where I recognized the smell, it smelled like broccoli! The teachers and classmates did not believe me at first, but I tried it, and encouraged them to do so and they agreed. I am not sure if this is a common thing, but I gather not as the people more familiar with cheese were also surprised. I was complimented on my sense of smell/taste, and it was an interesting experience. I like broccoli, so I liked this cheese as well.

Coeur de Lion, another Camembert, was very mild. It barely had a smell, and it was sweet with an earthy aftertaste. I made a joke that perhaps it was the lion from the wizard of Oz, sweet and mild, which inspired the name.

Lastly, was the chameleon of cheeses known as Compé. Coming from a region west of Alsace, it had an odd smell. The closest I could think of is the smell of a warm, dusty room. It wasn't strong, but it was present. The taste was extremely subtle and I was encouraged to add either goat's cheese or figs. That's why I call it a chameleon as it was used more as a spreads-conveying surface rather than it's own thing. Still, it tasted good and served this purpose quite well.

The wine/cheese tasting was a very enjoyable experience. We enjoyed our sampling while listening to French and other European music, people danced, laughed, and I worked on my French. I am at the point where I can understand almost anyone and can find my way around, but I am working at improving my vocabulary and correcting my grammar mistakes. The classes continue, once/week, into this first module (semester), and I look forward to them!

Coming up soon will be some pictures of the beautiful city of Strasbourg! Thanks for reading!

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