Candes Saint-Martin, my favourite spot in La Touraine.

Thursday, 27 August 2009


If you are French, you might think I'm calling you names ... but I'm not. Let me explain!

2008 - The French word ‘hurluberlu’ means ‘oddball’ in English. On the definition for ‘oddball’ reads: a person or thing that is atypical, bizarre, eccentric, or nonconforming, especially one having beliefs that are unusual but harmless.”

We came across this odd character – although it wasn’t a human being - in the restaurant ‘L’Hélianthe’ in Turquant, where we had lunch in June 2008. You can read all about this pleasant experience here.

n asking the waiter for some advice on what wine to have with our meal, he suggested a Saint-Nicolas de Bourgueil by M. David. This particular wine is made according to the new bio-something process, which is an upcoming trend in the Loire region. It goes back to the original grape growing and winemaking techniques in harmony with nature and with respect for the environment. I won’t go into all the details here as it far to complex to explain.

The wine came in a transparent odd shaped bottle, which is quite unusual for red Loire wines. The bright red cork was made of plastic. This may seem unnatural, but it is done to preserve the cork trees … or so we were told. The wine, which was served slightly chilled, turned out to be light and refreshing. It had little to do with the usual dark and rather robust Saint Nicolas wines. It would probably never win a prize in a wine competition but was nevertheless very pleasant to drink on a warm summer day.

My friend, who’s always interested in the unusual, decided that it would make an excellent barbecue wine and asked for the ‘vigneron’s’ address. The waiter gave us very detailed instructions and phoned Mr. David to see whether he could receive us that same afternoon. Guided by the waiter’s map we found the vineyard quite easily. Mr. David explained that he was making the classic Saint Nicolas, while his son was ‘experimenting’ with this new technique. We tasted both and ended up buying 18 bottles of ‘Hurluberlu’ and a 5 litre BIB (bag-in-box) of traditional ruby red Saint Nicolas. Mr. David even supplied us with the necessary labels to stick on the Saint Nicolas after bottling.

The odd shaped Hurluberlu bottle and bright red plastic cork.

That evening we had invited our friend and now retired two star Michelin chef J.B. and his wife S. for drinks at our ‘chambre d’hôtes’. J.B. owns a private wine collection of over 17.000 bottles from his former restaurant in Tours. I warned my friend that it wasn’t a good idea to serve the ‘Hurluberlu’ to a wine ‘connaisseur’ as J.B., because he would certainly throw a fit seeing the plastic cork! He served the bottle anyway … and J.B. reacted as I’d expected and started complaining about the way wines are being made nowadays. Nevertheless, he finished the glass we had poured him to wash down the baguette and rillettes that we had set out to accompany our drinks.

Just when he noticed that the label read: ‘Contient du soufre volcanique’ (contains volcanic sulphur) the bright red cork that we had put back in place after serving the first round of drinks, popped out of the bottle all by itself, landing in front of J.B.’s glass. Slightly embarrassed, my friend and I looked at each other. And then J.B., burst out laughing. “Yes, that's definitely volcanic sulphur!” he said with his usual aplomb.


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