September 10, 2014

Supermarket Wine Fair

The front page of the local paper was shimmering with excitement. It was time for the annual Foires Aux Vins, or Wine Fairs, that happen each fall at supermarket chains in the region.

Someone ate the "E"
Naturally, I asked one of my local food and wine experts (qualifications: French passport, tongue, larynx) for guidance. He told me to ask for an invitation to the opening night event from ATAC, the local supermarket of preference in our family.

I did, and lo! Miracle of miracles! I made the invite list. At 7:30, as the store closed to "normal" shoppers, we elite (qualifications: heartbeat, wallet) were welcomed inside the store.

Saucisson, bread, cornichons, pate, brassiere, panties
Wine, wine everywhere and not a drop to dri...well, actually, plenty to drink as the emcee directed us towards rows of glasses filled with white Macon. Guests browsed the hundreds of wines while they sipped, searching for good values among the offerings. 

As background, the stores seek out smaller producers (those who don't supply the stores year-round) and help the latter move stock out of their cellars as they begin the harvest, which, of course, requires room to be freed up at their facilities. While most of the wines for sale in Burgundy supermarkets come from, well, Burgundy, for this ten-day period, all of France (and even a smidgen of Spain, Australia and -- gasp!-- California) is on display. Loire Valley, southwest France, Alsace, Bordeaux, Provence, Champagne, Corsica...all the regions are represented (even if the biggest names in those regions are not.) The prices are tres interessants, and some wines sell out in the first day or two, never to be seen in the metropolis of the Arnay-le-Duc ATAC again.

Local for the locals
Following the lead of others, I filled my shopping cart with goods from around the country, occasionally checking in with one of my local aficionados (qualifications: standing up at ATAC, respiration) for confirmation or repudiation of my choices. ("My wife and I don't like that Poulsard. Oh, a bottle of Gewurztraminer. That is very sweet.") Throughout, there were little bites being passed -- remember, this is a grocery store -- including head cheese, cheese, and cheese puffs called gougeres. It was all tasty and fun, especially when we got to a 2009 Monthelie, which got many of the men in the crowd nodding enthusiastically, as if, finally, their taste buds had been awakened, and the outing worthwhile.

A last bit of small talk while people waited in line to pay (most good Burgundians had bought mostly Burgundy), and then it was just the sound of bottles rattling in shopping carts as the elite made their way across the parking lot to their cars, headed home with dozens of liters of liquid fortification.

The final haul

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