Internet is so hard to come by these days, but I finally got access. As I write, I am sitting in my one-star hotel right ouside the Geneva Aiport. From our window one can see the France-Switzerland border. Though its not the best hotel ever, it should do the job for the next two nights. It's been a while since i've last updated so i'll combine all the posts I was going to make the past week into one long post.
So Thursday pretty much concluded our tour of Cluny and the Burgundy region. We left at 7 AM to head up to the Juro mountains, just north of the Burgundy region. The day began with a cheese tasting at 10 AM that included several cheeses produced in the area. We then headed to Salin-Les-Bains for a tour of the salt mine. Up until refrigeration, salting was a major way of preserving food, thus making salt a valuable commodity. Salt is also widely used in cheese production, and we all know cheese production in France has always been at high levels. Thus, from about the 9th century until the mid-20th century, Salin-Les-Bains was producing salt. What was cool about this one is that it was used for over 1000 years! Of course, over time, the methods of producing the salt improved. Now, to emphasize how important a commodity salt was, the mine was surrounded by a wall that only had a single gate. Thus anyone exiting or entering could be monitored closely. The town of Salin-Les-Bains was built over time based on the salt trade the mine produced. After the salt mine was a trip to Pasteur's house. I like to say that he's the patron saint of Microbiology because of what he did for this branch of science. Among his accomplishments are a vaccine for rabies, disproving the theory of spontaneous combustion, and discovering why wine spoils. I could go on, but my fingers would be tired from typing out every accomplishment of his. We then ended our day at Baume-Les-Meesieurs which is one of the absolutely beautiful places I have ever seen! If you thought Cluny was beautiful, Baume-Les-Messieurs is a far prettier place. I can only wonder as to the reason its abbot set out to establish the Cluny Abbey where he did. I think it would have been pretty nice at Baume-Les-Messieurs. Friday we then had our presentations and a small final evaluation. We then headed to Cathy's house for a final farewell dinner, which was out of this world!
On Wednesday we had another set of field trips. We started off at the Chateua de Monthelie-domaine Eric de Suremain, to learn about his process of wine making. It was interesting to see how Eric made his wine in comparison to Jacque Perault, a winemaker we visited early last week. Whereas Perault has all new machinery, de Suremain uses the same barrels that have been used for many generations in his family. I found the man very interesting: an owner of a chateuax, he looked like a commoner and acted like one too. If you saw him on the street, you could never have been bale to tell that he owned a 17th century chateaux that produced very good wine. After a suprise wine tasting in his supply room, we headed into Beaune for lunch. Afterwards we visited the hospice de Beaune. This hospice was established to look after the elderly and very sick in Beaune during the middle ages. The hospice was very much tied into the church as every room containing beds had an altar. Here we got to see the back side of the altar, featuring the beautiful polyptych by Roger Van der Weyden that was a scene representing the Last Judgment. The polyptych was only allowed to be seen by the sick on Sundays and on Feast days. The painting is quite moving, and one can only imagine what feelings of intimidation it brought upon those who saw it as they reached their final days of life. There is much mroe history behind the place that I could tell you about, but it would be too much info to put here, so if you want to know more, e-mail me. We ended Wednesday with a cheese tasing in Beaune. This tasting was by far the best! A favorite cheese among the class was the one prepared by the fromagiere on site. It was like a cream cheese coated with mustard seeds. They also gave us a nice, stinky, "flavorful", runny epoisse.
As for Monday and Tuesday they were devoted to lecture and paper writing, as well as working on presentations. We covered the microbiology and biochemistry of wine production, salt preservation, and waste treatment of whey among other things.
And before I go, I must fix my last post. It seems I had enjoyed too much wine as I wrote it. It seems the section about north vs south cheeses, the l'abbaye de citeaux, and the Clos de Vougeot. Here's what it should have read:
Anyway, yesterday was a lot of touring cheese farms/factories and learning about the different ways in which cheese is produced in then northern part of Burgundy. The main difference between norhtern and southern burgundy cheeses is that the South uses goat milk while the North side usually uses cow milk. Nevertheless, at the Abbeyie Citeaux, we learned how the monks made their famous cheese, using mostly stainless steel, automatic equipment to help make the process go faster. Because they are a young factory, they add starter cultures to their milk to help get the fermentation process going. In a few years however, they will no longer need to do so as there will be enough free floating bacteria in the factory's air to provide sufficient inoculum to get the fermentation going. After a delicious lunch at a nearby town we headed to the vineyards that these monks once possessed. These vineyards are located on top of some of the best grape-growing soils in the world, known as the Clos de Vougeot. Therefore, its not surprising to see these wines being sold for at least 1000- 4000 euros a bottle! The trip to the chateuax by the vineyards was followed by a visit to a cheese factory. Here we learned about a more industrial kind of cheese production facility. After a tour of the factory we had a wine and cheese tasting there. Many of the cheese we tasted were smelly and full of flavor, exactly the way I like it!
With that, I shall leave you until tomorrow, when I will update about my last day in Europe.