Wednesday 24 October 2012

Pomegranates and Quinces

Pomegranates along with Quinces are the last of the autumn fruits (not counting olives). It's rare in these latitudes to get a ripe specimen, invariably they're seedy, tart and split open before they ripen. This tree is in a sheltered valley and south facing, plus perhaps this year an August heatwave and autumn rains came at the right time to swell their flesh.

Quinces are quite common but the wild trees suffer from boring insect infestation, although this doesn't stop foragers racing to strip the trees before they fully ripen. Fortunately excellent ripe and perfumed specimens are available in markets.

Sunday 21 October 2012

2012 Vin Primeur

Nébian Cave
These days the Aspiran Cave Cooperative is part of Clochers and Terroirs, an enormous operation by any standards. Eleven central Hérault valley villages have combined forces and represent some 850 grape growers with 2,800 hectares of vines. Production is 200,000 hl that equates to over 26 million bottles, although most will go into popular 10 litre BIBs (bag-in-box).

Every other cooperative seems to make Vin Primeur these days, typically a red wine and made to be drunk within weeks of the harvest. At Clochers and Terroirs the launch of the new vintage is an opportunity for villagers to have a convivial apero or three and be subjected to mercifully brief thank you speeches.

I'm told the Aspiran cave hasn't hosted one of these for many years. Along with Paulhan, the cave at Nébian is the nearest Clochers and Terroirs outlet. Inside, the cave could easily host a tennis match plus audience in a space surrounded by dozens of now defunct double-decker cuves.

The wine itself mercifully doesn't overdo the fruit and has a pleasant dry adult finish. Given this year's harvest is down 25% in the commune it was a very generous event.

Wednesday 17 October 2012

Aspiran the grape variety

The Béziers médiathèque is an impressive new building just to the east of the town centre. An exhibition "150 years of grape varieties in the Languedoc" has a display of lithographs of grape varieties by Henri Marès published in 1890. This is one of them.

My translation "Probably a very old variety originating from the Bas-Languedoc.
Long living, the aspiran variety displays an elegant poise and shape in its leaves and bunches. In the departments of the Bas-Languedoc it is [in 1890] usually the preferred table grape for eating. It is delicious and wholesome and very moreish, one can east vast quantities. No other variety is lighter, more agreeable and easier to digest".

To my knowledge this is the only French planted grape variety named after a local place, or at least a small village (Syrah derives from Shiraz in Persia, now Iran). Today Aspiran seems to be better known under the synonym Ribeyrenc, but that said the grape is seriously rare with just a handful of vines growing in a few Languedoc domaines. It seems following the phylloxera epidemic and frosts of 1956 the variety was not replanted.

Other references I have found are Wikipedia
And a fiche in French from INRA

The dossier on the médiathèque exhibition is here (for now) dossier-cepage.pdf

Sunday 14 October 2012

Migrating Buzzards

I saw these birds of prey soaring in thermals near the village in mid-September, sadly the pictures don't do justice to the majesty of the scene.

I've subsequently read they're most likely to be European Honey Buzzards (Pernis apivorus) migrating back to Africa. Populations concentrate as they approach the Mediterranean with at least 40 birds in this flock already. This group should eventually make it to Gibraltar for the short sea crossing into Africa.

Monday 3 September 2012

Éoliennes coming this way?

Wind turbines (éoliennes) have started to become a part of the Hérault landscape over the past 10 years or so. The farm at Aumes is the nearest to Aspiran at 14 Km (9 miles) to the south of east and clearly visible on the horizon across the valley.

Wind farm at Aumes seen from the commune

According to Aspiran Info No. 42 a feasibility study will start in the autumn of 2012 looking at the area in the commune known as Coste-Ferre as a possible wind farm site. This area forms the ridge that runs to the right and parallel to the route to Adissan and a farm here would be a dominant feature visible from much of the land in the western half of the commune. However, for many of the village dwellings the éoliennes will be out of sight. This will not be the case for Peret and much of Adissan where the farm is sure to dominate the vista.

Sunday 15 July 2012

Bastille Day Repas du Village

July 14th is arguably the most important French holiday and obviously unique to France. It sees the biggest annual event in the village, an evening meal with music for several hundred Aspiranaises. While technically on evening of the 13th, eating, drinking and dancing span well into the big day.

This year tradition was broken and the event moved from the village square, the Place de Peyrou by the church and Mairie, to the Pétanque pitch. Undoubtedly controversial, the new location affords a better layout with improved lighting and facilities.

Paella service (11:30 pm)

Saturday 16 June 2012

After the Storm

Late evening double rainbow over "Les Pins"

Saturday 21 April 2012

Presidential election

This weekend sees the first round of the French Presidential elections and all the towns and villages have these official poster displays. If nothing else they do remind people to vote. While there is no graffiti inflicted so far, there is clearly some strong feeling about incumbent Sarkosi and Socialist challenger Francois Hollande- the two frontrunners who have allocated slots at each extreme of the display.

Sunday 1 April 2012

Wisteria, Cyprus tree and blue sky

Wisteria, Cyprus tree and blue sky