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French Drinkers Admit They Don’t Know Much About Wine

French Drinkers Admit They Don’t Know Much About Wine


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A recent poll by a French magazine found that almost three out of four French alcohol drinkers don’t know much about wine

Perhaps wine shouldn’t be the national drink then?

France may be regarded as the wine capital of the world, but that doesn’t mean its inhabitants know anything about it. A recent survey by French wine magazine, Terre de Vins, found that most French alcohol drinkers are more likely to say “Je ne sais pas” than be able to tell a cab from a merlot. In the survey, 71 percent of respondents admitted that they don’t know much about wine, and 43 percent said that they know nothing at all. Meanwhile, just three percent of the population considered themselves to be knowledgeable in the subject.

Unsurprisingly, the poll also found that educated people were more likely to know about wine than members of the working class, which points to the fact that even in the wine capital of the world, it is still an upper-class drink.

"This proves that learning about wine is seen as still very elitist in French society and also a feeling — real or supposed — that those households with limited purchasing power cannot afford quality wines," said a spokesperson from the company who organized the survey.

But even though the French may not know much about their wine, they certainly do drink a lot of it. France consumes the third-most wine in the world, according to the California Wine Institute.

For the latest happenings in the food and drink world, visit our Food News page.

Joanna Fantozzi is an Associate Editor with The Daily Meal. Follow her on [email protected]


Increasing Your Wine’s Fruity Flavors

Just wondering if your liqueur flavorings could be added to a fruit wine as a wine flavoring additive… for a little stronger flavor… Our blackberry wine, from last year, is not real fruity…. and wondered if this would give it a flavor boost…

To answer your question, yes, you can use these liqueur flavorings as wine flavoring additives to increase the flavor your wine. It is recommended that you do not add more than one bottle of flavoring to each five gallons. These extract flavorings are very strong, and should be used with care. Adding more than one or two bottles can bring a bitter aftertaste to the wine.

One of the wine making tips I tell people when using any kind of wine flavoring extract or additive, is that the full flavor impression does not usually take effect immediately. It takes a little time for the extracts flavoring to come together with the wine. Letting the wine sit a day to let the flavors mingle is recommended before making any decisions to add more flavoring.

Before you decide to add liqueur flavorings to your wine, there is a point I’d like to bring up. One of the things that can throw you off as a home winemaker, particularly if you’re just beginning to learn how to make your own wine, is experiencing the flavors of a dry fruit wine. Dry means the wine has no taste-able sweetness to it, which is normally the case after fermentation, if the fermentation has completed successfully.

One of the effects that dryness has on a wine is that it reduces the fruity impression. When all the sugars have been fermented out of the fruit juice it takes on an entirely different character.

The reason I’m bringing this up is because, increasing the fruity flavors of the wine may be just a matter of adding some sweetness back to it, and bringing the wine back into better balance. This is simply done by adding a sugar/water syrup mixture to the wine until the desired effect has been achieved.

A wine stabilizer such as potassium sorbate will need to be added, as well, to keep the fermentation from starting up again. This is something that should be done at bottling time.

Even if you like your wines dry, adding some sugar to the wine to make it a little less puckering can bring out a substantial amount of fruitiness, so never rule out back sweetening a wine, regardless of your personal tastes.

Learning how to make adjustments to a wine before bottling is a big part of home winemaking. By utilizing tools such as wine flavoring additives you can increase the flavor and pleasure of your homemade wines.

Happy Wine Making,
Ed Kraus
—–
Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.


Who’s killing the great wines of France?

The notion that French wine has fallen into the hands of philistines is sure to find an audience when the documentary “Mondovino” is released in L.A. theaters April 29. Director Jonathan Nossiter belabors that idea for two hours, 17 minutes and 11 seconds, cutting back and forth between crusty traditionalists in worn sweaters and suspendered trousers who absolutely love terroir and their spiritual opposites: chain-smoking pragmatists in fancy cars who hawk modern methods of manipulating wine.

“Mondovino” is a lot of things subtle, however, isn’t one of them.

12:00 AM, Mar. 03, 2005 For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday March 03, 2005 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches 44 words Type of Material: Correction
French wine -- A graphic with an article about French wine in Wednesday’s Food section overstated the quantity of exports. The 1999 figure should have been 1.6 billion liters, not 160 billion. The 2004 figure should have been 1.42 billion liters, not 142.1 billion.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday March 09, 2005 Home Edition Food Part F Page 3 Features Desk 1 inches 45 words Type of Material: Correction
French wine -- A graphic with an article about French wine in last week’s Food section overstated the quantity of exports. The 1999 figure should have been 1.6 billion liters, not 160 billion. The 2004 figure should have been 1.42 billion liters, not 142.1 billion.

The French wine industry is in crisis. More comfortable basking in tradition than questioning it, French winemakers are rethinking the rules governing how they make and name their wines, the grapes they grow and how they are grown. Even the look of their wine labels is being reconsidered. The French government is scrambling to promote its wines in America, even -- gasp -- considering a Madison Avenue advertising campaign. (Champagne already has one, and it’s the one French region for which sales are actually climbing.)

The debate central to “Mondovino” -- one that’s raging across France’s storied wine regions -- only appears to be a tug of war between art and commerce. Those stark contrasts grow fuzzy in the gray light of the real issue: The world is not buying enough French wine. Market forces aren’t known for encouraging individuality -- Velveeta sells better than Taleggio. But for the first time in the history of French wine, the demands of the global market are an unavoidable fact.

“It has taken a while for our producers to understand that there is a problem,” says Christian Berger, the agricultural counselor with the French Embassy in Washington, D.C. And even now that they have accepted that fact, “there is no unanimity at all on what should be done.”

Wine looms large on the French economic landscape. Representing 12% of France’s agricultural production, it accounts for $9.9 billion of the country’s gross domestic product. French wine sales worldwide have been gradually eroding for years. The situation became a crisis last year when wine exports (excluding Champagne) fell 6.7% in volume and 9.2% in value on the heels of 2003 sales, which were considered dismal, according to the French Federation of Exporters of Wines & Spirits.

Making matters worse, French wine consumption has dropped to historic lows, with the country drinking half as much wine per capita as it did in 1960. An aggressive federal campaign against drunk driving is part of the reason, according to Berger. Strict new standards, more stringent than those in California, have the French thinking twice before having a second glass of wine with dinner.

But the real problem is there’s too much French wine. Hoping for a quick fix in the region that appears to be hardest hit, the government is paying grape growers in Bordeaux to rip up marginal vineyards and turn surplus wine into industrial alcohol. So far, however, only 475 acres of a targeted 25,000 acres of vineyards have been plowed under. The government plans to distill a whopping 250 million liters of wine from the abundant 2004 vintage into alcohol, 10 times as much wine as would be distilled in a typical year most of it is labeled Appellation d’Origine Controlee (AOC). Still, it won’t be enough to sop up all of the surplus.

Ultimately, it is the structure of the wine industry that must change, according to Rene Renou, a Loire Valley winemaker and the current president of the powerful National Committee for Wine of the AOC, the organization charged with enforcing the country’s strict regulations for the making of premium wines. Renou has proposed a radical overhaul of the country’s winemaking rules -- the most sweeping changes since the AOC was codified in 1929 -- to give winemakers greater latitude in how they make and sell their wines.

“People say I am burning the history of France,” quips Renou. But perhaps the better analogy is religion, he says, “like when they changed the way the priest says Mass,” referring to the Catholic Church’s decision to abandon Latin for modern languages in the 1960s. French wine sales are suffering, he says, because France has failed to modernize its winemaking industry.

Renou advocates producing less AOC wine. Perhaps 10% of it isn’t up to minimum standards, he says. “We can’t anymore tell the nice wine story to people and not have it correspond to what is in the bottle,” he says.

When pressed about how much wine he’d like to see taken off the market, Renou backpedals. “We’re France. If you push too far, winegrowers will riot. They go on strike and shout in the streets. The politicians don’t like it.” While there is no formal schedule for considering Renou’s proposal, he says the French government could enact it as early as this year.

It likely will take longer. “France acts as if it still has a monopoly on wine and can insist that consumers learn our complicated wine story,” says Renou. “We have lived for centuries where the only problem was to make the wine producer more comfortable. Today our problem is to make the customer more comfortable. They buy whatever they like.”

And they are buying American, Australian, Chilean, Argentine and South African wines along with improved wines from Spain and Italy. For $10, these wines may not equal fine French wine, says Renou, but they can be very good. And from the point of view of the American consumer -- Renou likes to refer to a grocery store shopper in Little Rock, Ark. -- they are infinitely easier to comprehend.

“A second way to understand wine has been created by the New World. It’s about the grape type, the color, the sugar,” he explains. In other words, it’s easier to understand Pinot Noir than to memorize the appellations of Burgundy. “In Little Rock, wine is a quick, immediate pleasure, no dream, no story, no explanation. The New World is more efficient. The French are not prepared for this world,” he says.

America matters because the U.S. spends more money on imported wine than does any other market in the world. And while French wine sales have fallen in America, overall consumption here is inching up. Americans now annually consume roughly 10 bottles of wine each, up from seven bottles 10 years ago. Compared with the French, who drink an average of 77 bottles a year, there is plenty of room for the American market to grow.

The falling value of the dollar -- a 40% shift over the last three years -- is making the American market more and more difficult to navigate. What was a $10 bottle of French wine in 2001 now costs $14, taking into account the shifting exchange rate. Wines from outside Europe haven’t experienced the same currency fluctuation, or the resulting price increases.

Most French vintners have cut their prices to try to keep their wines competitively priced, according to American importers. But often that’s not enough. “With the 2000 vintage, I sold thousands of cases of Bordeaux wine for $7 a bottle,” says Steve Winfield, a Los Angeles-based importer who sells only Bordeaux wines. “I’m scouting for wines with the 2003 vintage that I can sell for $7, and they are hard to find. Everyone’s margins are squeezed.”

There is no crisis for the best French wines, says Berger. “At the top of the market, prices are a bit crazy, rising higher and higher every year with no problem selling the wine. The difficulty is for the middle and lower end segments. The global market for wine is more competitive there. There are plenty of new producers.”

And for these wines, America is the most important market. “The bulk of the market is new to wine,” says Berger. “They don’t know much about it, and they apparently like wines that are fruity with a lot of sugar. Our product is not as well suited to this market as, say, Australian wine. French wine is more subtle. We have no big brands. Our labels are difficult to read.”

Bordeaux winemakers, says Berger, have been the most outspoken critics of the changes proposed by Renou. After record sales of its celebrated 2000 vintage, “it has been hard for them to come down to earth,” says Berger. “The situation is very tense in Bordeaux.”

Renou has proposed bifurcating the AOC into a higher and a lower level, or, he says, they can be considered “the complex and the simple.”

A new “excellence” category would require winemakers to follow more stringent controls on wine grape growing and winemaking than current AOC rules demand. The top 20% of current AOC winemakers likely would opt for this “excellence” category, Renou estimates. This is the luxury market for traditional wines, and “it must be protected,” he says.

A second level of AOC wines, what Renou refers to as “normal” wines, would be allowed to disregard many of the current AOC rules. These are the ones that must compete with emerging international wines, he says. Winemakers who opt for this category should be allowed to consider any grape-growing and winemaking protocol. “Winemakers would propose their ideas to the National Committee for Wine, and we would decide if those ideas would be permitted,” says Renou. “Everything is open for discussion, while today it is prohibited to even talk about these ideas.”

That means the question of when or how to irrigate vineyards or what grapes to plant -- variables that are tightly regulated now throughout France -- would be considered. There would be fewer restrictions on what grapes could be blended together in particular wines as well. While Bordeaux and Rhone blends would remain tightly controlled for the “excellence” AOC, second-tier wines could have broad latitude with what could be considered for their blends. In appellations in which blending is not now allowed, it would be permitted in the second tier. Rules also would be relaxed concerning blending grapes harvested from different parts of a region or even across regions, among other things, according to Renou.

What about allowing the addition of oak chips during barrel aging to exaggerate certain flavors, as is practiced in the U.S. and Australia, for instance? “Why not?” says Renou. “We have to allow people to make decisions for themselves about their own wine.”

At the same time, Renou would like the French wine industry to police itself more aggressively on quality. Producers who ignore vineyard yield limits, a common occurrence today, says Renou, should not be allowed to call their wine AOC. This overproduction “must disappear,” he says. “If we want to say we are the best, each bottle must be checked.”

Renou’s proposal also would relax AOC labeling rules to allow varietal names and other New World conventions. While there are AOCs (such as Alsace) that use varietal labeling, most don’t. Winemakers have to opt out of the AOC, labeling their wines simply vin de table, to do these things now.

The French government isn’t waiting for the AOC rules to change. It is taking small but significant first steps to help French producers sell their wines in the United States. “We didn’t usually attend wine events in America,” says Berger. “Now we are going, asking for advice on what we should do to improve sales. The idea is to give our producers a higher profile.”

Last month, the government sponsored its first five-city sales tour -- Miami, New York, Chicago, Atlanta and Los Angeles -- for producers eager to find American importers. It’s the kind of dog and pony show the Spanish and Australian wine industries have been taking on the road for at least a decade. In Los Angeles, 30 vintners poured wine tastings for distributors.

“We decided to be proactive,” says Charlotte Selles-Simmons, a producer whose family has been making wine in Beaujolais and Burgundy since 1820. She recently redesigned the domaine’s labels to make them more appealing to Americans.

“We make it so difficult to buy French wine,” she says. “Especially for the $10-and-below wines. Showing the varietal name on the labels at this price point is crucial. Then they don’t have to get out their reading glasses, they don’t have to ask for help.”

It’s also about looking modern, she says. The bottle has to stand out, which isn’t easy in a crowded grocery store wine aisle. New World wine regions have been doing it for years. Even Italy and Spain are sprucing up their labels. If you don’t do it, there is no hope of creating a brand name that consumers will remember, Selles-Simmons says.

Selles-Simmons sells her wines through Trader Joe’s, but she would like to find a traditional distributor as well.

The model for Selles-Simmons? E.& J. Gallo’s Red Bicyclette.

Gallo is showing us the way, says Berger. “Joe Gallo has the guts to believe in French wine, to put his money there to make something happen. We are very thankful for that,” he says, noting that the Gallo wines produced in France are increasing the sales of French wine in America.

Gallo, the savior of French wine? The chasm separating the French government from the traditional vintners in “Mondovino” just got a little wider.


The Sweet Breakfast

As I learned in the book “Salt, Sugar, Fat,” a wonderful exposé of the processed food industry in America, the sweet breakfast is an invention of the cereal manufacturers in the middle of the last century.

Americans have a sweet tooth for breakfast, which is why they usually eat cake for breakfast. Except that they don’t call it cake. Instead, they call it “pancakes with syrup” (cake!), muffin (cake!), or Nutella covered toasts (cake!), or a bowl of sweet cereal with milk (almost cake!).

Recently, I was spending some time with a Czech family, on my last trips to Europe. I noticed how the typical Czech breakfast was nothing but sweet. Typical foods included cold cuts, smoked salmon, savory spreads, with some bread, and some fruits. Many Europeans also like to eat raw vegetables for breakfast, such as tomatoes and cucumbers, to accompany their other breakfast choices.

In most parts of the world, breakfast is not sweet. In Thailand, the typical could include a thick rice porridge, eggs, meat, Chinese dumplings (Dim Sum) and some kind of savory soup. In other Asian countries, there is no clear distinction between breakfast foods and lunch and dinner food.

In France, people are traditionally practically fasting for breakfast. That’s why the word for breakfast (déjeuner) in France actually means the lunch meal. Later, when people got in the habit of having a croissant with a cup of coffee in the morning, a new word was added to describe this new “meal.” It was called “petit déjeuner” or “little breakfast.”

Most French people have very little food for breakfast. Some French people I know, living in Montreal, only eat some fruit and have a cup of coffee for breakfast. A single croissant is also popular to eat for breakfast in France, and dip in your coffee.


3. Crepes

“If there is a sexier sound on this planet than the person you’re in love with cooing over the crepes you made for him, I don’t know what it is.”

Crepes are the French version of pancakes originating in Brittany. Unlike classic American pancakes, crepes are thinner and larger in diameter, but also more neutral in taste. The common ingredients include flour, milk, eggs, butter, and a bit of salt.

Crêpes are usually of two types – savory and sweet. Savory crepes (called crêpes salées) are traditionally made with buckwheat flour and filled with anything you like (for instance, ham and cheese). The sweet version (crêpes sucrées) is made with wheat flour and slightly sweetened.

Make your own: Banana Split Crepes


My home country, France, is internationally known for its great wine, food, kisses, seductors and philosophers. What a creative nation: as good in bed as in the kitchen. But there is a but, of course. Paris is not that romantic after all (it’s actually quite dirty and noisy), and French people are also internationally known for their rudeness and arrogance. We have been elected as the most unfriendly nation in the world for travellers, as well as the most arrogant nation in the European Union. That includes our own fellow Frenchmen qualifying themselves as the most arrogant… You have to give it that at least we are realistic about it.

These “prizes” mean that either we try very hard at treating people badly, even the tourists who are obviously quite intelligent as they come to visit our beautiful country, or we are born and raised arrogant for a reason.
In Norway, where I now live, arrogant is the worst qualification Norwegians wants to be called and perceived as by other nations. Obviously the French don’t mind it too much.

So let me tell you the simple reasons why French are so arrogant and why, on the opposite, Norwegians aren’t (or manage to hide it very well). Before anything what is arrogance? It is when someone believes they are superior to others and show it in an insulting way.

1- History: Longing for the past
We were once the kings of this world (if I remember my history books well, which were probably biasedly written by French megalomaniacs) and we miss it. On ideas, philosophy, colonial empires, language and so have you. So we still pretend like this is how it is supposed to be. Not that long ago French was the diplomatic language spoken by the European elites. But hellloo neither the 20th century nor the 21st are seeing the revival of French intellectual influence in this world. We aren’t the kings of the world anymore but French have this great ability not to give a shit. WE should learn English for the Americans? HAHA this country is 300 years old and eats fake meat and they want to teach us stuff. So even when learning English we make sure we have the thickest French accent so that no one can ever think “oh wow that guy made a real effort”.

Norwegians on the other hand. Well, they were also the kings of this world one day a long time ago, in a way: everyone remembers the merciless Vikings who conquered the world from their history books. But the recent history of Norway is that the country was always part of someone else’s empire: the Swedes or the Danes. It is only 200 years ago that Norway became independent and extremely recently that it became a wealthy nation. I read that after World War II Norway was the poorest country of Europe with Portugal.
While the French have had an nicely sized ego on the international scene, the Norwegians seemed to have suffered from some kind of inferiority complex. A French meeting a foreigner will expect him/her to speak French, and perfectly. A Norwegian meeting a foreigner will just be happy he/she knows Norway is its own country and not a city in Sweden.

2- Society: Arrogance as social recognition
Norwegian and French societies are very different and the ways for one to be acknowledged and respected are also completely different. In France those who are socially valued are those who 1- know a lot (or pretend they know a lot) about anything from art to philosophy or geopolitics, 2- who have a high social status (by being from an elite school) and 3- those who are arrogant. It doesn’t matter what you know, who you are, how much you earn, as long as you are able to make everyone else feel like you and only you knows. The winning combination is being arrogant + having entered an elite school. And being a man. And being white. Let’s not even go there.

Being humble will lead to your social death in France. There is a saying “Trop bon, trop con” which basically means being too nice makes you an fool. You might have walked alone to the North Pole, if you are not able to talk about it in a superior way the social value of your exploits will be reduced.

In Norway however it is the total opposite: it seems like being modest here is the one thing to be if you want to be respected and be socially acknowledged. Here the winning combination is to be humble + nice. Who cares if you studied, if you are competent in your work. As long as you are “snill”. It is written all over the Law of Jante ruling many aspects of Norwegian social life: “You’re not to think you are smarter than we are”.

And it is in fact one of the things that surprised me when I moved here: people seem so modest. Even the super rich don’t show off too much, and the highest professors still wear old shirts and dirty shoes. They will talk to a cashier with as much respect as to the Prime Minister. In any social setting: a party, work, a supermarket, treating someone else like they are inferior to you will not gain you any respect. Quite on the opposite people will look at the ceiling thinking how rude you are. It is refreshing when coming from France because we don’t have to fight so much here for every of our ideas. Then again, debates sometimes seem very politically correct in Norway, it lacks a bit of spice and confrontation for my taste.

In Norway, why be arrogant? Your boss listens to you, during an annual meeting you have with him or her to discuss all issues linked to your job. You can talk in meetings and be listened to without being shouted at, and people will politely disagree if anything. Arrogance is not a matter of social survival in Norway.

3- How to detect Norwegian pride, sometimes tainted of arrogance

That said, arrogance does exist at its own level in Norway. The thing is that for a French it will be undetectable: we are used to showing or seeing people treating others like they are the scum of this world, so a Norwegian even trying very hard to be patronising will be hard to detect for us. It’s the same with seduction. Norwegian men can try very hard, French women are so used to be heavily flirted with that the subtleties of Norwegian seduction will appear like a simple conversation.
However, I have seen it, more under pride than arrogance. Many people here have the intimate conviction that their system and their country are the best in the world. That the whole world wants to come here (believe me it doesn’t, my parents don’t even want to come on a holiday). Norway is definitely the welfare system with the least deficit, yet saying all the time that it has the best quality is, well, a bit arrogant.

All in all, there are 65 million inhabitants in France and obviously all of them can’t be arrogant. Some live in Norway and had to drop that because it is so badly viewed here. Some never were but know how to avoid the arrogant ones in parties and family dinners. There is another French saying: Knowledge is like jam, the less one has the more one spreads it. At the age of 18 I met a professor in university who had 2 PhDs and was incredibly passionate and at the same time very humble. I realised that arrogance is just a way to hide one’s ignorance and insecurity. When you know that you are right you don’t need to scream it to the world and step on two persons on the way telling them how idiotic they are.
Yet in France arrogance has become a state religion, so I advise you to get tuned in if you move there, so that you can get what you want from administrations for example. But remember, arrogance takes you so far (look where it led Nicolas Sarkozy!).


Can't Cook? Fake It. Easiest French Recipe, Ever.

Sometimes you have to cook to impress. Fortunately, there are dishes out there that are so deceptively delicious that no one will ever have to know that you whipped it up in ten minutes using the bare minimum of ingredients.

This is one of those recipes.

Fennel is a bulb, related to dill, that grows wild all over the place, especially in northern California. It has a sweet, licorice-like taste when it's raw, and is enjoyed throughout much of mainland Europe and even parts of Asia as a part of fine cuisine.

In its wild form, fennel's fronds are popular with swallowtail caterpillars. I used to work at a wildlife refuge in the East Bay outside San Francisco, and part of our job was to go out hunting for swallowtail cocoons in the fennel fronds. We would collect cocoons, and safely hatch them in our butterfly house, then release them when they butterflies were strong enough to fly.

Swallowtail caterpillars are voracious eaters, and in the springtime, you can see them snacking like little potheads with the munchies on wild fennel all over the Bay Area.

[By the way, if you take this fennel dish to a dinner party, you can use this tidbit to impress the host. "You know," you can say sagely, "Wild fennel fronds are a favorite of the swallowtail caterpillar. what's that? Oh, no. This isn't wild fennel. No caterpillars were harmed in the making of this dish." And then you can chuckle a bit, and everyone with think that you are awesome and wise.]

I stole this recipe from Three Black Skirts, a cute little book by Anna Johnson. She claimed that the recipe was basically what French women cook when they don't feel like cooking. I don't know if this is true or not, but I've made it dozens of times, and it's always a hit.

Remove fennel stalks (the green part at the top - hack it off) and slice off the very bottom of the bulb. Save some of the fronds for garnish. Wash and thinly slice the fennel bulbs. Combine all ingredients in a glass baking pan. Bake at 400 degrees F for as long as it takes for the fennel to become soft and the top to brown.

That's pretty much it. The amount of cream you use is up to you, but I don't ever let the cream cover the raw fennel, since the fennel will collapse and reduce as it cooks. I like a lot of salt, but some people don't, and I'm addicted to cracked black pepper, so I use a lot of that.

What you end up with is sort of a fennel au gratin. The fennel's sweetness and heady scent is tempered by the cream and the heat of the oven, and it's tender and succulent. It's usually served with a loaf of crusty French bread and far too many glasses of white wine, but it doesn't have to be limited to that serving style (although, if that also sounds like a good dinner to you, be my guest!). If you show up to a dinner party with a warming dish of baked creamy fennel and some kick-ass artesian bread, you'll be a gourmet hit! And it shouldn't cost more than $10, including the bread.

The great thing about simple recipes is that you can embellish them and make them your own. Here are some optional ingredients that can be tossed in to change the dish's character. You can use creamy fennel as a topping for baked fish or chicken, or add cream cheese and gruyere and make it into a dip, or even use it as a pasta sauce.

Optional ingredients - use one at a time or combine as desired:

  • dill weed
  • basil
  • crumbled bacon
  • sliced onion
  • crushed garlic
  • lemon zest
  • tarragon
  • thyme
  • chopped hazelnuts
  • sliced sunchokes
  • anchovies
  • bay leaves
  • pink pepper
  • feta cheese
  • crab meat
  • parsley

The options are limitless, really. Herbs and spices make a big difference in such a versatile dish.

A note about price: Fennel bulbs can be bloody expensive. It all depends on the time of year that you get them - they're usually best and cheapest during the summer. But shop around - farmer's markets usually have the best prices. Don't buy the fennel if it's too brown and bruised on the outside.

On a side note, this dish can be made without fennel if you want to use something else more zippy - like Walla Walla Sweet onions. They're not available year-round either, but they cook up beautifully in this creamy dish, and really are sweet.

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Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

As Jim Rohn says, &ldquoWhat is easy to do is also easy not to do.&rdquo And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We&rsquore stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren&rsquot just distractions for the time they&rsquore being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption. [6] Yes, you read that correctly&mdashdistractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.


Mad-As-Hell French Winemakers Take (Spanish Wine) to the Streets

What's black and white and red all over? A highway in the south of France, after a 150-strong gang of irate French winemakers hijacked five tanker trucks and dumped their contents—90,000 bottles' worth of Spanish bulk wine—all over the road. What's that about? French winemakers have a storied history of responding to things they don't like—be they experimental vineyards, unwelcome competitors, or just their neighbors—by simply destroying them. In this case, the winemakers sharpened their (figurative) pitchforks against Spain because they claim the wine, destined for bottling and subsequent sales in and out of France, presents unfair competition.

Speaking to the Telegraph, Frédéric Rouanet, the president of the Aude winemakers’ union, said, "If a French winemaker produced wine with Spanish rules, he simply wouldn’t be able to sell it." French winemakers contend that to follow their own country’s rules requires them to price their wine far above the Spanish juice—a squeeze on the bulk market that the south of France once had cornered.

Denis Pigouche, president of a winemaking organization called FDSEA des Pyrénées Orientales, went even harder, according to the Telegraph, accusing the wines of not even being Spanish: "These wines have no place in France … I suspect they are from South America and then 'Hispanicized' in Barcelona and then Europeanized, or even Frenchified in France."

After an impromptu but no doubt thorough and objective tasting held in the street, the French winemakers rated the tanker wines "vin non conforme" (non-compliant wine), leaving that tasting note spray-painted on the sides of the tanks.

Spain, none too pleased, lodged a formal complaint with Brussels, citing that the "guarantee of free movement of goods and people within Europe is one of the basic tenets of the E.U." Among the evidence of bad faith is the report that the police largely stood back and let the attack take place, and while vowing to find those responsible, have not made any arrests to date.

Billionaire Bill Koch Auctioning Off 20,000 Bottles, But Sells No Wine Before Its Authentication

Bill Koch has always been upfront in declaring that his 43,000-bottle wine collection had been infiltrated by counterfeits: After all, he publicly led the charge against fake wines, filing lawsuits accusing figures like Hardy Rodenstock and Rudy Kurniawan of selling him fraudulent bottles (the latter, of course, would be convicted on federal fraud charges). Now, Koch is putting 20,000 bottles up for auction at Sotheby's on May 19-21, which might raise two questions: Why is the man who spent so much money and effort to clean up his cellar selling off nearly half of it? And how can one be sure that the world's most famous unintentional collector of forged wines is consigning the real deal?

The answer to the former question is mundane enough: "We looked at my and my wife's habits," Koch told Unfiltered. "There are some wines that we drink regularly and some we have a small probability of ever drinking. Or we have 150 bottles of something and, my gosh, we'll never drink them all."

As for the latter: It's unlikely anyone has ever pulled together a crack squad of counterfeit-fighting superheroes with the same firepower Koch has in his years battling wine fraud. "I've hired a dozen experts in different fields to come in and look at my collection," he said. "We found more than 400 fakes that had cost me over $4 million, and we think we got 'em all," including some heart-breakers like magnums of "Château Pétrus 1921" and "Château Mouton-Rothschild 1945." While the auction is expected to fetch between $10.5 and $15 million, Koch insisted, "I spent more on authentication and lawsuits than I’ll get for selling almost half my collection."

Among the specialists called to Koch’s cellars was Eric Soulat, whose Bordeaux-based family firm Grands Comptes has printed wine labels for the top châteaus for generations. Arriving with a satchel packed with archival labels, Soulat spent three weeks finding frauds in Koch’s vast cellars in Palm Beach and Cape Cod. He found more than 100 faked labels, according to Brad Goldstein, who oversaw Koch's decade-long counterfeit seek-and-destroy mission. More fakes were turned up by a materials expert on waxes and glues, who discovered labels affixed with Elmer’s from vintages predating the introduction of the sticky white stuff in the late 1940s.

Koch also sent hundreds of suspect bottles to the source—Bordeaux—for inspection. "I took the 1921 Pétrus in magnum to the château myself," said Koch. "They basically said that they never made magnums back then." Koch even sent gamma ray detectors to the University of Bordeaux, where physicist Philippe Hubert tested bottles for traces of Cesium-137, a radioactive isotope that invisibly infiltrates everything—including wine bottles—but did not exist before the first atomic explosions in 1945. (Not for nothing, Sotheby's submitted the collection to its own standard rigorous inspections as well.)

Will Koch attend the sale? "I really don't know," he said. "If I do, I just might cry because the wines are gone—or because the prices aren't high."

Obama's Mendoza

When in Argentina! Isn't that right, Señor Presidente Barack Obama? During a recent state dinner in Buenos Aires, the President and First Lady showed they could tango with the best of them in Argentina. After official meetings with President Mauricio Macri, the Obamas dined on regional South American specialties including smoked trout and vegetables, baked lamb with potatoes and a dulce de leche dessert. Mendoza winery Bodega Catena Zapata, whose founder Nicolás Catena is a titan in the industry, provided the libations. With the appetizer and entrée, the diners sipped "Angélica" series Chardonnay and Malbec from the Mendoza Alta region. D.V. Nature, a méthode traditionelle sparkling wine from the high-altitude Tupungato subregion of Mendoza, accompanied dessert. After a few glasses of vino, the Obamas got into fiesta mode and took their tango game to the literal dance floor. Professional tango dancers lured out the ever-suave first couple to show off some fancy footwork. Salud!

Big Cheers for Sonoma and Willamette Auctions

It's been a good few weeks for West Coast wine auctions. On March 31, the Sonoma Wine Country Weekend sponsors presented their record haul from last fall's charity extravaganza, which came to more than $3.4 million, to children's literacy programs under the Fund the Future initiative, plus 81 other non-profit groups around Sonoma County. The whole weekend is a bonanza, but the Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction is the biggest moneymaker. (One of the hottest lots was a private dinner at the Hamel Family winery with a menu from Patrick O’Connell—chef at the Grand Award-winning Inn at Little Washington—and a performance from Grammy-winner Bruce Hornsby, who played keyboard with the Grateful Dead.) In its 22nd annual event, the auction brought in over $2.4 million, making it the No. 3 fundraiser in Wine Spectator’s 2015 charity wine auction report. Dan Goldfield of Dutton-Goldfield Winery and president of the Sonoma County Vintners Foundation spoke at the check presentation: "It’s such a pleasure to be part of something larger than ourselves."

A brand new wine auction got Unfiltered's attention too, this one held in Oregon's Willamette Valley on April 2. Josh Bergström, auction chairman, felt it was high time to show off the region's world-class Pinots with a grand auction, called Willamette: The Pinot Noir Barrel Auction. "We are thrilled at the success of this event. In the past 50 years we have been unable to establish a fundraising mechanism that can help take our big ideas to the world’s stage…until now," he told Unfiltered. The event, held the Allison Inn & Spa in Newberg, Ore., raised $476,000, with proceeds going to the Willamette Valley Wineries Association. Sixty-six local Pinot Noir producers showed off their wines, and the very first lot—five cases from Bergström—hit $10,000 in a matter of minutes. Other highlights included the first available wines from the new Nicolas-Jay and Lavinea projects, from Burgundian Jean-Nicolas Méo and Jay Boberg, and Greg Ralston and Isabelle Meunier, respectively.


The List of 50 strangest, interesting, odd facts about French Food

So what is it so special about French and Food? Actually, there is a lot! I am sure even though you have some ideas about French people already or you don’t get this nation at all, I can assure you that French LOVE food & eating. It can be really surprising as it was for me because I would assassinate France only with the fashion, wine and cheese but not really with the lifestyle which is dictated by food…On top of that what surprised me a lot was the fact that actually French people don’t eat so often. But then, when they start…it lasts long…actually there is no end to be seen…drink, aperitif, starter, main course, cheese, dessert…wine, water, baguette and a lot of talking…So they are quite specific about food and eating and that is why I felt I want to share with you some, many actually, facts about French attitude to food. So here you have a List of 50 strangest, interesting, odd, some well-known and some to be discovered facts about French Food. I hope you enjoy finding out all of this!

    French people live to eat and the Rest of the World eat to live…French pays a high priority to enjoy the life and food! It’s a part of their culture & tradition and lifestyle!

  1. Le pain (baguette mainly and its variations in different shapes and sizes) is served for free and unlimited in restaurants. It is actually interesting that French people will not get filled up with bread and they enjoy their full, long, big meal.
  2. Did you realize that there is a special way of eating bread in France? I would call it even the bread etiquette! So firstly, you should not start to nibble it before the meal arrives secondly you don’t use the knife to cut it but you break it with fingers, thirdly, you don’t use butter to spread on the bread but more likely you clean your plate with the bread…preferably dipping it in the sauces if they are being provided
  3. And guess how many baguettes are being baked in France each year. Ten billion! This is true and not surprising actually. As you can imagine that French people eat baguettes for lunch, for dinner and it accompanies each meal! French eat baguettes when they are hungry but they also nibble it as a part of big meals and with cheese. What is surprising they even don’t pay attention to nibbling it it’s a habit & French way!
  4. Also, did you know that the bakers have their patron..the saint actually! This is Saint-Honore and there is the feast day to celebrate him and all the bakers. It is happening on 16 th May!
  5. Snails – we know this is a French speciality and anyone who visits France should have an experience of eating them. But I was surprised to learn on how many snails are being eaten in France…approximately 500,000,000 snails per year. Well, at the end of the day, they are tiny so you need many to get the taste!
  6. High in protein, low in fat – those are the healthy benefits of eating snails! You might really want to try…

50 Facts! Impressive isn’t it? Well, I guess I could find more as I needed to stop my researches and observations cause you would never look into the list. But maybe you know others, more surprising and interesting facts about French Food? If so, please do share with me. As you remember, I am on the mission to explore France even more! Thank you …


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