Last weekend I went to the Calais Wine & Food Fair (usually held in March) and if you ever get a chance to go – take it!
It was a bit dull and not too warm out but the minute I walked into the Forum Gambetta where the fair was being held, my senses were assailed by the smell of wine, cheese, ham, chocolate and other delicious goodies.
On the way in I had been handed a glass, not one of those plastic jobbies, a real glass, after all the organisers want to you to enjoy the wine. This glass stayed with me the entire time I was there, it was my own personal wine tasting glass and it certainly got some use!
The Maire of Calais, Natacha Bouchart was there to open the Wine Fair, she visited every stall and welcomed all the exhibitors to Calais, including The Good Life France, to the Wine Fair (oui c’est moi!)
I wandered from stall to stall, talking to the producers of some of the finest wines from France who were very happy to explain where their wine was made, what sort of terroir they have, the history, the reputation. They were also happy for me to have a dégustation, a taste, after all they said, how you can buy if you don’t know what it tastes like and ALL of them were confident that the taste was so good that you couldn’t resist it.
I didn’t just try the wines – the food sellers were also there in force though I have to say my favourite was the man from Corisca who was selling great cheeses and hams produced from cochon noir.
He spoke in a voice that sounded like he had swallowed nails, he made Lee Marvin sound Lee Evans! Gravelly, deep, he growled rather than talked, his earrings, necklace, bracelet, watch and a ring on every finger flashing as the light caught his hands as he spoke passionately about the produce he was selling. I could have watched him for hours, it was mesmerising!
Across the room an artisan confiturier proudly told us that he made 65 different flavoured jams and urged us to try the jam with Bergamot, a yellow skinned fruit that looks a lot like a giant lemon. The jam was sweet and gently infused with a perfume flavour. Of course, he said, the bergamot is used in the production of the best perfumes and now in the best jam, though I have to say my favourite was strawberry and champagne.
There were pies, cheeses, hams, saucissons and amazing loaves of bread, some as big as car tyres. 60 wine producers were on hand to talk about their produce, explaining how terroir and weather can affect the taste and how and which wines could be laid down, which could be drunk immediately and every one of them happy to give a taste of their wines from the €5 to the €45 bottles.
This is going to be an annual event for me going forward, it wasn’t the biggest wine fair in France I’ve been to but it certainly was one of the nicest – a sort of masterclass, mini wine tour of France in one room!
More on Calais wine – Day Trip Delight, Shopping in Calais