September 7, 2014
Today I made a return trip to the village of Arbois in the Jura region with my friend from
California, James. The aim of the adventure was to see the commencement of harvest
festival which features the hanging of an enormous collection of grape clusters (called
the Biou) in the town church. Apparently this dates back to the 16th century. It turned out that Arbois was also
commemorating the 70th anniversary of the liberation following World War II. People here still
remember and a nod was made to the American troops involved. Then there was a parade with the official city
marching band followed by a rollicking, ragtag band of what appeared to be locals (a bit New Orleans second-linish).
We did see the Biou in the church, and it was, indeed, impressive (real grapes).
We were discussing a display at the Museum of Wine and Vines on the making of vin
jaune (a specialty of the Jura featuring wine which is allowed to oxidize for over six
years in barrel with a flor-type yeast protecting the wine to some degree) when a spritely
French lady admonished us for speaking English when we should be practicing our
French. Not only did she make us both read parts of the sign out loud (correcting us as
we went along), but then she proceeded to give us an hour-plus tour of the museum,
explaining the photos of all the historic wine makers in the region. When I mentioned
we had actually been trying to find Louis Pasteur’s house when we happened on the
museum, she marched us across town, set up our tour with the French tour guide,
and made she we were completely settled before disappearing as suddenly as she
Louis Pasteur did not live in discomfort—his house was quite fine with many luxuries
which were ahead of their time. The highlight was his laboratory which still has his
original equipment on display (microscope, glassware, vials of mysterious liquids).
We finished our visit to Arbois with a couple tastings of vin jaune (if you like sherry, it
may be for you) and vin de paille (a deliciously sweet dessert wine made from grapes
left on straw mats to dry). The Chardonnay and Pinot noir offerings were interesting,
but I think I will stick with Burgundy in that department.
Needless to say, we spoke almost entirely in French the rest of the day…