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Most of our tourists limit acquaintance with France, wandering through the "Bermuda Triangle": Paris, Nice, Disneyland. And many French tour operators, patiently working out these three routes for ours, still…

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Who does not risk, he does not drink a proveno

When they say “the south of France”, usually the imagination rests on the Cote d’Azur. Of course, each of the towns of the French Riviera, sunk at least 300 days a year, is well known even to those who have never been there: Nice is the unofficial capital of the region, Cannes is the city of all sorts of festivals and architectural monuments, the center of social life of Saint Tropez, the most ancient city of the coast of Antibes – the ancient Roman Antipolis, which has become the youngest in our day – here is the world center of yachting …

But there is in fact also the South Atlantic Biarritz with its beautiful history, and the fragrant Provence, and the uneasy landscapes of Gascony, where mountain ridges are cut by rivers and covered by the ocean wind. In the south of a small country of France, various national, natural and exotic wonders are so densely mixed up that even the most industrious French patriot cannot describe them all. The most important of miracles is, of course, local wine. Hospitable Southerners, accustomed to the invasions of tourists, say this: praise your land with words – it’s an empty thing, go on it – and you will see everything yourself. Especially if you drink wine.

Gascony always Gascony
Sometimes there is a feeling that in the south of France all year round is a celebration of winemaking. It is worth somewhere to finish the wine-making season, as it is picked up in another region. The valiant Gascons generally begin to harvest their grape riches on New Year’s Eve.

Having decorated the proud Gascon heads with famous black berets, turning into dense blue aprons, residents of the Gers department in the south-west of France go on a national labor watch in honor of the first day of harvesting.

“We, the Gascons, are not like people,” says Zhers, the largest wine authority of Andre Dyubosk, with undisguised pride. He heads the “Cellars of Plemona” – a cooperative economy, uniting Gascon winemakers.

Late berry picking Dyubosk explains the fact that the wine is made quite special from them: golden, thick, with a high content of natural sugar. Its name – pashrenk – comes from the Gascon expression, meaning “a vine tied to high poles”.

Local vineyards really look unusual: high – up to two meters – rows of vines. Pashrenk is cleaned three times: first in late October, then in mid-November, and finally, weather permitting, in late December. The challenge is to bring the  beautiful history, and the fragrant Provence, and the uneasy landscapes . Therefore, the harvesting occurs at a time when the vineyards are already losing their golden leaves and the night frosts make themselves felt. Berries must be cleaned by hand, so as not to disturb the fragile skin.

Any weather failures – rain, snow, frost – can disrupt cleaning. Sugar clusters get wet, and removing berries that are swollen from water means putting an end to the quality of the wine. We have to pause for several days before the grapes dry out. Andre Dubosc believes that such risky winemaking adds adrenaline not only to the blood, but also to the wine. It acquires a particularly masculine, persistent character, and therefore, probably, women like it so much. What Gascon does not like to risk? Who does not risk – that, as they say, does not drink pashrenka.

Grape harvesting here always turns into a holiday open to all – including little-educated overseas tourists. By noon, the people who are clearly starving in the morning are flocking to Saint-Mont. On the grill of barbecues, slices of beef ham are cleverly fried in a continuous way, which are then placed on thick slices of bread. All this is washed down abundantly with local wine from huge six-liter bottles.

An hour after this impressive warm-up, a general team is given to “eskubasso” – the traditional dinner of the grape pickers. Despite the very heavy feeling in the stomach, no one deserts. The impression arises that the very pashrenk, for the sake of which everyone gathered, is just another reason to demonstrate once again how rich and gracious Gascon land is. Pies of duck and goose liver, minced meat, duck in the most incredible species, a dozen varieties of wine. Even the most slender ladies can not refuse the sweet airy puff pie.

As for the pashrenka itself, it is still too early for the table – it will get into the glasses not earlier than 2008: it will take a year and a half to rest in new oak barrels, and then sleep for a year in bottles before surrendering to the thirsty.

Pastis for all times
French anise aperitif, especially the southerners, is considered an excellent remedy for the midday heat. A little strong pastis, a couple of pieces of ice and water – the most popular recipe for a French aperitif on hot summer days.

Pastis is a reliable drinking friend, although he will remind someone the taste of the famous cough tincture. “Ricard, strong wow ple!” – Every day with these words, not one hundred thousand Frenchmen begin their lunch in a cafe and bistro. The popular aperitif ricar, made on the basis of anisette-vodka common in the Mediterranean, is no less a symbol of France than the Eiffel Tower or Edith Piaf.

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