Category Archives: Wine

La Maison Forestière

A nearby forest-bound sculpture garden.

The more idyllic the scenery, the harder it is for me to take pictures. That was the case this week when I visited one of my fellow teachers in Hennezel, France. It’s home to less than 450 people and completely surrounded by woods, but somehow cozy anyway. My host’s husband is a forestier; something like a woodsman or a forest ranger, who spends most of his days walking through the woods choosing the best trees to cut down while allowing the forest to prosper. Their house is a “maison forestière” heated entirely by wood with vegetable patches against the lean-to, and blossoming pear trees and lilac bushes.

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Alsace’s Route du Vin, and “Grandmas Are Awesome”

This is not the first time I’ve said this, nor is it by any means the last. Despite living in a backwoods Bermuda triangle that seems to hold onto locals, I’ve met a number of amazing older women. Women who have lived in Zaïre. Women who moved to London without housing and spent two months hiding under a friend’s bed at night. Women who have bathed in a hot stream with Bjork (really!) and hiked the Camino de Santiago post-retirement.

And last weekend, women in their 80s who speak four languages and can tell you everything on earth about the history of wine, Alsace, and France.

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Vin Chaud: Some Like it Hot

Strasbourg Christmas Markets, 2011

Christmas markets are my kryptonite. Going home to cook a healthy, cheap dinner takes superhuman power when downtown Epinal emits a fountain of delicious smells: crêpes, waffles, churros, and most noticeably, spiced wine. Vin chaud smells like the holidays: cinnamon, oranges, and liquor in a cozy package.  I’m not surprised that mulled wine is a regional specialty either, as I can’t imagine the Gauls lived in the bitter north for long before turning to hot alcohol. It’s raining cats and dogs in Lorraine, and I’m chilled to the bone some days.

Luckily, it’s easy and cheap to make vin chaud on your stove. Start with a bottle of cheap, relatively dry red wine such as Bordeaux or pinot noir. Mine was a whopping 2€. Add spices. Strain. Drink. Repeat!

Vin Chaud, à la Alsace (adapted from here)
Serves 4
1 bottle of red wine
1/4 to 1/2 c. of brown sugar. I used less, as I don’t enjoy sweet wine.
Zest of one orange
2 cinnamon sticks
2 whole cloves
1/8 tsp of ginger
1/8 tsp of nutmeg
Optional: two stars of Anise. Once again, I don’t like anise much so I left it out.

You want to heat the wine and spice mixture in a sturdy pot on a very low heat, bringing it just to a light simmer. Five to 10 minutes should be enough, but as you want to serve the wine hot and fresh, leaving it longer won’t make a huge difference (except more might evaporate!) in the taste. Use a wire mesh strainer to clear the chunks before serving to friends.

Happiness and joy, it seems, are dishes best served hot.