Strawberries, gin, rugby ….where are we?
Believe it or not, we’re in the Périgord, the Dordogne!
For thousands of years, strawberries grew wild in the Americas, Asia and in Western Europe. The flavourless, tough and small strawberries have been used for medicinal purposes and food, but by the 1300's the French started cultivating the strawberry, the French therefore ‘invented’ the strawberry. However, strawberries with cream are unmistakably English.
The cultivation didn’t start in the Dordogne but the ‘Fragaria × ananassa’ began appearing spontaneously in Brittany, from seed resulting from bee-pollinated crosses between Chilean and Virginia strawberries. The mild climate is perfect for the strawberry because it loves sun and fresh ground.
Strawberries are a huge business here in the Dordogne, and the strawberry is a gastronomic treasure. The strawberry capital is Vergt in the Périgord blanc, an hour’s drive from Lusignac. They appeared in Dordogne in 1895 but cultivation started after WWII.
Strawberries are cultivated from April-September. The Gariguette, prized by leading chefs for its wonderful scent and outstanding flavour, and the Darselect, which offers an outstanding flavour, are the first spring strawberries. The Mara des Bois, with a sweet flavour and intensely fragrant aroma, the Charlotte, a delight for young and old, the firm and fruity Cirafine and the sweet Seascape, are cultivated until the beginning of autumn.
Very interesting to know is that the Périgord strawberry was the first European strawberry to obtain a PGI label, a Protected Geographical Indication. This was in 2004 and it assures the quality of a product thanks to the identification of its origin.
Gin, neither English nor French, was originally made in the Netherlands and was called ‘geneva’ or ‘genever’. In the Dordogne, there are several distilleries.
About 1h15 to the south-east, in Montignac, is Brasserie l’Ort, where brother and sister Loïs and Nolwenn Gauthier, passionately produce their organic L’Ort Gin in their grandparents’ old farm. ‘Gin de nos jardins’, gin with a hint of wild marjoram and thyme, typical Périgord smells.
Apart from being organic, the gin is also eco-responsible, the still's cooling water is recycled, and the heating elements for the vats are connected to solar energy.
In 2017 in Bergerac, three friends, Paul, Vianney and Thibault, came up with an adventurous idea to create a delicious drink with a touch of soul. They started working on it and after a few months they created their first and most original and surprising recipe, ERIKA's Gasconha DRY GIN, made with 8 botanicals: juniper, physalis, walnut leaf, elderflower, tarragon, Sansho berry (one of the world’s oldest seasonings with a citrus flavour with a warm pepper finish), and their magic ingredient, Erica heather black honey.
The gin is actually distilled in Bercloux, north-west of Cognac and its Stupfler still. Copper Stupfler stills are hand-crafted by Jean Luis Stupfler in Bordeaux, one of France’s premier alambic still makers.
Old Tom Gin is fruity, sweet and perfect for a fresh and tangy cocktail. It has subtle hints of tarragon and rosemary, and a fresh rose scent, enhanced by a touch of Black Acacia Honey.
Other gins are the Gin de Printemps and Navy Strength Gin (57%). The nearest gin distillery is near Ribérac, the Copper Cock Distillery in Douchapt. Copper Cock Gin is distilled in small batches by blending the finest locally sourced ingredients to create a true French gin.
Across the border Jarnac, an hour’s drive north-west from Lusginac, a very special gin is produced, a Cognac Cask gin. Gin de Charente owner Patrick Lenehan, uses a traditional copper still and a live flame for distilling choosing the finest botanicals, as melon, cassia bark and orris root from the Iris.
They produce their traditional London Dry with a higher amount of juniper, in a traditional copper still and use the water from nearby Gensac La Pallue, which make them smooth enough to drink neat.
The Cognac Cask gin takes on some of the caramel and vanilla flavours from the Limousin oak barrel. The Bourbon barrel rested gin is slightly darker and sweeter than the Cognac barrel rested gin. The 77 Gin is a strong gin at 77.7% is citrusy and has even more juniper.
Rugby is as popular in France as it is in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, Ireland and South Africa. The sport was introduced to France, Normandy, in 1872 by English businessmen and students.
France took part in the 1900 Summer Olympics in Paris, and in 1906, the All Blacks (NZ) came to Paris and France played her first ever official test match.
Rugby is very popular in the SW of France and has been from the beginning. Maybe because of the large British community in this part of France or maybe because the people here have the reputation of being more battleful than in the rest of France? After all, the Musketeer d’Athos was from Béarn, d’Artagnan, who was born at Château de Castelmore near Lupiac and the powerful, remarkable warrior Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, Queen of both France and England, came from the region.
In our corner of the Dordogne, the Club Athlétique Ribéracois Rugby (1909), is one of the oldest in the département.
On 2 October 1969, a Rugby School was set up within the Club. At the end of 2019, the Rugby School obtained the ‘2 star’ label from the FFR, the French Rugby Federation. It is a classification system with a star system and 2 stars is the highest possible for an amateur club. Club Athlétique Ribéracois plays in Pool 5.
Bienvenue en Périgord!
Pimm + Marcel
Most of our blogs are written to give you more information about the area where we have our Gîte Loups d'Or. We also write about subjects we think are interesting for you to know. If you have any questions or if you want more information, please feel free to contact us.
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