If you ever find yourself in the Loire Valley in October, make sure to try la bernache for a full local experience.
You see, if there is a thing the locals are particularly proud of, it is the wines that are produced there. Vouvray, Montlouis, Amboise, Chinon, Saint Nicolas de Bourgueil, Bourgueil etc… Of course, the area is first and foremost famous for its castles. Yet, it also has a lot to offer when it comes to wine.
And if you are lucky enough to be around just a few days after the end of the harvest, ask to taste la bernache. You won’t be sorry.
What is la bernache?
First, you may ask what is this beverage, that is only available for a few weeks every Autumn. La bernache is the grape juice that has just began the fermentation process. It’s not wine yet, it’s a very sweet juice with an odd texture and color. The sweeter the bernache, the better. Indeed, the level of sugar and the taste of the bernache gives a first indication as to the quality of the next millesime.
What should I eat with it?
The locals usually eat grilled and warm chestnuts with the bernache. However, it is perfectly acceptable to pair it with some walnuts, a few gougères, some cheese or charcuterie, or even a quiche.
A local tradition
If you visit the Loire Valley (or any area in France for that matter), do not minimize the importance of local traditions. Why? Because we, the French, take all of these traditions very seriously. Showing interest in such customs will not only help you bond with the locals but it will also guarantee that your experience is a unique and authentic one.
In the surroundings of Tours, winemakers and neighbors often gather for informal parties at the end of the harvest. On that occasion, they share a glass of bernache and celebrate the end of another cycle in the vineyards. It’s always a very pleasant moment. Besides, did I mention how good the bernache tastes?
Where can I try it?
You can usually find some bernache at any local supermarket. Nonetheless, I would highly recommend getting it directly from the barrel at a winery. There is no comparison. As for which wineries, my preference goes to those of the AOC Vouvray.
Although you can find some bernache as early as mid-September, I usually try to stay away from it because the real good stuff comes around mid to late October.
What about you? Have you ever try it?