French wine country unveils its answer to kobe beef

As the unofficial capital of France's Burgundy region, Beaune is a town that thrives on wine -- and now even its cows are going to taste like grapes.

French wine country unveils its answer to kobe beef
Photo: AFP
This weekend will see luminaries of the wine-making world descend on the ancient eastern town for its huge annual Hospices de Beaune charity auction.
The 157-year-old sale, run by Christie's, sees millions of dollars exchange hands and is considered a barometer for global demand for Burgundy, considered one of France's most prestigious wine areas.
But this year, local officials are hoping foreign buyers have time to try Beaune's new offering: beef reared on the byproducts of the wine-making process.
The cows are fed in their last months with the mulchy residue left after the world-famous local vintages are fermented and distilled, as well as on crushed blackcurrants.
Photo: AFP   
Local farmers hope the quality of the meat could earn them a reputation similar to that of Japan's illustrious kobe beef, renowned for its flavour and tenderness.
“The wine from the Hospices auction is a fruity wine,” said Beaune chef Laurent Parra as he flipped a slice on a grill at a tasting.
“That's what we're looking for in the meat — that it's tasty, with blackcurrant and grape flavours. You can just about smell this hint of a flavour.”
A dozen local chefs who came to try the well-marbled meat — most of them the owners of Michelin stars — were already dreaming about what they could do with it.
A beef stew braised ever-so-gently and served with old-style vegetables; tartare with blackcurrant oil and shallots cooked in white wine; roast cote de boeuf with caramelised mushrooms…
Parra said the meat was “very tender” but is hoping for a fattier, even more flavourful version. “It's the fat which gives the meat its flavour,” he said.
Photo: AFP
'Like a fine wine'
So far only two cows have been reared on the method — but weighing in at 700 to 800 kilogrammes each (1,500 to 1,800 pounds), their meat will go a considerable way.
Dominique Guyon, who bred them, says they were reared “peacefully, naturally”.
Fed first by their mothers, they were then switched onto grass and hay before being fed a cereal mix, 20 percent of which is made up of the grape and blackcurrant mulch.
“The ultimate goal is to produce something that tastes like the land, like a fine wine,” says Guyon's son Antoine, who runs the farm with his father at Rouvres-sous-Meilly.
Local winemaker Frederic Mazeau said feeding the wine residue to the cows also made economic sense.
“The grape residue is sometimes used to make compost but we don't really know what to do with it,” he said. “The idea is to recycle it all by giving it to the cows.”
By AFP's Olivier DEVOS


Cold snap ‘could slash French wine harvest by 30 percent’

A rare cold snap that froze vineyards across much of France this month could see harvest yields drop by around a third this year, France's national agriculture observatory said on Thursday.

Cold snap 'could slash French wine harvest by 30 percent'
A winemaker checks whether there is life in the buds of his vineyard in Le Landreau, near Nantes in western France, on April 12th, following several nights of frost. Photo: Sebastien SALOM-GOMIS / AFP

Winemakers were forced to light fires and candles among their vines as nighttime temperatures plunged after weeks of unseasonably warm weather that had spurred early budding.

Scores of vulnerable fruit and vegetable orchards were also hit in what Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie called “probably the greatest agricultural catastrophe of the beginning of the 21st century.”

IN PICTURES: French vineyards ablaze in bid to ward off frosts

The government has promised more than €1 billion in aid for destroyed grapes and other crops.

Based on reported losses so far, the damage could result in up to 15 million fewer hectolitres of wine, a drop of 28 to 30 percent from the average yields over the past five years, the FranceAgriMer agency said.

That would represent €1.5 to €2 billion of lost revenue for the sector, Ygor Gibelind, head of the agency’s wine division, said by videoconference.

It would also roughly coincide with the tally from France’s FNSEA agriculture union.

Prime Minister Jean Castex vowed during a visit to damaged fields in southern France last Saturday that the emergency aid would be made available in the coming days to help farmers cope with the “exceptional situation.”

READ ALSO: ‘We’ve lost at least 70,000 bottles’ – French winemakers count the cost of late frosts