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Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Fabulous Table Grapes of France 1. The Raisin Chasselas de Moissac AOC

The grape called in French the Raisin Chasselas de Moissac AOP, IGP.
Behind the French Menu
Bryan Newman

The Raisin Chasselas Moissac
This grape is unique; a single sniff of a single grape prepares you for something truly exceptional; the grape has an incredible taste, a golden juice and an unparalleled aroma. As you bite into one of these grapes the sensations taken all together will make you realize that you are tasting a grape unlike any other.

For more about the AOP initials see the post:


The Raisin Chasselas de Moissac AOP
These grapes are virtually entirely hand raised, and they are only available in the markets from late August through the first week of November.  The farmers who grow these grapes also sell its fresh grape juice,  a bottle will cost more than many wines in the local supermarket!  If you dine in the area, you may be offered a cocktail made with this grape juice and brandy called an Emoustille. Other artisan producers extract the juice to produce conserves and more.
This table grape is one of only two French table grapes that carry an AOP, with a little research that AOP informs the consumer how this grape is grown and why they are unique. The only other grape is with an AOP is the Muscat Ventoux; an equally unique, but, very different, grape; it will require a separate post.
This is a table grape, and as you might expect, it will be on the menu at the end of the meal without any additions; however, since the grape juice is available you may also find this grape’s jelly accompanying foie gras.
When you in the area close to the town of Moissac, you will soon realize that its economy is not built on these grapes alone.  The area around the town is part of the old province of Quercy, and there is a veritable Garden of Eden here that produces superb melons, plums, kiwi fruits, strawberries and other fruits and vegetables. When the artist Monet needed water lilies for his famous garden in Giverny in Normandie, he chose the best, and his water lilies were imported from Mossaic.


Nymphéa water lilies in Monet's Water Garden at Giverny.
Photograph courtesy of Cross Duck
Nymphéas Bleus  at the Musée d'Orsay by Claude Monet
Photograph courtesy of wallyg
To celebrate all the wonders grown around the town you must visit on the third Saturday and Sunday in September; then the town has its Fête de Fruits et Légumes de Moissac; the feast of the fruits and vegetables of Moissac. The star, of course, of course, is their unique grape, the Raisin Chasselas de Moissac AOP.  The town has regular market days on Saturday and Sunday, but that is a different story.

Getting ready for the Fete


Other products on sale in  the weekly Moissac market.
Photograph courtesy of acroll
The town of Moissac is in the département of Tarn-et-Garonne in the Midi-Pyrénées, part of the old province of Quercy. The River Tam and Canal de Garonne flow through the town and you may choose to arrive in Moissac by renting a self-drive canal boat from Sète on the Mediterranean. Moissac was once an important canal port, and from Moissac you can continue on to, still today, to Bordeaux and the Atlantic. This is the Canal de Deux Mers, the canal that connected the Mediterranean and the Atlantic and changed the economy of Southern France as well as the eating habits of the French as far north as Paris forever. This canal, before roads and trains, allowed produce to travel in one week from the Mediterranean to Paris. More importantly it saved a one month trip around Spain and occasional battles with the Barberry pirates.


The Port in Moissac
Photograph courtesy of Drumsara
Just 30 minutes away from Moissac is the town of Agen, so famous for its prunes;  it is less than 40 kms (25 miles).  Most North Americans do not know, but it was Louis Pellier  from Agen who came to the USA in 1849 when he heard the news of the California gold rush and in 1854, on a return trip to France, brought cuttings of the Agen plum trees, and cuttings from some of France most famous grape vines. At one stroke, Louis Pellier established the California French Prune and plum industry as well as the California wine industry.
Despite the wonderful grapes there are many visitors to Moissac  who come to see the parts of France’s medieval history.  Moissac is famous around the world for its medieval Saint-Pierre Abbey and cloisters which are part of the UNESCO World Heritage sites. Here pilgrims passed through France, on foot, onto the pilgrimage center of Santiago del Compostella in Spain.


The cloisters of the Saint-Pierre Abbey
Photograph courtesy of the musical photo man
If you have the time and an interest in automobile history, take a short side trip to the nearby birth place of Antoine Laumet de Lamothe-Cadillac (1658-1730).  Lamothe-Cadillac founded Detroit, Michigan, and his name was given to that King of American cars the Cadillac.  In the village of Saint-Nicolas de la Grave, 8 kms, 5 miles, away is a small museum dedicated by the City of Detroit, Michigan, USA to the memory of Antoine Laumet de Lamothe-Cadillac.

Bryan G Newman
Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2013

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