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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Chasselas de Moissac AOP, The Fabulous Table Grapes of France 1.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
Updated July 2018


The Raisin Chasselas de Moissac
The Chasselas de Moissac grape is unique; the sniff of a single grape prepares you for something genuinely exceptional then as you bite comes a golden juice followed by the taste that must be close to the nectar of the gods. The sensations taken all together make you realize that you are tasting a grape unlike any other.

The Chasselas de Moissac grapes are virtually hand-nurtured and only available in a short season which runs from late August through the first week of November.  The farmers who grow these grapes also sell the fresh grape juice though a bottle costs more than many wines in the local supermarket If you dine in the area, you may enjoy a cocktail made with their grape juice and brandy, it is well recommended. At the end of a meal when Chasselas de Moissac grapes are on the menu you do not really need any additions; however, I attended a dinner when a single cheese, a perfect Roquefort, starred together with the grapes, that was a match made in heaven.

Grapes in Mossaic
Chasselas de Moissac grapes on French menus: 

Aiguillette de Canard Caramélisée au Vinaigre Balsamique et Chasselas de Moissac, Salade d'Herbes – Slices of duck breast caramelized with Balsamique vinegar and the jelly from Chasselas de Mossaic grapes accompanied by a herb salad.
Filet Mignon de Porc au Chasselas de Moissac – Pork fillet prepared with Chasselas de Moissac grapes.
Pie with two types of grapes; Chasselas on the outside.
Foie Gras Poêlé au Chasselas de Moissac – Fried fattened duck’s liver served with a jelly made from the Chasselas de Moissac grapes.

Saint-Pierre aux Chasselas de Moissac – John Dory, the fish, prepared with Chasselas de Moissac grapes.
Filet de Poulet aux Raisins Chasselas de Moissac – Chicken breast prepared in the juices of the Chasseslas grapes.

Fruits from around Moissac 
Moissac, the small town, (population 13,000) around which these grapes are grown is part of the department of Tarn-et-Garonne where the River Garonne and Tarn meet.  Until 1-1-2016 this department was part of the region of the Midi-Pyrénées then it joined with Languedoc-Roussillon to become the super-region of Occitanie.  Moissac was a stop along the Canal des Deux Mers which links the Mediterranean at Sete and the Atlantic at Bordeaux. Now that the canal is no longer used for commerce you may rent self-drive sleep-aboard boats for 2 to 10 people and travel to Bordeaux or Sete and then on to Beaucaire. The Canal des Deux Mers, in the days before roads and trains, allowed people and 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.  
Visiting Moissac

The area around Moissac is a veritable Garden of Eden that produces superb melons, plums, kiwi fruits, strawberries and other fruits and vegetables and herbs. So it is not surprising that when the artist Claude Monet needed water lilies for his famous garden in Giverny in Normandie, he chose the best and his water lilies were imported from Moissac.

Nymphéa water lilies in Monet's Water Garden at Giverny.

Nymphéas Bleus  at the Musée d'Orsay by Claude Monet
To celebrate all the wonders grown around the town at one time 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 Chasselas de Moissac grapes are of course starring. The town has regular market days on Saturday and Sunday. 
In addition to the wonderful grapes and fruits, 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, to the pilgrimage center of Santiago de Compostella in Spain.

Around the town

If you have an interest in automobile history, take a short side trip 13 km, (8 miles) away to the nearby birthplace of Antoine Laumet de Lamothe-Cadillac (1658-1730).  There, in the village of Saint-Nicolas de la Grave, 8 km, 5 miles, away is a small museum dedicated by the City of Detroit, Michigan, USA, to the memory of Antoine Laumet de Lamothe-Cadillac. Lamothe-Cadillac founded Detroit, Michigan, and gave his name to the King of American cars the Cadillac.    

The cloisters of the Saint-Pierre Abbey Mossaic.
Other Chasselas grapes and wines

The Chasselas family of grape vines like other grapes produces different tastes and different qualities.   Close to Fontainebleau, south of Paris, are grown the Chasselas Dorée de Fontainebleau table grapes, they may not be the equal of their relatives in Occitanie but they certainly are tasty.  Then in Burgundy and the Alsace are wines made with varieties of Chasselas grapes. From Burgundy, now part of the super-region of Bourgogne-Franche-Comté comes the Pouilly-sur-Loire AOC light white wine. From the Alsace, now part of the super-region of the Grand Est comes the Chasselas or Gutadel crisp dry wine.  Not to be left out are the excellent Swiss Fendant wines which also come from a variety of the Chasselas grapes,
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Bryan G. Newman
Behind the French Menu
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