Arrivals & Departures French with cheers

STEPHEN SCOURFIELD reflects on another successful West Travel Club event, this time at Perth's popular Bistro Guillaume

It was, indeed, French and fantastique at our West Travel Club lunch, in partnership with Uniworld, at Bistro Guillaume at Crown on Sunday September 15.

Chef Robert Murphy explained that the difference with French cooking is technique.

Using the classic sous-vide technique of low-temperature cooking, in which the food is placed in a pouch or jar and cooked in a water bath for much longer than usual did, indeed, produce a delicate, melt-in-the-mouth chateaubriand.

Sommelier and restaurant manager Michele Nocini explained the French wines being served and how terroir (the physical and cultural landscape) helps shape them.

And musician Steve Richter and I offered a “petit divertissement”, with a words-and-music picture of France that also touched on terroir.

The terroir is alive. Appreciating terroir is fundamental to appreciating all that the wine-growing regions of France have to offer. For terroir blends the geographic and the cultural. It is not just a description of the landscape but all it means.

Geographically, terroir covers geology, hydrology, soil and climate characteristics. Culturally, it reflects the human societies working on that land.

It is true that different societies in the same region change the terroir.

It is something which Fiona Dalton, managing director of Uniworld, our partner at the event, is acutely aware of.

Uniworld offers a truly French experience on its river cruises. Each of its ships is made for the region in which it will cruise. Regular readers may remember that I recently joined their Brilliant Bordeaux cruise — and it was just that.

There, its ship SS Bon Voyage has been relaunched this year after an eight-month fit-out, with every decision and element devised to be a conduit into French culture, art, wine and cuisine.

It is more expensive to make ships exclusively for one destination, and the ship is an example of Uniworld’s commitment to giving its guests a boutique experience. The interior is defined by marble, silk, flowers and subtle tones. The food on board is beautiful, with an emphasis on local produce. Bordeaux’s 6000 chateaux, or wineries, make more than 9000 different wines each vintage and many are served on board.

Fiona, who came over from Sydney to be with us, also came bearing gifts — free economy return flights to Europe, or $3999 business class return, per person, and a chauffeur car service for both.

For us, it was a wonderful event — a chance to meet and talk with readers, travellers, friends, and my thanks to all who came.

uniworld.com and travel agents.

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