By Guy Venables
If gin was last year’s drink, a new trend seems to be mead. I know. Mead?!
My mother was a beekeeper and used to make her own mead out of just honey and rainwater. The water, if collected at the right time gathers the pollens in the air and supplies itself with natural yeast. Then she left it for around 7 years bubbling away in the attic. This turns nearly all of the plentiful sugar into booze. When we were children she used to give it to us when we were ill. The upshot of this was I’d have an extra day in bed combatting a kindergarten hangover swearing, at the age of five, that I’d never drink again.
In Brest, in a search for the local hooch I was steered towards Chouchen. I bought some and we sipped it over ice. It was sweet and appley, then I looked at the bottle and realized it was similar to mead and made out of only honey which slightly embarrassed us all at our lack of palate. Being a cheap bastard I’d bought a pretty cheap bottle of it which had the date 2014 on it. It was unimpressive as a drink, sweet and flabby. We went back to the Suze.
Because I found myself alone with a 4 hour stop over in Roscoff I decided to mooch around the charming old town. There I found a cellar with a man in it. I explained my nonplussed attitude to Chouchen and he disappeared into an even deeper cellar whilst conducting a noisy argument with his wife in the local dialect. He came up again with a bottle with no label. He opened it and in two tiny pewter tankards poured out two generous measures whilst explaining that in Brittany, the fermentation process is begun by the addition of freshly pressed apple juice, hence our initial appley tastings.
We sipped. He waited, saw my face beam with delight and shook me by the shoulders. “You bought the 2014 you stupid Englishman”, he laughed. “This stuff is 25 years old, made by my grandfather and I’ve been looking for the opportunity to open it for a while. We’ll have to pretend to my wife you’ve bought it and just buy something else. Now, top up?” We finished the entire bottle in less than 30 minutes and I left with a bottle of Pastis that I bought from him and managed to hide from the suspicious gaze of his formidable and sturdy wife.