Travel 2018 – French Road Trip, Day 10, Pau, Gan, Aydie, Pugnac

Monday, May 14th – Day 10, Pau, Gan, Aydie, Pugnac

A serious repack of the car was needed, so I spent some time in the underground car park moving stuff about and reconfiguring the seats. This was essential if we wanted to get any wine into the boot, as well as if we wanted to fit R into the car (his luggage was going with E and W as we couldn’t get both into either car). Lynne and I then headed into Monoprix to buy supplies for the week as we would still be self catering.

Finally, round about 11am we were ready for the off. The plan, if plan there was, was to go to les Caves de Gan over in Gan, a small town around 8km from Pau, to buy some wine and, if we got there early enough, to go on their cellar tour. We didn’t get there early enough, so we tasted some wines, made a note of the ones we were interested in, and bought a bottle of each to drink during the week and check our opinions were valid. We also checked that they would be open the following Monday so we could swing by on our way home and stock up.

From there we walked into the town centre and found a couple of places open that could offer lunch. We opted for the one that looked nicer from the outside, the Bistrot de l’Ossau. It was quite busy and seemed to be popular with locals. We were soon sure we’d made the right choice, and glad we’d not ordered more than one course. I finally went for the meal I most associate with these parts, a confit de Canard, with fried potatoes. I’ve been known to eat this almost daily, but on this trip somehow it hadn’t happened.

It was as I’d hope, sticky duck fat, crispy skin and tender fibres of meat. Good stuff! Lynne ordered one of the “salads”, the Landaise, which seemed to contain as much meat and cheese as could be packed in by anyone determined to overdo the protein.

None of the other “plates” were any smaller, and so it was slightly surprising when we all ordered dessert or cheese afterwards. I seemed to be on some sort of roll with the local cheese and so had a portion for the third day in a row.

At least I didn’t foolhardily take on one of the biggest creme brulees I’ve ever seen. That act of insanity fell to Lynne.

And R went for an apple tart… I think it was rather larger than he’d expected.

Lunch over with, we planned to drive up to Bordeaux by way of the Madiran wine region, in particular calling in at one of the chateaux provided it was open, with Chateau Aydie being the one I had in mind. Aydie is tiny, with less than 140 inhabitants, and it’s down some interestingly convoluted lanes, in some beautiful countryside, and it took us a while to actually get there. Their visitor centre is on the other side of the road to the chateau and when we arrived there was no one around apart from a woman obliviously vacuuming, and a tick-infested but very friendly cat!

Eventually we managed to alert the lady with the vacuum without startling her, and she went to find someone to help us. She also de-ticked the cat while she was there. It didn’t seem too bothered either way.

Wines were opened, and tried, and tested, and discussed and eventually we settled on three cases. The first six reds, the Château Aydie is, as Madiran always is, made from the Tannat grape, harvested by hand and aged in oak for 12-15 months, before being bottled after 20 months. The technical sheet says it “can very easily be kept for 7 to 10 years” and that it will go well with “game (pigeon stew, boar stew), duck breast, red meats (grilled rib goat cheeses of beef) or Pyreneen goat cheeses.” We’ll see about the 10 years…

Second up were six bottles of Odé Aydie, again a Madiran and thus made from hand harvested Tannat grapes. These also get 12 to 15 months in oak, and then are bottled at 20 months. It is best “served not only with traditional French dishes, but also variations in contemporary cuisine: leg of lamb, beef Burgundy.”

The white was a dessert wine, six bottles of Château Aydie Moelleux, a Pacherenc du Vic Bilh, made from Petit Manseng grapes, which are late-harvested (last sorting) around 1st November. A small amount of Gros Manseng is added to give a touch of complexity, and is vinified and aged in oak and in thorntree barrels for 10 months, after which it is bottled. They recommend it be drunk cold at 8° to 10°C, as an aperitif, with foie gras, cheese, and the traditional spit-baked cake of the Pyrenees, the gâteau à la broche.

And just as we’d decided on 18 bottles to take away, the man we were dealing with pulled out a liquer they produce which they call Maydie. This is made exclusively with hand-harvested overripe Tannat grapes, which are de-stemmed and placed in a wooden tank to macerate for a few days to extract the maximum of aromas and colour. It is then fermented for three to four days before the process is stopped by the addition of high strength wine-based alcohol. Maceration continues for up to six more days before the liquid is poured into an oak tun and aged for 24 months before bottling. It’s best drunk cold as an aperitif or with chocolate sauced desserts, or Roquefort cheese. And so three bottles of that got added to the pile.

Having paid up we loaded the boxes into the car and drove carefully towards Bordeaux. We hit the ring road just towards the end of the rush hour, and so were soon in Pugnac, and driving round and round in circles trying to find our Airbnb! The local commune had apparently recently renumbered all of the houses, so number 1, which we were looking for, is now 415! Luckily our landlady was around, and she came out and waved at us as we circled round for the third time, trying to reach escape velocity!

The place had been chosen by me to have a swimming pool, three bathrooms to go with the three bedrooms, and to be peaceful because that was what E and W needed, and to be close to Bordeaux and other places of interest for those of us who wanted to be out and about and doing things. It seemed to be perfect, so we unpacked, stashed the food and drink supplies appropriately, and waited for E and W to arrive.

From the outside it did not look too promising, at least on the photo on Airbnb, but inside it was glorious, one of the best equipped, nicest places I have ever rented. You just wouldn’t know it from the external photo used on the listing.

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Inside the rooms were lovely, comfortable, with great beds and a super bath/wet room as an en suite to the room we snagged. The lounge/kitchen room was fantastic, with plenty of room for all of us.

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The pool was a decent size too.

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We stayed in that night, dining on cold meats, cheeses, olives, bread and other goodies, and drinking some of the wine from the Caves du Gan. Exploring could wait until Tuesday.

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