West of Lyon, stretching north, as if aiming at Luxemburg, is the great Beaujolais wine region famous for “the only white wine that happens to be red.”
Beaujolais is a light-bodied, fruity wine best enjoyed young, produced in almost 100 villages around the town of Velafranche.
It’s a delight just to drive through the vineyards in the hillsides on a sunny afternoon – the views are breathtaking.
The wine is made of the Gamay grape variety, which is a cross of Pinot Noir and the ancient white variety Gouais, introduced to the region by the Romans. The grapes are grown on granite-based soil where they thrive. The climate here is unique too – the Massif Central is located to the west of it and has a tempering influence, and the proximity of the Mediterranean Sea brings some Mediterranean warmth.
The man in the vineyard high up in the hills, with disheveled hair and thick hands from hard physical labor poured me a glass of his best Chiroubles. It was excellent, with delicate perfume of violets.
“I’m looking for a place to eat,” I said.
“Pa restaurant ici,” he replied. Then he raised his hand a bit making me wait, “je cherche.”
Following his suggestion, I stopped at a Chateau in the valley for a glass of wine and a light meal that made me think that I just died and went to heaven.
France is rapidly becoming one of my favorite places in the world, even though there are some strange aspects to it. The country had a balanced budget last in 1969 – it’s been constant borrowing since then, never paying anything back, just rolling over the old debts. It is also a birthplace of socialism, as introduced by the French Revolution. The resulting way of thinking changed humanity over the last 200 or so years. Interestingly, we can see it unravel in slow motion right in front of us. Nowhere is it more visible than in the pension crisis that is starting to drive monetary policies around the world. The traditional way people took care of their future was to build a family structure - the children took care of the parents. The promises of socialism have relieved the children of such obligations for the government was there. The problem is, that for pension funds to deliver on their promises, they need about 8% of annual return. But there are no fixed income investment grade products that can deliver anything remotely close to it and haven’t been for years. This forces the Federal Reserve to keep rising rates and president Trump with the business community will be dragged along kicking and screaming. And this is also why the European Central Bank’s massive bond buying program will likely end in December. This will introduce new reality to financial markets.
Oddly, as I age, the big picture of the world matters to me less and less. It’s the little things that I enjoy and they bring quality into my life.
The Rhône-Alpes region is absolutely charming, and I could easily imagine myself living in this part of France.
Somewhere between Lyon and Chambéry will be fine for me.
Tom Kubiak is the author of The Traveler