We come to the Ain almost every year to play and sing music at Val du Séran, a huge converted farm building in the lovely countryside between the Bugey area and the upper Rhône. It's quite isolated, surrounded by green hills with some of the cows that produce milk for Comté cheese, and with more distant views of the pre-Alpine mountains. But apart from the stimulating guidance of our host Stéphane and the marvellous cooking of his wife Chantal, we always enjoy the wines they choose to accompany our evening meals, usually showing a sure touch in matching food and wine.
This year, for example we've had a Bordeaux Clairet accompanying tarragon chicken. We came across this on our trip to Bordeaux earlier this year - a light-coloured red wine (like a dark rosé) usually made from merlot grapes. Then, a Californian cabernet sauvignon full of sweet vanilla fruit in a style which is definitely not French, a really good match with a scented but mild beef curry; a smooth Fitou (from the area south of Narbonne, not far from us) with a veal and ginger dish; a beautiful red Côte du Rhône with barbecued rissoles made from a Croatian recipe; and a Fleurie (one of the Beaujolais crûs, usually regarded as relatively light and floral) with a pork mignon served with a haricot purée. A couple more nights of this before we return to our own less diverse choices at home.
When we come to this area, we also enjoy the local wines, particularly the white Roussette de Savoie and Seyssel, made from local grape varieties Altesse and Molette. These are lively flavourful wines which work well as apéritifs, as Mary proves most evenings after a full day of cello playing. AT Stéphane's recommendation we visit the maker Bernard Aimé in the village of Corbonod near the town of Seyssel itelf and close to the river Rhône which is very picturesque in this area.
We have good lunches here of salads, cheese and fruit, but (unlike our home habit) no alcohol at lunchtime so that the music is not marred by sleepiness or lack of attention! But the evenings are a time to relax and feast, as you can see!