What to Eat in France: Cantaloupe with Fortified Wine from the Charentes Region
There are few things that please more than a ripe melon in summer. This is a simple starter that can be made before your guests arrive.
Pineau des Charentes is a fortified wine from the Poitou-Charentes region, made from a blend of lightly fermented grape must and Cognac eau-de-vie. In France, it is drunk as an apértif.
Its history is colorful. In 1589, a wine producer in Burie stored his must in a barrel to let it ferment, as was the custom in those days. He had forgotten that the bottom of the barrel contained just a covering of alcohol, which was the local tradition. A few years later, he had a large harvest, so he needed to use all the barrels he had available. He tasted the must, sure it would have turned to vinegar and he would have to throw it out. Much to his surprise, it was exquisite. His name was Pineau, and he had discovered a new recipe, one that came to be called Pineau des Charentes.
See recipe on the next page.
6 small cantaloupes
2 1/2 cups of Pineau des Charentes (or other fortified wine)
- Cut melons in half and remove seeds.
- Evenly distribute Pineau in each half.
- Chill for at least 30 minutes.
- Serve as a starter.
Note: If you can’t get Pineau, it is also possible to use Port or a sweet Muscat.
I grew up on Wendell Berry and food straight from a backyard Kentucky garden. I live in France and Switzerland, and am a freelance writer specializing in French cuisine. I attended Le Cordon Bleu and La Varenne cooking schools in Paris and the Académie du Vin, worked for the GaultMillau restaurant guide and CityGuides in France and Paris and for Gannett Company in the U.S., and collaborated on Le tour du monde en 80 pains / Around the World with 80 Breads with Jean-Philippe de Tonnac in France; André Raboud, Sculptures 2002-2009 in Switzerland; Ma Cuisine Méditerranéenne with Christophe Certain in France; At the Table: Food and Family around the World with Ken Albala, and a biography of French chef Pierre Gagnaire. I ran a cooking school in France, and owned a farm-to-table restaurant, The Three Sisters’ Café, with my two sisters in the U.S. I organize the Taste Unlocked bespoke food and wine tasting awareness workshops with James Flewellen, am an active member of Slow Food, and run the food writing website The Rambling Epicure. My work has been published in numerous international publications and I have been interviewed on international public radio in France, Switzerland, and the U.S. I just signed on at In Search of Taste, a British print publication, and am now working on two books, The French and What They Eat and What to Eat in Venice.