The French foires aux vins Saturday, Sep 7 2013 

Despite the name, evocative of the medieval splendour of long forgotten trade fairs, the foires aux vins actually take place yearly in French supermarkets. Again, forget any clichés you may have in mind about French people leisurely doing their weekly shop at a bustling market, for supermarkets are in fact very successful (the term “hypermarket” was even coined in France). They are where the vast majority of French people shop.

French supermarkets are therefore very powerful and demanding with their suppliers, which has caused concern and anger amongst them, especially as the customer is not always the winner. The foires aux vins, however, offer a good occasion to take advantage of the supermarkets’ bargaining power as well as, in this particular year, of the slow down in Asian markets. Plummeting sales to Asia have apparently left a few suppliers with a lot of wine on their hands, which they are keen to discreetly get rid of. But enough talking: ferret has managed to get its paws on the catalogue for the foire aux vins at Carrefour Calais and would like to share a few potential good buys with you. In ferret’s opinion, it is best to focus on Bordeaux wines, as they are usually well represented due to the large quantities produced by even the most famous properties (as opposed to Burgundy).

(Red unless otherwise indicated)198190

Prestige buys

  • Saint Julien Château Gloria 2009 €29.90, £25.57 – not for early drinking though
  • Pessac-Léognan Château Carbonnieux white 2011 €24.90, £21.29 – a good introduction to the brilliant Pessac whites. Drink from 2015 over 10 years.
  • Pessac-Léognan Château Carbonnieux 2011 €23.90, £20.45 – also a good introduction to refined Pessac reds. Drink from 2017.

Value for money

  • Haut-Médoc Citran 2011 €11.50, £9.83. Excellent value for a wine that will drink until the beginning of the next decade.

And plenty of other wines: look out in particular for the 2009 and 2010 Bordeaux vintages.

  • Carrefour Calais
  • Avenue Guynemer
  • 62100 CALAIS

Foire au vins from 11th September to 6th October 2013


Human slaves in a plastic nation Monday, Aug 5 2013 

(With apologies to Bill Bailey.)

With the rise and rise of plastic as a packaging material, it’s only natural that we should be using more of it. However, this, and the increasing consumption of plastic carrier bags, has caused concern to many thanks to its impact on the environment: as well as being a visual pollutant, plastic detritus will lie around for many years before decomposing (contributing to landfill) and may even kill wildlife.

A recent article on on the subject therefore stirred my interest by raising interesting questions. We can try all we might to reduce our use of plastic. But what can we do about products like rice and pasta, which always come wrapped in plastic? And what can we do with the plastic we do use if our area refuses to recycle it?

This got me thinking about how we can reduce our use of plastic, and I’d like to share these tips with you:

1) Shop more locally. This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. Supermarkets tend to give plastic carrier bags out like ninjas, whereas independent retailers encourage you more to use your own and don’t usually offer plastic bags automatically. Local retailers are also more likely to wrap meat, cheese, vegetables and so on in paper when packaging is needed, or offer you reusable packaging (our local Italian deli hands over their cooked dishes in Tupperware-style microwave boxes that you can reuse ad infinitum). Bulk bins at health food shops and farm shops also offer you the chance to use your own, recyclable or reusable packaging.

2) Eschew the plastic bag. In Wales, Ireland and Scotland, at least 5p per carrier bag is charged in every shop (not just supermarkets), which so far is working well to dissuade consumers from taking them. The same should be introduced in England. Buy reusable bags to use instead – and if they’re made of recycled plastic, so much the better!

3) Make your own biscuits, bread and granola. Not only will it taste nicer, and naturally have less packaging, but you’re also likely to eat less of it as you’re more mindful of the time it took you to make them (WAISTLINE WIN!).

4) Make logical choices that prioritise recycling. For example, buy juices that come in glass bottles (not plastic ones) and don’t bag up loose fruit and veg if only plastic bags are available (after all, you do wash/peel it, don’t you?).

5) Bear in mind that some plastic can still be recycled. It just tends to be the plastic that’s metallised inside – e.g., crisp packets – that isn’t. So still try to put most plastic packaging into the recycling…and giving up the crisps probably wouldn’t hurt anyone.

6) Say no to plastic straws! Just drink straight out the cup, or purchase your own (glass and stainless steel straws are available to buy). Other things to give up that use unnecessary plastic include chewing gum (the packaging and the gum itself both contain plastic), drinks that come in plastic bottles (just buy your own water bottle and keep refilling it! That’s a good start), disposable lighters (use matches instead), takeaway food and drinks (the packaging will live for over 100 years!) and plastic cutlery (again, bring your own wherever possible).

7) Reuse cereal bags! In case you are still buying your own cereal, the bags inside the box can be reused as sandwich bags. (Can’t beat world war tips from octogenarian grandma 🙂 )

8) Sign up for vegetable box deliveries. Another way to circumvent those cheeky plastic bags from the supermarket. Even better would be to grow your own if possible.

9) If you do your supermarket shopping online, send those bags back with the driver if you don’t want them – and make sure you feed back to the supermarket if you feel they’ve used too many.

10) Remember we’re all human and that changing habits takes time. If you fall off the bandwagon, don’t give up completely 🙂