Fattening Boeuf Bourguignon on Wine

Noticed any tipsy-eyed cows unsteady on their legs in your local pastures lately? Well they are no mirage. For cattle of an inebriated gait are the latest way of creating an expensive new taste experience for Parisian gourmets.

Découpe du boeuf, image d'Epinal

Will Languedoc cattle be drinking more wine than the locals?  (credit: Wikipedia)

The jet set will soon be able to order prime Saint-Geniès des Mourgues boeuf to complement their Château Pétrus in those top class restaurants in the capital where nothing so vulgar as price is ever raised.

Thanks to adventurous agriculteurs in the village of Lunel-Viel, in the Hérault department of south-eastern France, beef farmers are now being encouraged to let their cattle tipple generously on strong Languedoc wine. The principle being that the taste of properly prepared beef can only improve if during l’élevage,the cows have regularly consumed generous quantities — two litres a day to be precise —  of Saint-Geniès des Mourgues.

If the Japanese feed their Tajima or Kobe beef on beer mash why can’t we be French and fatten ours with vin, asks Jean-Charles Tastavy president of a local wine marketing group and the man who has led the bold four-month experiment where Angus and Camargue breeds were fed special diets supplemented by Languedoc wine.

According the French new agency AFP he hit on the idea after reading about studies done in Canada and Spain showing that happy cows give the best meat. What could be happier — he might have answered if he had been asked — than a cow driven to drink, or rather well supplied with some of the best local muscat?

“For each animal, alcohol intake should be equivalent to the amount recommended by health authorities for a human being, namely two or three glasses of wine a day, which in cow terms amounts to about one or one and half litres a day,” he said, (cue a whole new sub industry as wine growers line-up to offer wine tasting for discerning cattle, and while we are at it will the beef that choose wines stoppered with cork rather than screw caps sell for an even higher price?)

Together with the Conseil Général de l’Hérault  M Tastavy has now registered the “Vinbovin” trademark and set out rules for breeding a new special wine- enriched beef for French tables.

Speaking to AFP about the development, M. Claude Chaballier the Languedoc cattle breeder who carried out the wine feed experiments said: “The cattle greatly enjoyed their menu of rolled barley and hay washed down with two litres of Saint-Geniès des Mourgues , consuming it with relish. Indeed I even thought about giving them Muscat next time so as to imbue the meat with a musky taste,” said M. Chaballier, director of the the Hérault breeders union who added that “the better the quality of the wine on the cattle menu, the better the meat that will emerge.”

This marriage of wine gastronomy and livestock has met the highest expectations of all those involved. “We subjected it to some close tasting scrutiny and it was exceptional”, M. Chaballie said.

The only downside is the added cost of the feed even if the wine-enriched diet is only introduced in the last 4 months of the cow’s life. Their daily meal costs accompanied as they now are by high quality wine, rise from 5 to 15 euros. However this is offset by the retail price at the butchery where a kilo of wine-enhanced bouef will cost “hundreds of euros for the noblest cuts”.

Laurent Pourcel, a Michelin-starred chef agrees with the farmers. “This is a luxury concept for fine dining and farmers have all the incentives they need to produce it. “The texture is very special, beautiful, marbled, tender and caramelizes perfectly during cooking. It has a fine and very strong taste.” he said.

Mr. Pourcel has already convinced some of his Parisian colleagues that this is the next big thing on their luxury menus. “All the great Parisian restaurants will take it,” he predicts.

Story: Ken Pottinger


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