L’Apéro or aperitif is a wonderful French tradition that for me is an important part of an evening meal or lunchtime delight especially when friends come over. It is so very civilised to relax with a drink before sitting down at the table. I have always enjoyed the flavour of aniseed so Ricard and Pastis which are such typical French aperitifs have for a long time been my favourites. Served chilled with salted peanuts there is nothing nicer.
There are many very traditional French aperitifs and all of them are delicious but there is one that I truly love and this is made by a family who have a beautiful house and orchards that stretch as far as the eye can see and these are situated in the lovely region around Avignon in the south of France.
Avignon itself is a superb historical town to visit with the Palais de Papes proudly dominating the city and of course the famous Pont d’Avignon, but the surrounding area is also quite remarkable and stunning to tour around.
I rented an apartment for the summer from a lovely lady called Madam Manguin and it was here that I first saw their incredible pear orchards. I was mystified on seeing all these trees with dozens of glass bottles hanging on the branches. It really looked quite enchanting especially as the sun was setting or very early in the mornings.
Intrigued I asked my landlady about the bottles and she explained this rather strange visual delight to me. The bottles were hung on the trees so that the pears could grow and mature inside of them. Of course then it all made sense as I was offered a bottle of their delicious Poire Prisonnière which had a whole pear neatly sitting inside the bottle.
This delightfully looking and tasting aperitif became a firm favourite and I am very fortunate in that I am sent 6 bottles every year at Christmas time when we all thoroughly enjoy this as an aperitif and digestif too.
The distillery was founded by Henri Manguin, a famous French painter who settled in the region in the 1940’s. It has remained an artisanal affair which takes great pride in all their products. This is very easy to understand because their alcohols and fruit juices are simply so very good.
If you ever have the chance to taste any of their marvellous products, and I highly recommend that you do, you will taste a little bit of French history which is so charming and delightfully enchanting. I spent a very happy summer in Avignon and the memories of the pear orchards will remain with me for the rest of my life. Christmas time without a glass of Poire Prisonnière would just not be the same. We all have our little weaknesses and this is most certainly one of mine.