Benoit courault: trying again

13 January 2018

[Working journal while I continue to obsessively assemble a project of dubious interest & limited appeal.]

Taking another crack at Benoit Courault’s chenin in Anjou, since I was never really happy with it the first time. (The translating, not the drinking. Very happy with the drinking.) Courault, origin name for “from Courand,” in Allier, I couldn’t quite hack with  the resources at my disposal, so I resorted to shitty workarounds: “From the Land that Gives Us Kings,” for the Duchy of Bourbon’s roots in Allier, and then “From the Territory of the God of Hot Springs,” since that’s the root of Bourbon (Brovo, the Celtic deity, from *brovo, “froth, foam.” There’s a whole Celtic thing of fountains and divinity being synonymous, with the roots for springs & gushing forth & water from rock and the roots for gods & creation kind of becoming the same, and also, concurrently, deified rivers, sacred springs…)

This morning I made the mistake of coming across someone who knows what they’re doing, a French Ph.D candidate in cognitive semantics with a specialty, basically, in Celtic words relating to time and place and seasons. In the blog post above, part of his brother-in-law’s website about very, very long hiking trips, he casually works through a whole list of Loire Valley placenames that his brother-in-law is walking through, like so:

14/05/13 Aurec Auriaco en 1030. Idem Blanzac pour –(i)aco. Soit nom de personne Aurius, soit gaulois auaria (attesté dans Avaricum, Aveyron, Avière, Yèvre). La racine au-,av- (=> breton aven) désigne divers « courant d’eau ». Il n’est pas exclu que Avara ait été divinisée, comme de nombreux noms de rivières celtiques. Soit pour Aurec : simplement le « lieu où coule une rivière » ou « lieu dédié à la déesse des rivières Avara » ?

It’s in French, but still a neat read even machine-translated if you’d like (note: there’s a whole thing about deified Celtic rivers in that excerpt! I’m not making this shit up!), and a reminder that it’d be nice if I got my hands on references like Stéphane Gendron’s 2008 L’origine des noms de lieux en France, or Pierre-Henri Billy’s 2011 Dictionnaire des noms de lieux de la France. (He leaves a bibliography. I weep, weep for my shitty internet scholarship.)

Anyway it’s a good reminder to keep trying. So let’s take another look at Courand (currently spelled Courant, apparently). Up there, a toponymy for the (different place) Cours-sur-Loire: “de l’ancien français curtis, latin cortem qui ont donné « cour » de basse-cour. C’est un nom de la ferme, établissement agricole.” If I squint halfway this sounds a lot better for Ben’s family name of origin: from a village derived from the old French curtis, Latin cortem, so the heart (courtyard) of a barnyard or stable. Pretty fitting for a guy who lives in the middle of his vines. Courant / courand also has a bunch of senses along the lines of “little stream,” “canal,” and, in one of the toponymic dictionaries I have “canal connecting two ponds, or one pond to the sea.” Now, we’re not really close to the sea down here in Courant (which isn’t even where Ben lives or makes wine, that would be Faye d’Anjou, one of many tree-name towns, from Latin fagea, “beeches”— and here’s some great machine-translated French wikipedia for you, “Part of church property in Faye are insane at the time of religious wars”), and we’re not even that close to a river. But little stream or canal, sure. Maybe I should just go with what’s staring me in the face rather than reaching.

It’d sure be nice if I had literalizations for his cuvées, though. He makes a bunch of different wines.

“Petit Chemin,” his little entry-level chenin, that one’s easy: a pun, somewhere between “narrow path” and “little chenin.” One year it was sparkling. His top white, his only single plot, a half-hectare called “Guinechiens,” is a perplexing word. There’s…”dogs” in there? It kind of sounds like “guinea hen”? (It’s not, guinea hen in French is apparently pintade.)

His reds are “Tabeneaux” (no idea) and “Rouliers” (cart driver?). A delightful little grolleau, “La Coulée,” is a word that gets used for a lot of different geological formations in different francophone places. It carries in French the senses of molten metal being poured into a mold, and the molten metal itself; a corridor or path worn by game through the forest; a lava flow; a mudslide; any slippery, flowing mass. It can be declivities worn by the action of water.  In Louisiana it’s a dry gully that runs flush in a rainstorm, or a stream smaller than a bayou. It can refer to glacial morraines in eastern Washington, or small, steep-sided valleys in Wisconsin. It’s hard to tell here whether Ben’s bottling is a reference to the land or more fanciful allusion.

And I still don’t know what Gilbourg means, but it’s got to be something about either a hill or a town. Just have to keep trying. Does the NYPL have a reading room for this sort of thing?

Maybe I should go back to school.


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