Bordeaux is home to some of the best red wines in the world and the best beef! About an hour south of Bordeaux lies in the small town of Bazas, the heart of its production. It is a ‘normal’ Girondine town located on a hill which has its own Cathedral, an attractive arcaded main square, its share of cafés and bars and with more than the usual share of butcher’s shops that sell the much prized ‘boeuf gras of bazas’.
Its annual festival took place this last week with a procession of its finest animals through the streets to drum roll and music ‘La Fête de Boeuf Gras de Bazas’. It has taken place since the XIIIth century on the Thursday before ‘mardi gras’. It is the butchers of Bazas that select the animals that promenade in the streets. They are weighed and the best are given a prize for the weight, shape and once the procession continues on its last march to the abattoir in Bazas, the best meat.
The ancient breed of Bazadaise (its origins are thought to go back to the Moors and is one of the oldest in France) was used originally in Bordeaux’s vineyards as a draught animal but with motorization it developed as a meat breed. It is its succulent meat that made it famous and its ‘entrecote à la bordelaise’. Its meat is slightly marbled which melts when cooked giving it lots of flavour.
Today there are over 3600 reproductive females, up from 700 in the 1970s. But is it’s demand increasing? It has a high price and is difficult to find. Restaurants need a continual supply. Apparently the ‘boeuf gras’ is only available during the month of the carnival.
Yves Bruneau is the Médoc’s celebrated butcher who supplies and cooks ‘bazadaise’ for the finest châteaux such Mouton, Pontet Canet and Latour. He sells the Bazadaise for 35€ per kilogram, the closest competition (the Blonde Aquitaine (a cross between Charolais, Limousin and Bazadaise dating from just after World War 2) sells for 30€. The cuts are very large as the Bazadaise are normally 4 years old when butchered. He hangs his meat for 6 weeks.
Confusion in the Boeuf de Bazas appellation means the Bazadaise lose out
Under the appellation ‘Boeuf de Bazas’ (recognised since 2010 as an IGP indication geographique protégée) 80% of Blonde Aquitaine is sold. It has larger, leaner and has more of the more lucrative cuts of meat such as the ‘entrecôte’ and the ‘rotis’. This causes confusion with the consumer. It is the ‘Bazadaise’ that loses out.