French cows are enjoying up to two bottles of high quality wine every day as farmers attempt to produce the best beef in Europe.
The extraordinary development has seen a 'Vinbovin' label of meat established which is already being championed by some of the best restaurants in Paris.
It follows an experiment in Lunel-Viel, in the southern Herault region of France, which saw three cows fed local wine for four months.
Jean-Charles Tastavy, who came up with the idea, said the two Angus and one Camargue were initially fed the wine in a mix of barley, hay and grapes.
It soon became clear that they were 'happy cows' who ended up producing an exceptionally succulent meat.
Outlining how he encouraged the cows to enjoy a tipple, Mr Tastavy said: "For each animal, alcohol intake should be equivalent to the amount recommended by health authorities for a man – namely two or three glasses of wine a day. In the case of cows, this amounts to between a litre and a litre-and-a-half a day."
After a rough mix of grapes and water, the cows were allowed wine from Saint-Genies des Mourgues, a Languedoc village near Montpellier renowned for its vineyards.
"The cattle loved what was on the menu and drank it with relish," said Claude Chaballier, owner of the farm where the experiment started last year.
Referring to the Muscat grape, Mr Chaballier added: "I thought that next time we may try Muscat so as to give the meat a more musky taste."
Laurent Pourcel, a Michelin-starred chef, is among those enthusing about the 'luxury meat' saying: "It has a very special texture – beautiful, marbled and tender, and which caramelises during cooking. All the best Parisien restaurants will take it."
Japanese Kobe beef, which is made with beer, is currently considered among the best in the world, but the possibility of cows enjoying vintage wine will guarantee an even more luxurious product.
There is a down side, however: the introduction of wine into the feed of the Lunel-Viel cows tripled the cost of their feed, adding up to £80 to the cost of a prime beef cut.-----
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