The Ouessant (Ushant in English) sheep is located off the coast of Brittany on the island of Ouessant in France. It played an integral role on the island, providing both wool and meat. I chose this breed to discuss because I find it intriguing. They are cousin of both the Shetland and Icelandic breeds. They are prized and highly sought after as an ecofriendly lawn mower. Although, it is not listed on the Livestock Conservatory’s list, but I believe it is unique enough for us to study.
The Ouessant breed is also called the Breton Dwarf since it is one of the smallest breeds of sheep in the world. Ram are only about 19 inches (49 cm) tall at the shoulder and the ewes are around 18 inches (45 cm). The fleece comes in several colors such as brown, black, grey, and white. The wool is versatile. It is a double coated fleece with an average micron of 25. Since it is one of the smallest breeds, its fleece weighs around 1.5 pounds (750 grams).
What I find intriguing about this the Ouessant is it is an unimproved breed. This means there is less standardization and more variability in wool type and quality than a modern improved breed. This means from a small flock it can produce wool suitable next to the skin garments to rugs.
I will have 5 fleeces available for February’s Sip N Spin. More on that later.
What should you drink while spinning your Ouessant? Believe it or not a Malbec. We typically associate Malbec with Argentina. Remember, Malbec is native to south-west France. Clos d'un Jour, owned by Stéphane and Véronique, is a vineyard doing amazing things with their vintage Un Jour sur Terre (One Day on Earth) 100% Malbec. They are aging their wines in ceramic jugs instead of oak barrels. This means the wine can oxygenate without the oak aromas. Stéphane and Véronique do not used chemicals in the vineyard. Here is the coolest part, they use the Ouessant sheep to clip the vines!
I really want to try this wine. I am trying my best to have it available for February’s Sip N Spin.
Not Just Wine
I was not able to get my fleeces from Ouessant. I found a small breeder in Normandy. I searched the area for a nice wine to have with my Ouessant fleece. I soon found out Normandy’s climate at the present is more suitable for apples and not grapes. Therefore, it is known for its cider and calvados (apple or pear brandy).
Despite the unfavorable conditions, there is a vineyard that is winning several wines for its quality wines. Arpents du Sole’ (the Sole Vineyard of Normandy) is in the upper Normandy region. Owned by GÃcrard Samson, this varietal has won several awards.
There is an interesting line up for February’s Sip N Spin. We will get our hands going with Ouessant roving and compare a few Malbecs. The Sip N Spin will be held February 27, 2021 from 12-2. You must RSVP as spaces are very limited due to COVID-19 protocols. There are only 10 slots and, of course, masks are a given. Remember, this is a 21 and older event.
Toia has an intense interest in Indigenous Weave Structures. She received the title Master Ashante Kente Weaver from Adamwomase, Ghana, West Africa in 2009.