Monday, January 30, 2006
Good Things about France No. 6: Wine
Well, wine is a pretty obvious Good Thing about France, but let me also include in that: the appreciation of wine. For what is a thing without the necessary appreciation of that thing also?
The French have raised the appreciation of wine to a very high level. I have met many French people who can discuss wine for hours, the pros and cons of a Bordeaux over a Burgundy, or vice versa, how wine must be transported, how it must be stored. The French are about as fanatical on wine as the British are on the weather.
This evening I was at a wine tasting event with a speaker who is a real expert on wine. I've been told he worked in a well known Parisian restaurant as the person in charge of replenishing the cellar. You can tell he is an expert because of his nose which is vast and rather peculiarly shaped as if he has pushed it into a wine bottle too often.
He is a marvellous speaker, incredibly passionate and fluent about his subject. He gets us to judge the colour of the wine, then sniff it before we taste it (à la bouche), exhorting the room of about seventy people to tell him what the 'bouquet' reminds us of.
The first wine we tasted was a Faugéres from the Languedoc-Roussilion region of southern France which produced scents of blackberry, dry fig, cassis, La Garrigue (the scrub country where herbs grow in Provence), spice and cacao. The tannin was pronouced but 'closely woven' (une trame serrée) which he explained by meshing his fingers together.
It's amazing to think that he has spent his whole life tasting and evaluating wines and is still so passionate about the subject. He said that this morning he was in Bordeaux and had tasted one hundred and twenty different wines, presumably without swallowing any of them.
Not a good idea to become too expert....