Mon docteur le vin: Wine, My Doctor, cures all disease

mon docteur cover.2

written by Michael Oudyn

“If you drink Chablis with your oysters, you will never get typhoid fever. All doctors know this.”    This is my personal favorite from Mon docteur le vin. A charming watercolor shows a sophisticated Parisian family heading out of town because “of an outbreak of typhoid fever.” Apparently some ignorant neighbors just don’t know that drinking wine is “the best prevention for typhoid” and are drinking too much water.

From mon docteur 1

“The poor fellow is done for…the play he wrote is idiotic…” “I had dinner with him the other day and he was drinking water. That’s intellectual suicide.”

Wine cures and/or prevents appendicitis, diabetes, and obesity. “The beneficial effect of wine on the kidneys and even the liver is undeniable.” And “wine is a heroic remedy for…depression or withering away…An American teetotaler was cured of his neurasthenia and fatigue by Saint-Emilion.” And wine cures “the horrible plague of alcoholism” which is after all caused by drinking distilled spirits. Wine can remedy “intoxication with cocktails and other poisons that grab hold of certain well-bred, snobbish women who are habitual water drinkers.” And wine makes women more beautiful. “Lips and cheeks naturally acquire an enticing glow”  with wine.  And those who stubbornly refuse to drink it will have their faces covered by acne, pimples, and red blotches.” Wine is also absolutely essential for many professions, such as artists, athletes, writers, and mules. “Drinking water is intellectual suicide” and “civilization flowers spontaneously only in vineyard country.”  And if your mule “stubbornly refuses to move…” Well, you can guess.

And let’s not forget soldiers. Marshal Petain, still  World War I hero, not yet the Vichy collaborator, gets the book going in grand style. “In order to get some “plonk” our “dog faces” would risk danger, face down shells… For our fighting forces, wine was a beneficial stimulant of morale as well as of physical strength.   Thus it contributed significantly…to the victory (in World War I)”. So add patriotism and military heroism to the list of the benefits of wine.

mon docteur le vin par Dufy.2

“They say wine is fattening and I’m watching my weight” “What a dismal error. Modern science does not agree with you.”

Today this all seems over the top, or maybe tongue-in-cheek advertising. This book was after all originally a bit of wildly popular wine publicity. But the introduction assures us that all these claims were pretty much standard fare in the magic wine years between the two world wars, when the average adult French citizen was putting away  about a bottle a day, the exact medicinal dose prescribed for both city and country people by one Mon docteur le vin’s famous doctors.

Mon docteur le vin congers up an innocent era of nonchalant joie de vivre and monied chic. It was the promotion brainchild of the director of the Nicholas shops, a famous chain of wine stores which is never mentioned by name. This pamphlet glorifies top-end French wines in general as well as the easy lifestyle of the haute bourgeoisie.  Rural peasants and urban proletarians were no doubt doing their part to keep per capita wine consumption at record highs, but were definitely not Mon docteur le vin’s target markets.

I like this book. Its cure-all wine quotes from renowned doctors, charming watercolors by Fauvist artist Raoul Dufy, witty repartee of popular writer Gaston Derys, and scholarly introduction by Paul Lukacs makes for a well-balanced, light-hearted, and charming read. I can see how some might find its outrageous health claims, naïve nostalgia, and upper-class chic frivolous fluff. It is definitely not the equivalent of what the Italians call vino de meditazione. Expect no brooding philosophical reflections. But I can’t think of a better coffee table wine book. You can read it all in no time or you can just share its watercolors, wit, and wine cures with your friends. It somehow makes a glass of something fun and light, like a Dolcetto di Alba, a Beaujolais cru, or a chilled rose, almost inevitable.





2 Responses to “Mon docteur le vin: Wine, My Doctor, cures all disease”

  1. Tom Oller Says:

    Mon Docteur, le vin, is the perfect book for your coffee table, or wine table!

    • michael oudyn Says:

      I couldn’t agree more! I’m already taking the prescribed cures for several arcane diseases, just in case!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: