Archive for the ‘French wines’ Category

Absinthe, part 2: paintings, literature, and lore

October 1, 2014

Written by Michael Oudyn


Picasso’s absinthe drinker

Well,  after our fine tasting and distillery tour (see last post) I couldn’t wait to start playing around with absinthe. It turns out I like it with less water and sugar than the usual.  And with a lady jazz singer in the background.  I’ve always had a taste for the bittersweet.

Between nips I’ve been doing a little research.

Absinthe was of course the drink of choice for the bohemian writers, artists, and poets of Parisian belle époque. For them muse extraordinaire absinthe stimulated the imagination with a “lucid drunkenness.” Unlike other alcoholic drinks it sharpened the mind, rather than dulling it; the herbs, especially wormwood, got the credit.  Poet maudit Rimbaud combined it with hashish; Baudelaire ranked it even above opium and wine; Oscar Wilde described a sensation of having tulips brush against his legs while walking with an absinthe buzz. Frequent user Picasso painted its more mystical side, lucid side.  Degas and notorious absinthe drinker Toulouse-Lautrec painted its (more…)

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

May 19, 2014

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. (more…)

Au Revoir to All That by Michael Steinberger: The Decline and Fall of French Wine and Cuisine

March 12, 2011

Book review by Michael Oudyn

Michael Steinberger´s Au Revoir To All That: Food, Wine And The End of France is a premier cru example of the popular sub-genre: The “Decline and Fall of French Cooking.”  The basic plot line is familiar to  Americans of my generation. Many, myself included, have lived it.

It goes something like this: Act I: Somewhere in France.  We experience The Great Awakening from boring American cooking, discover the joy of eating which enhances our joie de vivre. Steinberger´s revelation comes in the Loire Valley as an adolescent. The agent of his epiphany is the humble baby pea, drowned in butter, of course.

Act II: We achieve The Ecstasy through a few truly sublime meals and become Francophiles. Steinberger amusingly relates such an experience. The three-star Au Crocodile restaurant in Strasbourg is the venue. The chef´s signature dish, a stew featuring “a gorgeous pink-gray (duck) liver with black truffles” leaves him “whimpering in such ecstasy” that he grins (more…)

“Le Beaujolais nouveau est arrive!”

November 17, 2009

written Michael Oudyn

The third Thursday of November is just around the corner and that can mean just one thing: “Le Beaujolais nouveau est arrive!”   This greatest wine slogan of all time is just one of media gimmicks and marketing hype which have turned this humble mediocrity into a profitable universal icon.

So how did all this happen?  Before World War II Beaujolais nouveau was sold in barrels for local consumption, especially in the bistros of nearby Lyons where it was so popular it was called “the third river of Lyon”.  After the war they started bottling the stuff and sending it to Paris where it was also a great bistro hit.  Then George Duboeuf, Beaujolais´ largest negociant and tireless mass-marketing genius, came up his greatest promotion stunt: the Beaujolais-nouveau race to Paris.  The media (more…)

The Montmartre Wine Festival, 2009: Impressions

October 19, 2009
A little Paris kitsch to get things going

A little Paris kitsch to get things going

written by Michael Oudyn

On June 4, 2009 I posted an article on the history of the wine festival at Montmartre. (read post) So, serious wine journalist that I am, I thought I would go back to Paris and actually check it out in person.

I am writing the day after, so everything is by necessity a bit foggy and impressionistic. A petite husky-voiced street singers belts out chansons a la Edith Piaf while turning the crank on her little music box. I sit at a wooden barrel surrounded by bustling humanity and stare down at some Muscadet  in a plastic cup and six miniscule mini-oysters on a paper plate. A friend, empty plastic cup in hand, looks longingly at a vendor of Chateauneuf de Pape who is just across the street  but unreachable due to the human bottleneck in the narrow Montmartre (more…)

The wine festival of Montmartre

June 4, 2009

Clos Montmartre (2)

Michael Oudyn

I am away from Barcelona visiting Paris.  I find myself up in Bohemian Montmartre gazing through a wire fence at  the vines of  “Clos Montmartre”, the last active vineyard inside the Paris city limits.

“Clos Montmartre” is found on a quiet picturesque backstreet up a hill from the Moulin Rouge where Toulouse-Lautrec drank his Earthquakes (half cognac and half absinth) and then died of alcoholism at  36.  It is just around the corner from the house where Maurice Utrillo was born, raised, and took to painting the (more…)

Rabelais and A.C. Chinon

April 13, 2009

Pantagruel has a snack and a little glass of wine

“Drink constantly.  You will never die”—Francois Rabelais

I really want to like the wines from Chinon, one of the only Loire Valley villages specializing in red wine.  This has less to do with wine per se than with Francois Rabelais. This bawdy 16th century Franciscan monk and extravagant humorist is Chinon’s favorite son and he dedicated his great satirical novel Gargantua and Pentagruel to the “most noble and illustrious drinkers”.  Legend has it that his father made his own wine on Clos de l’Echo.  This property, widely considered the best plot in Chinon, now yields the single-vineyard flagship wine at Couly-Dutheil, perhaps Chinon’s most prestigious name.
In English the adjective Rabelaisian has come to mean crudely humorous; “gusty and exuberant with the pleasures of life—food, drink, and lovemaking”; “grotesquely exaggerated satirical”. Gargantuan means huge, prodigious, gigantic. (more…)