The French Spirit of Wine

Wine is the only subject that I can’t handle as the “Grumpy French Man”.

Wine is not only alcohol for me. It contains alcohol, nobody can deny this point, but it contains much more than that and it’s why I don’t drink beer or strong alcohol. Wine is a sharing drink that fills your mouth and your mind with extraordinary flavours, which makes you a bit dizzy but not sick, which brings you to some others worlds without being dead drunk on the floor. I am not really proud to be French for hundreds of understandable reasons. But if I have to choose one thing to be proud of from my country, then it will be wine. All real connoisseurs won’t deny that the best wines on earth are French. Of course you have amazing wines from Australia, Chile, South Africa, Italy, Spain or even California (I can tell you that for a Frenchman it’s extremely difficult to admit that they can do premium wine in the US) but, there is a but. Such quality and diversity on a small territory like France is simply unique. It’s also the way we handle our culinary culture with wine, and this is again more unique.

There are things that nobody can copy, and about wine, it’s the ground and the centuries of savoir faire (knowledge). From the fantastic white wine in the eastern part of France (Riesling,  Muscat,  Gewurztraminer), to the Champagne (no need to explain Champagne), to the Burgundy (my favorite, Romanee Conti), to this tiny area of Côte Rôtie (what work they do over there!), to the fruity and festive Rose wine in the south (Tavel is still the best), to the prestigious Bordeaux (Chateau Latour to talk about something amazing, just try it if you are rich and lucky!), until the centre with the magnificent and simple Vin de la Loire (wine from the Loire river area surrounded by the most beautiful castles on earth, not a joke). Each region has its wine; almost each village has its own wine. Sometimes some bad ones that we still enjoy with a slice of saucisson, jambon et fromage (French sausage, ham and cheese) given by the proud small producer of this tord boyaux (“twisted casings” wine in English), sometimes some basic ones that we enjoy in a simple restaurant and sometimes (most of the time), some fantastic and affordable ones that have been made with lots of passion and love. Yes, because wine is not simply alcohol, and it’s what we learn in my country from very young. Basically, we learn it too young as our parents don’t hesitate to make us taste wine at the age other kids are begging for their first Coke. But, it’s also why most of the French people appreciate wine properly. It doesn’t mean that they know wine (that’s a big legend, and I am a part of it) but it means that almost instinctively we can estimate if the wine is bad, medium, good or extraordinary.

When we grow up, we of course become a bit more curious about taste, and wine is a fantastic base to discover new flavors. We have hundred of expressions to describe a meal without wine like “a meal without wine is day without sun”. We use this expression at the beginning of the meal when everybody is sober. Then the expression changes to something much ruder that I even cannot write. Because yes, food without wine is nothing. It can seem arrogant to say so as most of the people on earth don’t drink wine with their meals. But each kind of aliment has the perfect wine for it. It’s one of the magical things about wine. It brings flavors to another level which makes your mind ready to travel around the world. This gorgee (mouthful) of liquid mixed with a nice piece of cheese…how can I describe? It’s just something we have to experience. It’s just, how can I say? I even don’t know how to say. It’s unique. It’s my ground, it’s France. It’s just great.

Maybe the most important thing about wine is the memories, memories of joy, sadness, confusion, and extreme happiness. But in any case, it’s sharing time with friends, family or beloved people. When the taste and the flying mind come, then you catch something different in the moment and this time stays engraved in your life forever. Strong alcohol makes you forget the evening or even the entire night. It will never happen with wine. Wine is our roots, not the French roots, it’s the planet roots. How come such a nectar can come from our ground? Simply because hard workers, in France, Australia, Chile, South Africa, Italia, Spain and in so many other parts of the world, work so hard, every day of their life to grow the best grapes. We should pay tribute to all these guys everywhere on our planet, a tribute to all those guys who make us dizzy with their nectar.

Wine is not something posh, but it is in Indonesia because of the price. But in my country, it’s maybe the last luxurious thing that is affordable for people with financial difficulties. Sometimes the rich people in France have horrible words about this. Like, “How come this guy buys a bottle of wine for 3 Euros when he cannot even help himself to survive”. I will tell you why, because wine brings joy in the hard times, not only because of the dizzy side, it brings you joy and flavour, and flavour should be universal. Flavour is not supposed to be only for the elite.

To finish, I would like you to read two fantastic quotes about wine from famous writers.

HEMINGWAY Ernest 1899-1961
“Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the most natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing.”

PASTEUR Louis 1822-1895 (French chemist and microbiologist)
Wine is the most healthful and most hygienic of beverages. A bottle of wine contains more philosophy than all the books in the world.”

THE GRUMPY FRENCH MAN 1972-????
Not that easy to find a quote from a grumpy French man who lives here. But, I will say “without wine, I will never have written this article”.

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Sebastien is a French antiques dealer living in Jogjakarta. To rant and rave at him, email sebastienlaurent@hotmail.com


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