In anticipation of a few days in the Beaujolais Region later this month, I have taken to my notebooks in search of overlooked or long-forgotten tidbits of information about that stunningly picturesque area offering such a multitude of eminently drinkable wines. Do not, I beg of you, judge Beaujolais solely by its festive appearance every November waving a banner le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivee! That Gamay grape in that tiny rocky appendage to Burgundy produces delicious, fruity, pleasurable wines, not to be confused with the alcoholic tasty juice of the November harvest celebrations.
I found a hand-written menu penned on March 23, 1978, by Mado Point, whose husband was arguably the most influential chef of the 20th century and whose restaurant and wine cellar set the standard for all the others from before World War II until her death in 1986. Attached to it were two wine labels — both for Grand Cru Beaujolais, one from Morgon, the other from Julienas, her recommendations for the day’s specialties. Never mind that the restaurant wine list ran to several pages and included Bordeaux and Burgundies of every classification; Beaujolais would do.
“A Beaujolais goes with everything, but it should be drunk cool,” she told me.
One of her apprentices who rose to become another arguably greatest chef of the 20th century and without doubt the one who did more to raise the profession of cook to rock star celebrity status wrote the Foreword to the definitive book on Beaujolais, “The Complete Guide.” Paul Bocuse turned 91 in January and recalls that from about age six, he would travel with his father every fall to check on the Beaujolais harvest and to buy barrels of it for the family restaurant. On several occasions Paul has reminded me that he is an “unconditional lover of the Beaujolais.”
So, too, am I. I seldom go to France without a stop in Macon or Julienas or Beaujeu, both for the scenery and for the wine, especially the wine. I have met Georges duBoeuf and his son Franck and have on several occasions led tutored tastings through the Grand Cru Villages. Beaujolais graces our table more than any other red wine, and I won’t hesitate to remind Paul Bocuse of that when I dine in his restaurant at the end of this month.
Those who know me will not be surprised to learn that I have never followed the TV series, “Mad Men,” nor been a devotee of cocktails. Yet a recent Associated Press story about the cocktails often featured in the show caught my attention. Getting a mention were most of the drinks of my college-day memories, drinks I could neither afford nor have access to because of my age but which dangled in my vocabulary as the forbidden fruit I had heard about in movies.
Growing up in an Indiana rural county proud of itself for not allowing the sale of alcoholic beverages, I had little opportunity to come into contact with those who knew about Old Fashions, Martinis, and Vodka Gimlets, but somehow when Bogey or Gable went for a Bloody Mary or a Scotch on the Rocks, I somehow felt a kinship. My budget, however, when I could get something hard kept me in beer and Rum and Coke. Except for the Champagne flowing in Rick’s Casablanca Cafe, wine wasn’t even on my radar back then. Radar? Not even radar was on my radar.
Little by little my palate slipped toward Scotch but then I was drafted into the Occupation of Germany and went to a country still in ruins but also still rich in fine beer and white wine. Cocktails may have been available in the Officers’ Mess, but for us soldiers it was beer and wine. Alas, my palate changed forever.
Even when I began going to Paris in the 1950s, where I found it “cool” before cool was cool, to sit under a Pernod-emblazoned parasol with a copy of the International Herald-Tribune, I found myself not sipping Scotch or any other cocktail but a pleasing drink referred to as an aperitif. That taste never left me, and I became and remain a devotee of an afternoon Pastis, such as Pernod or Ricard.
I am sorry for those who will miss “Mad Men,” but I rejoice in the nostalgia the series provided me even though I seldom viewed it. But I really look forward to nexrt week when I can once again find an umbrella, the Herald-Tribune, and a Pastis.
Now that the Indiana Legislators have proved to the world that they are not very good at crafting laws, we wine consumers can cry out “That’s what we’ve been telling you.” The proof came just a few days before Indianapolis would assume the national stage with the Final Four basketball tournament when we all learned that a law had passed and been signed that was opposed by most Americans, most Hoosiers, most businesses, and most organizations.
We wine lovers have shown over and over again that most Hoosiers want Sunday sales of wines, that most Hoosiers want the right to order wine from a winery and have it shipped to their home or office. Never mind that that’s what most Hoosiers wanted; it’s what the Legislators wanted that prevailed.
The embarrassing law that went viral was enacted in relative privacy, stimulated by blocs with special interests and/or beliefs. Wine laws get trampled by very special blocs with very special financial interests. This past legislative session held out hope for Sunday Sales approval because of committee recommendations. The bill that resulted caught everyone by surprise because it had little resemblance to the one that cleared the committee.
An old saw reminds us that two things that should never be witnessed are sausage-making and laws in the making. Certainly hardly anyone witnessed the infamous Religious Protection Act in the making, and hardly anyone saw the Legislature set aside a wine law that had been advocated by its own Public Policy Committee. No need to worry about whether there was any sausage in either bill, because no one who would know ever saw either of the final bills coming.
And so Hoosiers once again face the reality that majority interest in a particular issue does not trump a financial interest. Sunday Sales never received a vote in the General Assembly. It appears that those charged with enacting legislation just can’t get it right when most of their constituents want a different outcome.« NEWER POSTS | OLDER POSTS »