The French are a people long known for their skills with food and drink. They often are observed, when anything French isn’t praised highly enough for them, to fly into fits of pique. Pique, a French word by way of Latin meaning anger, annoyance, conniption, snit. All aptly descriptive.
Take Champagne, for example. The lovely bubblies made in that region of northern France have, by most laws even beyond La Belle France, been ascertained as the only true Champagne. Made anywhere else and they are mere pretenders to the throne.
Marlene Dietrich (1901-1992), the influential German-born movie star (shown above in a 1959 Paris restaurant), wrote that she loved Champagne because “It gives the impression that it is Sunday and that the best days will soon be upon us.”
Today’s wine world largely goes along with the legal aspects as well as that attitude toward Champagne, but it is not a recent conceit. Throughout history the world has known of the French reverence for the wine. Even an Austrian like Johann Strauss the Younger kept it as a major part of his opera “Die Fledermaus” (“The Bat”) which he adapted from the French vaudeville production “Le Reveillon” in 1874. In the finale, all sing in praise of Champagne, the king of all the wines.
The French Enlightenment philosopher Francois-Marie Arouet de Voltaire, writing in 1736, noted “the sparkling froth of these fresh wines is the sparkling image of us, the French.”
The French master of fiction Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870) said he always put a glass of Champagne beside his inkwell to give his pen a sparkling inspiration.
So, here we are mere days from that hideously commercialized, yet still nice to have, holiday known as Thanksgiving Day, and just beyond it we have Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Days when Champagne enters into the consciousness of many who ignore it the rest of the year.
I was never impressed by the recent years’ wave of anti-French sentiment that resulted in such foolishness as “Freedom fries,” but I do advocate — as a longtime journalist and defender of free speech in all situations — saying that Champagne is recherche, French for excellent, delicious, discriminating, pleasing, splendid, superb. All aptly descriptive.
Tomorrow, I’ll be presenting, in time for all those aforementioned holidays, my annual guide, “A beer drinker’s guide to holiday champagne.” See you then.
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