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November 14, 2010

In which I get thoroughly soused at 10 a.m.

The program I'm participating in over here in Franceland allows applicants to choose the top three regions they'd like to be placed in. Because my previous sojourns here had been restricted to the Paris region, I really had not a clue what to choose. Should I go to Brittany, where crêpes and cider reign supreme? Should I go to Strasbourg, where I could just hop, skip, and jump into Germany whenever I so choose? What about the south of France, where I could spend all winter on the beach, convincing myself that I was getting tan?

Domaine René Fleurot in Santenay is guarded by a vicious taxidermied weasel. So don't get any ideas.
In the end, Burgundy was my top pick, for no other reason than I had just seen Julie and Julia and thought bœuf bourguignon looked pretty good. And wine! Wine. I didn't know a whole lot about wine, but I figured going to the home of some of France's most celebrated could make me into a connoisseur. Or a least a wino.

Les caves de spook
I got a good start on a career as the latter yesterday. My buddy Suzanne had invited me to go with her and her husband to a cave in Santenay, the first city on the Cote de Beaune. She was kind enough to let Missy, my best buddy in the entire Saône-et-Loire, tag along too. Suzanne's brother-in-law had organized a group of business associates to taste at 9:30 a.m. Saturday morning, also known in France as wine o'clock.

After tasting a few premier cru whites, we headed downstairs to the spookiest, scariest, horror movie caves this side of Transylvania. There was gobs of thick dust hanging from the ceiling and coating the oldest bottles, some of which dated back to the 20s. Those gems were locked in their own special spooky cellar, and one of the fellow tasters joked that if we weren't good we'd end up there too. Scared straight.

So... much... wine
We were with a real connosieur, someone who was able to take one taste of the wine and guess its year correctly.  He taught us to look at the color (older white wine is more yellow; older reds are more brick colored rather than purple), swirl the glass to "open" the flavor, and slurp it in your mouth to get the full effect.

I lost count on how many whites we tasted, but there must have been at least six and maybe as many as nine. Thank Bacchus Suzanne's brother-in-law (or his wife, more likely) had thought to provide us with all manner of snacky-poos. Salami on toast, smoked salmon on toast, paté on toast, foie gras on toast, toast on toast...

Quoth Louis Pasteur, "Le vin est la plus saine et la plus hygiénique des boissons." (Wine is the healthiest and most hygienic of all drinks)
We thought we were done, until the proprietor busted out the reds. The first one was totally nom, and Missy and I each got a bottle for our upcoming Thanksgiving in France: The Turkey's Revenge (a topic for another post).

Missy and I were swaying a bit after drinking the equivalent of an entire bottle of wine before noon, but don't judge. It was wine o'clock in France.


  1. LOL you make me want to re-live yesterday EVERYDAY.

  2. Hilarious! I love 'wine o'clock.'