Operation Undercover in Paris : Drink Wine

PARIS (Herald de Paris) – Like most Parisians, I don’t actually come from Paris. My ancestors made wine in the South of France. How traditional, isn’t it? Unlike what you may believe, alcoholic beverages from this area are not highly regarded in France. In fact, though we are somewhat educated in that field, we don’t know so much about wine.

But like most Parisians, I went up to the Capital for my studies. And that’s where I learned everything about the French youth’s wine culture. Allow me to share that knowledge.

The cheapest wine costs roughly 1.90 €. Its taste can be parented to socks and it is called, depending on the context, “student wine,” or, “thirsty wine.” It can cure cancer, AIDS and poverty. And if it doesn’t, it’s okay, because you won’t feel anything after drinking it anyway. For having tasted it repetitively, this thing kills your taste buds along with quite a few viruses. In the countryside, about a century ago, it was common for everyone, including children, to have a glass of wine per day – for health purposes, they said. Our own version of the apple a day. I think I was less than six months old when I first tried it.

The cheapest drinkable wine costs about 4 €. And, like most French people, I can barely tell the difference between a 4 € bottle and one that costs 170 €. But I know how to proceed in order to pretend efficiently enough.

First of all, look at the aspect of the bottle. If the shape is not specific to a type of wine like Bourgogne, or Alsace, then chances are that this wine is not of the highest quality. By the way, wine from Alsace is French, not German – we won back that part of France in 1918. But I digress. While you’re looking at your bottle, if the cork is made of plastic and not, well, cork, then that’s not a good sign either.

Now, look at what’s written on the bottle. Say the name of the wine (biggest print on the label) with a slight frown on your face, like you’re hearing the name of a distant relative whom you can’t really recall if he’s the cousin of your mother’s second husband, or her sister’s brother-in-law. If you can do that convincingly, you’ve successfully made it though half of this operation undercover.

Then, you may begin drinking. If it feels like eating a spoon of ground coffee, say: “it’s a little young, isn’t it?” If, on the contrary, it  reminds you of fuel, then you should rather say: “oh, it’s aged nicely!

After that, you will probably be questioned by whomever was cruel enough to make you taste it. Anything obscure and metaphorical will do. Because, in the end, we don’t really know what is wine. A week ago, 52 Beaujolais producers admitted in a hearing that they had added more sugar than allowed inside the wine they sold. You have no idea what lurks inside your glass in that expensive French restaurant near the Potomac River.

A French person enjoys wine on different occasions. The first one is to get wasted with friends. The second one is to get wasted during family dinners so you can’t hear Aunt Alice’s nasty remarks about the kilos you put on. The third one is to accompany cheese. The taste of both being so strong that one annihilates the other (not recommended when you’re planning to see your boyfriend or girlfriend afterwards).

On hot summer evenings, Parisians go with friends or lovers along the riverbanks of la Seine, lay down covers, and open a few bottles. Every experienced Parisian knows someone who almost drowned. A friend of mine actually lost his bicyle in la Seine as he was cycling back home on an alcoholized night. It’s still a mystery to everyone – including him – how he is alive.

And for the last time, Champagne is not wine! And Pink Champagne is for yuppies and Eagles’ songs: “Mirrors on the ceiling, pink champagne and ice“…

Journaliste Marine Caillault, a Parisian native, offers the true Parisian perspective only in L’Herald de Paris.

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