Friday, February 6, 2009

Wine Post #1

I am modestly titling this Wine Post #1, as I expect there will be others.

Those of you who are visiting Paris soon, listen up: you must go to a wine tasting at O Chateau. I was invited to attend one on Wednesday with members of my undergraduate alma mater's alumni club in France, and it was great. The tastings are located in a 17th century cave (that means cellar or, more specifically, wine cellar) on a small cobble-stoned side street between the Louvre and the Pont Neuf. The cave was used by the French kings' sommelier, back when the Louvre was a palace and not an art museum, and doubled as an underground, labyrinthine escape route for the king in times of crisis. I suppose it will hold special appeal to those of you with Dan Brown-type fantasies. Anyway, to get to the cave you pass through a used book store (be still, my beating historian's heart!), down a candlelit cobblestone alley, and descend a spiral iron staircase. The interior is a mix of 17th century and 21st century - exposed stone walls and low doorways, with leather banquettes, votives, a delightfully minimalist table setting, and some bawmp baw daw bawmp bawmp music piped in.

Olivier, our sommelier, talked us through 6 wines: to start, a rose Champagne from Epernay; a Sancerre, a very dry white made from sauvignon blanc grapes; a Burgundy chardonnay; a... ummm... I was drinking the wine, not spitting it out... a Crozes-Hermitage, made from Syrah grapes, which was very good but my least-favourite; a Pomerol, which is a red Burgundy; and my favorite, a Cotes du Rhone Villages. Our wines were accompanied by cheese platters, breads and Olivier's spirited delivery, which focused on the major French wine regions. He held his own against a few wine snobs in our group and congratulated us for arguing about wine with the passion of the French; for me, it was also like a trip back in time to my beloved alma mater, where classes were very participative and students were known for being, shall we say, jesuitical.

The class cost me 40 euro (there were 20+ of us so we may have had a special rate, I don't know), which I had thought was a tad pricey but turned our to be fabulous value for money, in terms of the atmosphere of the place, the quality and range of wines sampled, and our exuberant and passionate host. Highly, highly recommended - it will really make your trip!

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