Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Save the Rosés and Spare the Clowns

I scored today.

Some weeks back, I was bumming around the Wine Museum, my personal name for La Maison Régionale des Vins et des Produits du Terroir, which is kind of clunky, the huge pretty much Languedoc-only wine shop on rue St. Guilhem here, when I saw that one of my favorite wineries in the region, Mas de la Seranne, had produced a rosé. Cool, I said to myself; I'll have to come back and get it next time. I was pretty broke the day I saw it, plus it was stll pretty cold outside, not really weather for drinking a chilled wine.

Of course, next time I was there, the wine wasn't. But recently, I've noticed that the 2008 rosés are hitting the stores, so today when I was just wandering around, I stopped in, and sure enough, there were a few bottles. I grabbed one before they evaporated. At €5.90, I figure it's gotta be a steal.

And, although I probably was doing no such thing, I felt like I was supporting a cause. The EU, those noted gastronomes who have reduced the sizes of onions avaliable in supermarkets to exactly two (softball and billiard ball) and have imposed a rating system on produce that has done more to drive people to farmer's markets (where produce is largely unrated) than any amount of gourmet propaganda could have done, are in the process of deciding whether or not it'd be okay for winemakers to mix red and white wines together and sell them as rosé.

Now, ignorant fool that I am, I had long assumed that's just how they were made (just as I assumed that green grapes made white wine and purple grapes red wine), but of course it's not: it's about how long the juice is allowed to hang out with the skins after crushing. As you might expect, this also affects the taste. A rosé is definitely ballsier than a white, but not as heavy as a red. White wine is a piano sonata, red wine is a symphony, and rosés are chamber music. I haven't tried it, but my suspicion is that mixing a white and a red doesn't give you a rosé any more than playing a piano sonata on top of an orchestra gives you a piano concerto.

But rosés have been discovered. Part of this, I think, is due to Peter Mayle's unrelenting promotion of Provence, which has produced lousy red wines for decades. Just as it has in the Languedoc, that's changed, but in both regions, back in the days when bad wine was the rule rather than the exception, the word among connoisseurs was that the rosés were where the action was, and it was. Whatever the reason, people are buying more of them, and demand outstrips supply. Nor are rosés for serious cellaring: they're very much of the moment, and that, too, I suspect is part of their appeal: they're serious, but not that serious. Or not serious in That Way, if you get my meaning.

Anyway, the wine-growers, already under mandate to uproot significant parts of their vines to reduce the EU "wine lake," now have another thing to worry about. Thus, a website called Couper n'est pas Rosé (blending isn't rosé) complete with a petition to the EU in French, German, Dutch, Italian, and English (what, no Spanish?) to stop this nonsense. It looks like it's only open to European residents, but I urge a signature if you qualify.

And as for the bottle in the picture, I'm waiting until I'm absolutely sure this bout of sinusitis I've had for the past six weeks has passed: I've had my ability to taste severely curtailed, and it's been driving me wild. But today I tasted something fully for the first time in a long time (one of the Lebanese grilled snacks from the guy in front of my building), and I almost cried in gratitude. Imagine: living in France and not being able to taste anything! I'll probably write about it at some point; one of my goals is to rent a car and drive to Aniane and visit the winery at some point, as well as find the olive press that makes the great cheap olive oil I've been buying. Stay tuned.

* * *

When I wrote about streets here some time back, one thing I didn't mention was that there is some serious street theater which appears from time to time. Around Christmas, there was a spate of it. Some of it was musical: mixed-gender brass bands comprised of people in silly costumes, with dancers in front of them. But some of it was satire; I saw a troupe who brought their own "stage set" -- a number of boxes of varying size -- and put on some kind of revue dressed as policemen and soldiers. That one seemed very language-dependent, although I stopped and watched it for a few mintues.

Today, I was walking home from the Wine Museum when I saw a crowd by the McDonald's. My first thought, given the kind of folks who hang out there, was that someone had been killed, but the reality was both better and worse than that: clowns!

A troupe of young folks, mostly women, in classic white-face with red ball noses, were performing mostly silently, and I stifled my clownophobia for a moment to see what was up. When I happened upon them, they seemed to be miming a rock band, occasionally making sounds, especially the "lead vocalist," who eventually came to the front and started blaring "Waaaaah waaaaah!" At one point, one of the clowns watched as her cell-phone flipped out of her costume. A woman, slightly older than the people in the troupe, stepped foward and pocketed it. She turned out to be...I don't know...the director? She seemed to be conducting them, definitely feeding cues to fade out with the "rock band," at which point she appeared in the group, talking to a couple of the clowns, who, as she slipped back into the crowd, started singing "When the Saints Go Marching In." It started off well, and got worse and worse and worse as the clowns got more and more excited. Again the director brought it down and out, and, having had enough (although I was kicking myself for leaving the house without a camera -- in my defense, I had originally intended to go to an art show which seems to have closed, and who takes a camera to a gallery?), I came back to my apartment.

This sort of thing seems to happen in waves, and then disappear. I really do need to find someone who knows more about life here to ask about these odd happenings. And I really need to start carrying my camera more often.


  1. we all need to drink more rose, hot weather or no. thanks for passing the petition around!

  2. wine good, white wine nicht so. Nice to read you again, sir!


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