An Aussie looking for a new girlfriend or perhaps her liquid replacement. A young woman on crutches who won a trip to Paris on, I kid you not, The Price is Right. Her posse of so-Cal gal pals. A red-suited lady with a voice clearly cultivated in Manhattan. A cheerful, Brunello-loving couple from Colorado. A Japanese fashionista.
What do these people have in common? They were all at a recent “Tour de France of Wine” at O-Chateau, ostensibly to learn something about les vins de France. Did they retain anything from the two hour, six wine tasting? I’m doubtful.
Did they enjoy themselves? O, ahem, oh yes.
The Price Is Right pack had been enjoying themselves all day, I think.
O-Chateau hosts wine tastings for English speakers in a dark and cool 17th century cave that used to be connected to the Louvre. This setting certainly adds some historical Parisian ambiance, though I’m a little sad for having missed the days when O-Chateau was operated out of an O-Apartment. I’m always late to the party.
I was a little late to this one, too, and arrived midway through the introductions. Everyone was asked their name and to describe their relationship to wine. I am sorry I didn’t think fast enough to say “codependent”, but in the end there’s only space for one comedian in the room, and that job clearly belonged to Olivier, our host, the O in O-Chateau.
Olivier Magny is very good at the job he’s created for himself. He patiently took this group of slightly rowdy, easily distracted, proudly Three Buck Chuck-swilling anglophone tourists through the fundamentals of French viticulture. He went through the steps in tasting a wine, and explained what visual clues can indicate about alcohol, sugar, and age. He explained how to read the label on a bottle. He discussed terroir, the importance of place, and the AOC system.
He cracked everyone up, over and over. But I would expect nothing less from the person responsible for this blog, or from someone who claims to have made it through a party in L.A. using only the words “amazing”, “insane”, “hilarious”, and “awesome”. (It’s particularly funny to hear him say these words with an American accent.)
Olivier also touched on French attitudes toward wine. Did you know that in France, wine consumption per capita has dropped by 50% since 1980? Did you know that 45% of French women NEVER drink? Olivier has very strong feelings about this last point. When he shared them my jaw dropped and I asked if I could quote him. He said yes but prudence is getting the best of me right now. (Dear Olivier, I drink, I eat, and I…wait, what was the third thing?)
The wines were lovely, each one offering a good example of regional character. We started in Champagne, cruised through the Loire Valley for a bright Sancerre, then back east for an elegant Bourgogne blanc that baffled the Americans and Aussies more accustomed to huge, hot climate chardonnays. Beaujolais was next (avoid the nouveau, Olivier practically begged), then a green peppery Bordeaux. We finished in the southern Rhone, which is where I’d like to be right about now.
When it was over, people milled about and mingled for a while, some bought a few bottles, and the California girls posed for a group shot. It’s hard to say if they were smarter or stupider after two hours of educational wine consumption, but in the end it doesn’t really matter: The most important thing about drinking wine is to enjoy it. I’m sure Olivier would say the same.
Stuff Parisians Like Olivier’s very funny blog