Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Sophistication of Wine Tasting en France

There are two kinds of people in this world: me and everyone else. Unfortunately, this distinction does not narrow down the latter category by any significant amount, so many Americans seem to draw a line between the "Average" and the "Sophisticated." The "Sophisticated" group enjoy finer things of life, such as the theater, dark clothes, gym memberships, and WINE. Some "Averages" also try to partake in the joys of wine, though the "Sophisticated" tend to pair their wine with aged cheese, pretentious topics of conversation, and corkscrews that cost more than the GDP of many countries.

For many years, in an attempt to place myself with the "Sophisticated," I would partake in wine tasting parties, while overusing words such as "crostini," "aroma," "palate," and "delightful." Though I tend to ride comfortably between the "Average" and "Sophisticated" of America, when it came time to prove my wine abilities in a tasting in France, I was prepared to take the plunge into the land of sophistication with no intentions of turning back.

The Rhone region in which the city of Lyon (where I lived) sits, is home to a type of French wine known as Beaujolais. Most of the small, private wineries in the area debut their Beaujolais wine in the late fall in "caveaus" (large underground cellars), where the wine is aged in barrels. Veeeeery Sophisticated!

Nearly all of the French roommates I had in France were, how to say this in a sensitive manner...f**king crazy. Before I discovered the dormant crazy in the second set, I managed to secure a ride to a Beaujolais caveau, owned by a family friend of one of my roommates, at the debut of their wine season.

Did I mention Americans think of wine tasting as a "Sophisticated" endeavor? Well, French people think of wine tasting as a "Everybody" endeavor. That is to say, rich or poor, black or white, "Average" or "Sophisticated," EVERYONE in France goes to wine tastings. I was not prepared for that fact.

For starters, I was the ONLY brown person that had ever been in this particular Beaujolais caveau. I had chosen to wear a black sweater, dark jeans, and black shoes. Combined with the dim lighting, the very pale selection of French people had trouble separating rock formations with my person, and made it a habit of bumping into me as I drank copious amounts of free wine. Second, most of the people in caveau looked as though they had just come from a long day of shopping at Wal-Mart. Granted, they were still better dressed than actual regular patrons of Wal-Mart, but I attribute this to the lack of obese people. French women really don't get fat.

Needless to say, I was uncomfortable. Somewhere between my fourth and fifth glass of Sophistication, a man heavily bumped into me, and my dormant crazy began to unfurl. He turned around to see what he had hit, and was shocked to see it was an angry brown person brimming with Sophisticated insults. Unfortunately, none of my Sophisticated French words made an appearance, and I instead noticed this poor country Frenchman was wearing...A YANKEES HAT!

After I sloppily set down my glass of red Sophistication, I said in my best slurred French (translated for your convenience): "Why are you wearing a YANKEES hat!? Do you like BASEBAAAALL!? Do you have ANY idea of the cultural significance that hat bears? Do you!?" Then I started to growl. Seriously. For some reason, I assumed a threatening posture, and I started to growl. My roommates were having a fantastic time letting me go about my Sophisticated business, but at this point, decided it was best to stop my Sophisticated drinking, and feed me cheese.

Half an hour later, I was sober enough to realize that I am quite good at growling, but unfortunately, had discovered that in public. Monsieur Yankee casquette had mercifully disappeared, so I bumped my way over to the sales table, and bought three bottles in the hopes that all would be forgotten. As I got out my money to pay for the bottles, the cashier and daughter of the winery owner leaned over to me and said (also translated for your convenience), "You must come back next year! This was the most fun beaujolais debut we've ever had, thanks to you! They are usually so...average."

So there you have it. In my attempt to be a "Sophisticated," I was inadvertently thrown in with the "Average," only to end up thoroughly entertaining. Riding the fence once more. You're welcome.

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