Amelia is a third year English Literature and French student currently studying at Université Jean Moulin Lyon III. She desperately misses Leeds and being able to go to the shops on Sundays. So far her best French friend is a cat called Sushi but hopes to branch out soon. She enjoys fine supermarket wine and her biggest aim for this year is to try and not get run over whilst crossing the road; ‘look right left right’ just isn’t working out over here.
‘The Wine Diaries’
Now that I have friends who are not of the feline variety I have thrown myself into full French social interaction. Long gone are the days of the September Erasmus parties, authentic French pre-drinks, or rather apéros, are my latest thing. Thanks to the current exchange rate from euro to pound being at just 0.73, my wine of choice – the 2,30€ bottle of Les trois demoiselles comes in at a tidy £1.68 – and that’s what I call budgeting.
Back in Leeds pre drink choices were simple. The Brudenell Road Sainsbury’s used to help me out massively. I went by select criteria:
1) Is it on offer?
2) More than 12.5% alcohol content?
3) Screw top for transportation purposes?
4) Has the label got a pretty picture?
In November I actually went to a Lyonnais wine drinking tasting evening with my lovely friend Mélanie (who is the mother of Sushi the cat). It was an incredible experience, but I felt like I’d missed a few preliminary lessons. Every French person I meet here seems to know their stuff when it comes to wine regions, grapes, corks and so on. They even know what kind of wine it is by bottle shape. There’s a world of wine out there and I decided I needed to get to the bottom of it.
On one fateful evening here in Lyon I quickly popped into Monoprix to grab a bottle en route to une fête. Seeing as France only tends to sell French wine it is all reasonably cheap, however the wine section of a supermarket is vast. The French aren’t too keen on offers. When complaining to my flat-mate about the lack of a reduced section in the supermarket, he told me that the French would rather throw away food than buy it on sale. So I had to do away with my first criteria. Secondly, screw bottles just aren’t the done thing and I was running out of time. Under pressure I decided to go with a cheapish bottle of white with a cute chicken on the label.
I decided to interview a Frenchy in the hope that he could shed some light on my current predicament. As much as I’ve moaned in my previous blogs about their bureaucracy, one thing the French have got sorted is their savoir faire when it comes to choosing wine.
To give you a little bit of context, Jordan is a relatively normal person; he’s a typical French guy, although a bit hipster but once you look past the string belt and the lumber-sexual overtones he is a right laugh indeed. He has years of wine drinking experience. Plus he’s from Beaune, which means he practically has wine running through his veins.
Me: ‘What does wine mean to you for a drink with friends?’
J: ‘Ouhlala. This is a very big question. Well there’s wine and there’s wine. Wine for apéro, but then again there’s apéro and apéro. It all depends on the situation, it depends on the food and even if there wouldn’t be any food there it would always have to be a good wine. To try to put it simply, we do have wine that we drink just to get drunk before a night out, but we wouldn’t drink it like a normal English guy. They don’t have any respect for the wine. But then again there’s the second kind; the wine you drink at the odd cheeky party— for me as a Burgundy man, I will always go red.’
Me: ‘How do you choose which wine to buy?’
J: ‘Well the first mistake is to look for wine according to the price. That is not right. For French kids, usually when you’re young your father will teach you how to taste wine from a variety of regions. So the skills are past on from generation to generation to find good wine. It’s all about what you like. Personally I prefer a strong wine, something that I can drink when I eat cheese and stuff. I know what I like. We don’t care if there’s a cool chicken on the label or whatever.’
Me: ‘Point taken. Okay, what would you do if I added lemonade to this glass of wine?’
J: ‘Heiiiin putain… Okay, but which one? It’s possible for rosé maybe if there were ice cubes too in the summer time, but we would still look down on you. Once I was in Spain and saw ‘Kalimucho’– red wine added with Coca-Cola – c’est dégueulasse! Very offensive. Europe has a problem, France is the only country that truly respects wine.’
Me: ‘What’s your favourite wine year?’
J: ‘2009. Actually most of the years that end in 9 are pretty good.’
Me: ‘What’s your favourite bottle of wine?’
J: ‘Pommard Grand Cru if I have money, and Beaune Village if I’m broke.’
Me: ‘Do you have any advice for any of the British students?’
J: ‘Stop drinking wine and keep to your gin. That stuff is actually disgusting. I’m kidding, Leeds va me detester. Just stop buying the cheapest one. If you were to bring it over to a party all the French people would laugh at you because it will usually be the one we cook with and not one to drink.’
Me: ‘What do you think of this?’ (I show him a Youtube video of someone strawpedo-ing a bottle of wine in 5 seconds).
J: ‘Mon dieu c’est pas possible! Okay, I need to try this.’
Images courtesy of Amelia Dunton