We’re not French. But of course, neither of us mind indulging in a little French culture either. Think macarons. Haussmannian rooftops. Françoise Hardy. Breton striped tops. Accordions and romance. France is associated with a lot of cheesy things (including cheese), but it has to be said that one of its strongest cultural assets is wine. Recently, we wined and dined at the most French of restaurants we could find – Chez Janou in Le Marais – with the ultimate French summer drink – rosé – to be inspired and to learn how to bring a dose of French culture into our lives. Santé!
As we’ve tried to make clear throughout our blog posts, we’re doing all this to share our passion for wine and wine lifestyle with you. And who better to learn about wine lifestyle from than the pros – les français? As the forebears of wine with centuries of refinement behind them, the French inherently seem to understand that wine is made to be enjoyed, to be shared and to bring about laughter and interesting conversation. But why is that? We’ve narrowed it down to 3 things:
1) History | Wine > Water
It’s not like France is the only wine growing country in the world. Arguably, countries like Germany, Italy, Australia and South Africa produce wine just as well. The key difference here is that France has a longstanding history with the development of wine culture. Back in the middle ages, water was bacteria ridden and simply not safe to drink. Wine, on the other hand, was a more logical option, as the alcohol and acids in wine were found to kill off most of the pathogens that threatened humans. This meant that up until the 18th century, wine was considered to be a safer drink than much of the available water. No, people weren’t walking around sloshed most of the time (or so they’d like us to think), as the wine was diluted, but it does explain the fact that wine literally had to become part of day-to-day French life for health reasons. The Germans and British did the same, only they drank beer, which also explains their beer-drinking culture a little more.
2) Culture | Sip your Sauvignon, kiddo
Despite the fact that today, France has as clean water as any country, the tradition of wine and the French goes on. In fact, most French people consider wine as a sacred gift, to be enjoyed but not abused. This respect is fostered from a young age, when children are often given a drop or two of wine in their water or juice while seated at the dinner table, encouraging them to become accustomed to the taste and to appreciate the flavours.
3) Food | We Can’t All Keep Eating Baguettes and Lose Weight, But We’ll Keep On Trying
These two ideas of health and dinner time play strongly into the idea of the French Paradox, which means the contradiction between scientific theory and real world facts. The facts? The French love baguettes, crème brûlée, croissants, and fatty foods like foie gras. Yet, despite their adoration for regularly eating rich foods, France has a remarkably low obesity rate. This has to do with their eating style. Unlike most of us, the French are in no race when it comes to eating, and instead, they munch at a leisurely place, with wine and conversation playing essential roles in their social ritual. There is a joy in selecting a wine that complements your food (read our Food & Wine Pairing 101 blog post here), and a little Chardonnay with your cassoulet ain’t hurting no one – it may even help digestion by slowing things down.
In essence, we think that wine perfectly matches the character of the French people. It is elegant, boisterous and enjoys its food. And we love the beautiful and slow wine lifestyle that the French promote. If you want to drink wine like the French do, here are our tips:
1) ENJOY your wine – sip it slowly while leisurely eating your duck that’s been paired perfectly to complement the flavours.
2) If you have children, introduce them to what you’re sipping on. Trust them and educate them. In the long run, they’ll probably be thankful and you’ll be grateful they’re not at someone’s 18th birthday drinking an entire bottle of Sambuca for the first time, because they know what alcohol’s all about.
3) Don’t over-indulge – share instead.
4) Buy quality. If you’re going slow and respecting yourself, don’t by bottom shelf, bottom barrel stuff. Treat yo self!
The French poet Baudelaire once wrote that if wine were to disappear from our world, there would be a void in human health and intelligence, and that void would be worse than all the excesses it’s guilty of. And he was right – or at least, definitely within the world of the French.
Chez Janou Restaurant
Booking recommended (as is the duck) | http://chezjanou.com/
2 Rue Roger Verlomme, 75003 Paris, France| Tel: +33 1 42 72 28 4