Rain and Wine

cafe Elysees Brebant
Rain on a winter afternoon, on the Champs-Elysées.

Some People Talk about the Weather,
Others Drink Beaujolais Instead

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Tuesday, 25. November 1997:- Last week Paris had true fall weather - with touches of morning fog to ease the boredom of plain rain for early-morning drivers who failed to notice it until it was too late to slow down.

This had no effect last Thursday as the Beaujolais Nouveau was rolled out with its customary fanfare. This wine is like the start beaujolais drinkers of a season of its own, as producers come to Paris and set up 'Fêtes du Vin' at various locations around the city - just in time to snare holiday money before it gets spent on otherwise useless gifts.

These people were in focus before this started, but then they blitzed me.

The big department stores unveiled their seasonally decorated display windows during the week, and although I have some photos of these already, I'll save them until there is a full set.

Regular readers will know that I often do not know what any particular issue will contain in advance - but even I surprised myself by doing cars this week.

If I hung out in all the bars and cafés that you probably already imagine me spending all of my time, I would never get an idea to take a tour of the Champs-Elysées auto showrooms, in the rain.

Before doing it I did know it would be nearly dark and with the rain there would be all the reflections from the lights, which matched the reflections on shiny paint; so let's say it was an 'artistic' impulse of a sort.

Third Thursday in November: Beaujolais Nouveau Day

After 20 years I cannot remember this, so I have written it as a headline in the hopes I will be ready for it at dawn next year.

With the weather we had in summer, the grapes for this concoction were picked early; starting 30. August. This permitted picking the exactly right moment to harvest the grapes, and so this year's version should have a slight edge over previous years.

All the same, there is always somebody with a 'nose' who will give it a try and then say, "Okay, can we drink some real wine now?"

Given the amount of hype surrounding Beaujolais Nouveau I expected to see people staggering all over town on Friday, but this was not the case. All the papers give it a mention on Thursday; the hundreds of wine bars feature it throughout the day and until the supply is finished - and then wine life in Paris returns to its discretely normal status of being around but largely unobtrusive.

Occasional sippers of wine probably buy most of it in one-bottle lots, but regular wine fans will usually only drink it in small amounts, to be polite. One tester said, "This 1997, it is an almost serious wine," and that about sums it up.

The other way of looking at it is, for these 'occasional sippers' it might be the only time in the year when they sit down with friends and a couple of bottles, and polish off some good chartcuterie, stout bread and cheese, and have a thoroughly agreeable time doing it.

This year French producers have put 55 million bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau on the market, which is about a third of total Beaujolais production.

Le Parisien says that 'typically' French Beaujolais Nouveau enjoys a grand success throughout the world - with an absence of any publicity. Forty percent of the export volume goes to Germany, where I have seen it consumed like... beer. Other large percentages beaujolais bottles go to Britain, Switzerland and the USA. Apparently Canada prefers Italian 'primeurs' because they get an earlier start and come by sea, which makes them cheaper to buy.

In France, Beaujolais Nouveau is sold in super-supermarkets and the trend is to Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau, and its price is close to 20 francs a bottle.

Later on, when I tried to do a role-call of bottles, they were fuzzy.

Elsewhere in Paris, the Salon National des Vins de Caves Particulières starts on Wednesday at the Espace Champeret, and runs through to Monday, 1. December. It costs 40 francs to enter the salon but this includes some free tasting. Open from 10:00 to 20:00 daily.

Exhibitors are the smaller wine producers from around France, and some 910 of them will have a presence here. If you like to talk about wine with the people who make it, this is the chance. People who make it usually like to talk about it too, so I don't think serious drinking goes on here.

Some tips: go with a friend so that you can exchange impressions. The Guide to the salon is handy to have, and take the glass if one is offered at the entry.

Other, Uplifting Things To Do

It may not be the season for it, and I cannot say parc de Bercy I know it myself, but the Parc de Bercy was inaugurated last September in eastern Paris. It is supposed to be the same size as the new Parc Andre-Citroen in the west, which opened in the 15th arrondissement in 1992.

The park has 'water effects' of some sort, but until spring comes I recommend going there with an umbrella.

The Parc de Bercy is located beside the Seine in the 12th arrondissement, right beyond the pyramid of the Palais des Omnisports of Bercy. The park is not far from métro stop Bercy, on the line six.

Exhibition: Splendeurs Persanes

The Bibliothèque Nationale is presenting a exhibition of illustrated Persian manuscripts, which follow precise aesthetic rules establishing relationships between poetry, painting and calligraphy. Each of the 160 manuscripts on display is, for these reasons, a 'chef-d'oeuvre.'

These manuscripts represent six centuries of production that follow a line through the history of Persia's grand dynasties. Many Splendeurs Persans were conceived as illustrated Korans - but, for example, the Mongol invasion in the 13th century introduced traces of Chinese styles of painting.

Splendeurs Persanes - 12th to 17th Century Manuscripts Thursday, 27. November, until 1. March 1998
Galerie Mazarine, Bibliothèque Nationale de France
58. rue de Richelieu, Paris 2.
Métro stops: Bourse or Palais-Royal
Every day from 10:00 to 19:00; closed Mondays
Entry: 35 francs, reduced: 24 francs
Catalogue: 240 pages, 290 francs
Info Tel.: 01 47 03 81 12

Metropole One Year Ago

Issue 1.40 - 25. November 1996 featured the columns - Metropole Diary's 'André Malraux 1901-1976' and 'Au Bistro' had - 'Sydney Beats Paris to Beaujolais Punch?.' The articles in the issue were 'Fair Deal Restaurant in High-Rent District count-down eiffel Tested for Good Value, - Le Palet Gets Three Forks, Two Spoons' - 'The Crowd that Wasn't - This Isn't the Story It Started Out To Be' - 'The South Pacific in Paris - Musée des Arts d'Afrique et d'Océanie, Part I' and 'Africa! Africa! - Musée des Arts d'Afrique et d'Océanie, Part II.' There were two 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week rounded off the issue.

The Tour Eiffel Countdown to 2000:

Only 767 days left to go.

Regards, Ric
Send email concerning the
contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
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