NICOLAS SARKOSY, THE French political equivalent of First growth claret would read well as a tasting note : Firm with lift and plenty of promise, uncompromising now but should improve with age, colourful, flamboyant, well defined and powerful, could well surprise.
A minor drawback with this game is that the newly elected and singular grand Cru Classee A, – but let us keep Monsieur Arnaud, coke sipping co-owner of Chateau Cheval Blanc out of this dissertation for the minute – Monsieur Sarkosy, dose not drink wine and is not in the slightest bit secretive about this contrary position in a country where vinodollars replace petrodollars, where the countryside, global warming permitting, is draped in vineyard, the way it has been since the plantings of the Phoenicians, the Romans and the monks.
France clucks wine from just about every corner of its hexagonal heart, boasts a greater diversity of marvellous, magical, sometimes mysterious wines than any other country in the universe – to the extent that the highly respected wine author Jancis Robinson, www.jancisrobinson.com/, published a book entitled les Vins de France et le Monde. France in wine terms, in other words, stands alone among equals and has been in this enviable position for a good long time.
I have been shocked at the sight of Monsieur Sarkosy’s longstanding predecessor President Jacques Chirac happily slapping a bovine backside before downing a beer and slipping off to the Far East to flog aircraft. Following on the heals of his Prime Minister, surrounded by captains of industry, without a bottle of French wine between them. How complacent, how detached and how damning. Airbus Industrie is indeed worthy of pride, attention, promotion and effort but how easy it is to remind the world that France produces wines like nowhere else on our planet. A world that wants to know, discover and enjoy the excitement of French wine. The French political class is failing miserably in its duty to show pride in its rich oenological heritage.
The sight of disgruntled French wine producers protesting in parallel to the filling of order books for aircraft in China irritates me profoundly and I have made this remark on a number of occasions to those most concerned by this dismal situation. Nothing will change is the message I have been given. Regional conflicts and the narrow spectrum of self-interest divide a potentially powerful national wine lobby, rendering it inaudible and incapable of expressing its justifiable indignation coherently.
President Giscard d’Estaing could at least claim to have a penchant for Fitou, an Appellation that I visited in the mid ‘70s on the strength of this declared passion. In spite of Giscard’s regal demeanour, Fitou remains a far cry from the glorious Jurancon, preferred wine of Henri IV. The point however being that this ambassador of Frenchness projected light on a little known part of the Languedoc years before the rise of this vast wine region. For this he deserves a score in the mid 80s. Recommended behaviour.
Since the arrival of the first socialist government in 1981 when the cellar of Matignon was consumed within a week, things have regressed very seriously. The Mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe, recently auctioned off the considerable Mayoral cellar as a political statement and tea-totalling captains of industry snap up icons of French viticulture, not to enjoy and cherish, but for their brand values. The knowledge of wine has become a separate additional specialised years studying in the national hotel schools & now, following on from footprint of the worlds number one larger lout we have a president who openly admits to the wine growers who’s support he seeks that he dose not drink a drop of their production.
Is this the best way to honour France’s historical vineyards, its noble winemakers and hard working population who contribute so much to the national economy? Is this the best way the political class can find to let the world know about great French wines? In the coming days & months the new President will attack the problem of defining Frenchness. Will the man who’s wider role involves the defence of national economic interests continue to overlook the importance of acknowledging this national living treasure?
Berthillon, www.berthillon-glacier.fr, the famous ice-cream maker on the isle de Saint Louis used to close for most of the summer, so possibly showing the world that French wine is little more than an exclusive export product will work. After all national statistics show that in France we do use much of our own soap either.