Is wine the national drink of France?
France's national drink: where's the champagne?
The French Revolution in 1789 not only brought new social values such as freedom, equality and brotherhood. We also owe her cultural achievements like the sommeliers and restaurants. According to legend, a landlord named Boulanger is said to have put the Matthew quote "I want to refresh you" (Latin restaurabo) above the door of his dining room in 1795. Voilà, the “restaurant” was born and from now on revolutionaries were also allowed to “restore” their bodies. This has always included fine wines, for which the logistics experts for food and drink in the service of the royal court and the royal houses, the sommeliers, were traditionally responsible. Now also in the restaurant. No overthrow without drinking.
What would have happened if the French Revolution had taken place in Germany? An interesting thought. But the invention of haute cuisine would by no means have come out of it. France simply stands for a culture of enjoyment and a way of life that you encounter every step of the way, even in everyday life.
In the oldest French novel, the “Roman de la Rose” written by Guillaume de Lorris around 1230, a literary monument was set for a cheese, the Pont-l’Évêque. Marie Harel, who invented the Camembert in 1790, received one made of stone as a by-product of the revolution. During the troubled times, the farmer's wife hid a priest from Brie, who gratefully gave her the recipe for a delicious white mold cheese. And even the legendary and controversial foie gras has received recognition. Production is banned in Germany, while fois gras is a legally protected cultural and gastronomic heritage in France.
L‘art de vivre
A special wine, on the other hand, embodies everything that we understand somewhat awkwardly by savoir-vivre and what the French correctly call "l’art de vivre": champagne. Like no other drink, it symbolizes the attitude to life of an entire nation. When it was created in the second half of the 17th century, chance was the inspiration: Wine that had apparently finished fermentation in the barrel in cold winters was bottled. Deceptive, because as soon as the spring sun let the temperatures rise, the yeasts resumed their interrupted work and fermentation began to continue in the bottles. "Vin fou", crazy wine, was the name of the effervescent drink that regularly burst the bottles in the cellars.
The crazy drops weren't popular at first. Even Dom Pierre Pérignon, the cellarer (a kind of monastic manager) of Hautvillers and often referred to as the “inventor” of champagne, did everything in his power to prevent the second fermentation. He worked with the red grape variety Pinot Noir, as it was less prone to secondary fermentation than the usual Chardonnay grapes.
He developed the idea of the cuvée by tasting different layers and then deciding which should be pressed together. He used the thick-walled glass bottles from England, which were very modern at the time, and no longer closed them with a wooden stopper, but a cork. The more stable glass and the more elastic closures probably caused fewer bottles to explode and kept some of the carbonic acid in the bottle. This is how Dom Pérignon became a “pearl tamer”: He took the first step on the way to sparkling luxury.
The Pompadour, the Cliquot, the ...
The current recipe for champagne was only developed at the beginning of the 18th century, especially for the tables of the rich and famous. “Champagne is the only wine,” and the Marquise de Pompadour was absolutely convinced, “that makes a lady into a woman.” Who would have thought that? The sparkling wine and its seductive side effects obviously didn’t fail to have a stimulating effect. It was important to drink carefully, because the original glass, called "pomponne", tapered to a point, a trick to collect the yeast particles on the bottom of the glass. Whoever emptied the glass too hastily, however, literally drank to a bitter slump.
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