Mouton Drinks Paris

19 Feb

Drinking à l’anglaise is near impossible in Paris. Well it is for me at least. If you know me I’m sure you’ve already heard about the kettle fiasco (bought a kettle to make tea and it blew the electricity in the entire room, three electricians came and left nonplussed, had to move out for two days, randomly decided to unplug kettle and the electricity miraculously returned: cold hard proof that France has a conspiracy against tea drinkers). Even if I do manage to make a cup of tea, the water here doesn’t mix right, the milk separates and the microwave makes it taste vaguely of carrot soup. Baileys is notoriously difficult to find (for any fellow Parisians, it’s in the Carrefour at Alésia, right at the back of the liquor section). So I have been reduced to drinking coffee out of mini cups which hold only one and a half gulps of liquid each.

But fear not said she for all is not lost! Heureusement Paris has another drink to offer…

France is the land where the wine flows free. An older, wiser, frencher person than myself once remarked in conversation that once you start drinking expensive wine, it’s impossible to go back to that less-than-10-euro muck don’t you think? I nodded and umm-ed in agreement making a mental note never to offer anyone wine of my own choosing. Because in all honesty, when I first came to Paris I found it very difficult to differentiate between good and bad wine. I can still knock back that 4€ “muck” quite happily! The 95 cent wine from LIDL is pushing it a bit (you know who you are and yes, I’m judging you) but right now, can I really afford the extra 5 euros for a wine which knowing my alcohol tolerance I will barely be able to taste after the second glass? One day when I’m rich and fabulous I will waltz into a restaurant on the Champs-Élysées or somewhere similar and request a bottle of Château Mouton Rothschild 1945 (MOUTON Rothschild geddit?) which, according to the online wine guide terroir-france.com, is the most expensive vintage in France at $28,750 a bottle. Until then, LIDL anyone?

Had a bit of an embarrassing moment when I first went to a French dinner party entre amis. Late, as always, my Kenyan friend and I decided to grab some wine from the corner store. Sometime into the soirée we were sipping our white on the balcony feeling very parisienne and sophistiquée when another friend requested a sip of what we were drinking. “Bleurgh!” she exclaimed “Mais c’est du vinaigre!” (Translation: “Yuk! This is vinegar!”). I sipped it again… it tasted like wine to me! But the rest of the party had by now agreed that it was indeed vinegar. I hung my head in shame (but still finished the wine… I mean vinegar, because once you’ve suffered ouzo vinegar is a piece of cake!).

I have a handy trick for ordering wine in restaurants though. It’s incredibly simple: just ask for “la maison”, the house wine! It’s brilliant! It avoids all the embarrassment implicated in attempting to pronounce the name of some remote French château when all you want is a glass of red! You sound sophisticated (à l’aise quoi!), you don’t have to worry about whether the wine goes with the food or whether it is specialist enough. You will be in no way judged on your choice of wine, in fact you’re complementing the establishment by trusting them to choose for you! They will invariably bore you with the details of the wine: “Ce soir c’est château mumble mumble de la region de blah blah blah l’annee deux mille quelque chose”.  Nod, look at your companion, pretend to carefully consider and say “oui”. Simples!

It really is a bit of an insane circus. All was put back into perspective the other night however. This year our halls have had an influx of a rather wonderful bunch of English people from Kent or Canterbury or somewhere, I’m not quite sure. I’d crashed a gathering with another of my more dubious wines: even I could tell this one was muck. “Does that taste bad?” asked one of them, “Here, add some of this,” and he reached under the bed and produced a bottle of lemonade. I must have looked pretty shocked because he shrugged and added “Well it can hardly get any worse”. Sigh, I’ve really missed my people!

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