The Poodle and the Wine
I read recently that the most popular dog breed in France is the Poodle. Here in the U.S. it is the Labrador Retriever. This difference alone isn't quite enough to force Americans to be suspicious of the French. But it makes you think.
We (wine lovers) should also be forced to think about the French today, on the day of their national celebration of their Republic: Bastille Day. There's no denying that the American wine industry in its modern form originally took its ques from the French. They were, and still are in large part, the model.
The American idea of appellations, for example, is based on similar European and French models, with the primary difference being that we don't have much in the way of legally enforced rules concerning what can be grown where, how much can be grown, etc. And this won't ever happen here, in my view. It's simply TOO French an idea, like Poodles and snotty bankers.
But again, I think it's fair to note that the reverence that the French have for plots of dirt and their seeming magical ability to produce something unique and, due to that uniqueness, of value is an idea that again was adopted by American vineyardists and winemakers, and, slowly, by average American wine drinkers.
What's truly interesting, besides the Poodle thing, is how the world has shrunk; how the French now must contend with American innovation, instead of the delivery of ideas trading in only one direction. Where Americans used to posses an "idea deficit" where winemaking is concerned, now it seems there is a move toward equilibrium in this intellectual and commercial marketplace. Take the use of placing varietals on a label or the move toward direct shipment of wine. American both, but ideas now being taken up by the French in some measure.
I spent the summer of 1989, the 200th anniversary of the storming of the Bastille, in France. I spent that July 14th in Paris. From the way the French celebrated that occasion you'd never guess that they were even then considered by many (non French) folks to be moving toward the verge of irrelevancy on the world stage. But those cynical folks were wrong.
I have proof the French and their ideas, traditions and actions are not irrelevant.
It was on this day in 1989 that I learned from the French how one frolics on a busy street, drunk, wielding a heavy bottle of champagne without committing the very un-French act of clobbering any of the other frolicking, drunk, Champagne-wielding folks in the street. I always assumed this lesson would pay dividends one day and I still believe it will.
So, despite the attempted ban on Internet Marketing of wine, the radical wine terrorists that maraud through the southern reaches of Gaul, the sometimes dismissive attitude the French have toward American wines, and all those Poodles, there is still very good reason to raise a glass to the French on this high secular holy day of French identity.