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Paris Diary: Wonderful Wines

Want to see the French at their best: relaxed, convivial, and exquisitely well informed? Wine tastings at the Grains Nobles wine tasting club on the Left Bank offer members a parade of France’s best winemakers, where their wines and viticultural practices are commented upon in the little club’s vaulted cellar by France’s leading wine writers. (The French word for winemaker is vigneron, which better translates as “vine grower” — the wine makes itself)


We always spit the tasted wine into the small, stainless steel spittoons positioned in front of each chair — unless it is really good, which it often is, to judge by the rising volume of conversation in the room as a night’s tasting progresses.

In listening to winemaker/artists talk about their craft, and in tasting their wine, one comes to a much better understanding of Louis Pasteur’s oft-quoted dictum: “A bottle of wine contains more philosophy than all the books in the world.” There is no irony in these words.

Addendum: Unless you are buying at the cellar door, which we try to do, young French wines are usually more expensive in France than in America. France has heavy social taxes on payrolls, which makes distribution expensive; high taxes on all types of alcohol; and on top of that, the government slaps a 19.6% sales tax on almost everything — a rate that will go to 20% in 2014. Live free or die.


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