I’ve been reading History In A Glass by Gourmet (2006). For those unfamiliar with the story, here is a brief synopsis. In the 1970’s an English wine merchant who owned a wine store and wine school in Paris decided to show French journalists about California wines. A blind tasting competition was held in France- French wines vs California wines. California Chardonnay against French white Burgundies, California Cabernet Sauvignon against French red Bordeaux. All the french wines were purposeful and thoughtful choices to make it a genuine challenge. How exciting!!! If I wasn’t 10 years old at the time, I would have been there or at least through armchair travel if nothing else.
Anyway… Chateau Montelena Chardonnay from Napa won. California winemakers now had confidence,respect and recognition.The French experts were to say the least: embarrassed. Gerald Asher writes “it gave the French incentive to review traditions that were sometimes mere accumulations of habit…and to reexamine convictions that were little more than myths taken on trust”.
It got me to thinking about a recent story I heard from a friend. She’s of Italian descent. She was born in the USA but her parents were born in Italy. She tells me how Italians that she knew as a child believed that a small amount of wine should be had every day by all, even children. She humorously recounts stories of her childhood with the adults insisting she and her siblings drink a tiny amount of wine every day saying in their most charming and romantic accents “It’s a good for yours health.” She believes this is why many Italian American children she knew grew up to adults who don’t really drink wine. So she tells me this story- she didn’t like drinking the wine. She was at her aunt’s house. The aunt pours each child a tiny amount of wine (most likely bad homemade wine which only adds to the humor and the horror in my humble opinion). She decided she’s going to down the glass to get it over with. When the aunt returns from the kitchen, she thinks my friend dumped out the wine, doesn’t believe her when she said she drank it and then makes my friend drink another glass. HMMM.. a tipsy 5 year old. Oh how the world has changed since then (this story recounted from a real event 40 + years ago). I think these Italians that my friend knew as a child have, like the French, reviewed traditions that were mere accumulations of habit and maybe consider them more a myth taken on trust.