I argued like a Frenchman this week and I liked it. A friend of mine (Rugby guy) started quizzing me about the “stupid” offside rule in soccer. He started by asking questions, then ran through some scenarios, and ended off with a firm declarative statement that “soccer would be better without an offside.” He looked at me for a response. I drew a small breath, glanced sideways towards him, and in a superior manner said, “No, you’re wrong.” End of argument.
The French are like that. They like their rules and they like to keep them. I once asked a French man – Parisian to be exact – what his favorite wine was. He looked at me and in a polite, but superior, manner said, “It depends what you’re eating.” End of conversation.
France is a country of rules and regulations and the right way – make that the only way – to do things. A winemaker could go crazy following regional regulations. Unlike the New World, where winemakers are encouraged to be daring and creative, French winemakers are not allowed to stray from the regional rules. The rules have been argued in parliament, declared law, and l’argument est fini. And they like it.
Boundaries and regional names are fiercely protected. Only certain grape varietals are permitted in each region. Yields per hectare are regulated. In fact, the info on the bottle’s label is a matter of national importance. And that’s just the way it is. I think the French like to make laws. It may be a “légende urbaine”, but I read that under law no owner may address his pig as Napoleon. I like it.
My personal favorite rule-dominated region in France is the Côtes du Rhône (or CDR). Wine can be made with any of 23 different varietals, yet usually lead with Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre. My LCBO general list favorite is the Old Farm – La Vieille Ferme – partially because of the Rooster on the label, but mostly because it is a good solid CDR and under $12. My personal rule is to drink Côtes du Rhône often. It’s a good rule.
Travis Oke is a high school teacher by day and a wine writer by night. His blog, Pull The Cork, appears in the online edition of the Guelph Mercury.