Beaujolais is back in town, and Parisians breathe more easily: Despite one of the worst vintage years in recent memory, there will be some decent drinking after all.
Rain and rot took a heavy toll, but good wine-makers with vineyards on well-drained slopes put every bit of their knowledge and skill to work to salvage their wine.
To prove this point, last night and tonight the Union Interprofessionnelle des Vins du Beaujolais, the local wine association, with the assistance of costumed officers of the wine brotherhood, Les Compagnons du Beaujolais, were giving the new wine its Paris baptism in the Salons des Champs-Elysées.
Louis de Funès officiated as a sort of godfather to the whole range of wines from plain Beaujolais and Beaujolais-Villages to the nine classified growths – Brouilly, Chénas, Chiroubles, Côte-de-Brouilly, Fleurie, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent and Saint-Amour.
The comedian, bearing a slightly desperate but gamely smiling look, was asked if he had made the acquaintance of all his godchildren.
"Yes," he replied, "that's the whole trouble!"
For those who would like to have similar troubles, herewith are a few places scattered throughout Paris where the new Beaujolais is always carefully chosen and comes directly from the grower. In these bistrots à vin, this year's wine still has as much of its traditional fruitiness and natural body as can be expected in such a waterlogged year. Léon Gouin of Le Rubis at 10 Rue du Marché-St-Honoré, Paris 1er, was one of the first to bring out the new wine, a Beaujolais-Villages. In a month or so he will start selling his crus, of which he expects Fleurie to be the best.
Jean Bouscarel of La Tartine at 24 Rue de Rivoli, 4e, explains: "Even in the worst years a grower can get a pretty good wine if his vineyard has the right exposure, enough slope, the proper soil, old vines and if his vinification is done well enough.
"But," he adds, "how many wines meet these criteria?"
His new Beaujolais-Villages does.
So does Bernard Péret's (Le Rallye at 6 Rue Daguerre, 14e), and his ordinary Beaujolais is one of the lightest and most natural going. It ought to be. He went to enough trouble to find it.
Jean-Baptiste Chaudet, wine merchant at 20 Rue Geoffroy-St.-Hilaire, 5e, has a strong-tasting Beaujolais-Villages made from very old vines, but he has many other good small wines that are even better bargains.
Other bistrotiers have not yet brought out their new Beaujolais, preferring for one reason or another to wait until their selections are more finis, that is, a bit more developed and stable.
Louis Prin of Ma Bourgogne at 133 Boulevard Haussmann, 8e, and Robert Cointepas of the Henri IV at the Pont Neuf will bring theirs out about Dec. 20. Henri Vergne, Au Sauvignon at the corner of Rue des Saints-Pères and Rue de Sèvres in the 7th Arrondissment, will follow a few days later.