[modified from the original, published on Sep 16th, 2012]
Well here I am in the land of frogs, drawn here by my wife’s inexplicable love for things French. Especially the food.
This is actually my second “tête-a-tête” with France, but my first time outside of Paris. We are in Dijon, the capital of the Bourgogne. Otherwise known as Burgundy to the English.
I’ve learnt quite a few things already this trip, including that Burgundy is an English word for this region and not a French word at all.
Another thing I have learnt is how the wine appellation system works in Bourgogne. Unfortunately, this does not necessarily help me understand how it works elsewhere in France, as each of the wine regions (I think there are 5) has their own system.
To an old kiwi who remembers the Rainbow Warrior incident, the French have always been associated with an air of (over) self importance, arrogance and general snootiness. My previous trip, to Paris, did nothing to dispel this mindset.
However this trip, admittedly just begun, has given me pause for thought. The people in Dijon have been rather friendly and about as engaging as a non speaker of French could expect.
Even the French grab at naming rights on basic foodstuffs, such as wine, now seems, well, if not actually acceptable, at least understandable. From what we have learnt here, the french wine naming system or appellation control is so fundamentally evolved from their history that it would seem wrong to try to disallow it. Having said that, using the appropriate French name on wines of similar style and which are clearly not made in France and not sold there would seem to be not just suitable, but also paying respect to France’s contribution to our collective wine heritage.
However, that is a battle lost, and I have solace in the knowledge that even the French can’t usurp another regions names. For example the Bourgogne cannot label a wine as Champagne. Their equivalent is called Cremante.
Anyway, while the French and most things French might be no picnic, the food certainly is …