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French Wine Tasting – Part One


When someone says: “French”…..what’s the first second word that comes to mind? “Fashion?” Maybe. “Film?” Uh,could be.”WINE?” Yes sir, you betcha! That be the first,second word describing France. How could it not be with vines covering so much of the “terroir?”

From time to time France gives the World a movie/music star/sports hero. But the “gift” of French wine is constant and(happily)consistent. (Curiously,the World’s premier wine magazine,and wine’s most influential critic,are both American.)

On the World markets, French wine faces stiff competition from producers in other countries. Many of whom are either French,and/or have adopted the French model. Regardless of taste/price,there is one element French wines have that World wines do not.Authenticity. Because of A.O.C.(Appelation Origine Controle) – The government system of wine designation/control.

This “fidelity”to a specific location means that a Pinot Noir from Beaune,must be produced from those grapes alone,and grown within the Beaune appellation. This assures the consumer that this pinot is an authentic reflection of Beaune’s soil and climate.

World wines,on the other hand,have no such restrictions. And because wine is such a huge business, the Multinationals who churn out container carloads plus o’ vino,focus on the taste/price balance,relative to each market. And,if their grapes in any year are not “ab/fab”,they’ll be “enhanced” in the cellar.(“Better drinking through chemisty”…….NOT!)

There is even a wine producers “hotline” offering market specific additive info. “OK – So you want to produce a Chardonnay for low end Japanese consumers..Since they like a banana flavor on the finish,you need to add yeast b-957.”

Happily, if you do detect a nuance of banana in your French Savignon, you can rest assured, thanks more to tradition than A.O.C, it’s the real deal.

Although Italy produces more wine by volume than France, the adjective -“Quality” is synonymous with French Wine in the popular imagination.

The Bottom (and obvious)line: Every Country has wines of varying degrees of “quality” – however you wish to define the word.

One wine that fits MY definition of quality is produced by Domaine Philippe Viret, in the heart of one of France’s classic wine regions – Bourgogne.

A “virtual Tasting” is available in this video – with English sub-titles.

Bonne Degustation! (Good Tasting!)

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Queen For (more) Than a Day – Part Three

Time to get out your hankies as the Queen for More Than a Day – Part Three takes center stage. (earlier, but not fantastically happy events may be found in PART  ONE and PART TWO.)

As my faithful will recall from previous spine tingling, on-the-edge-of-your-seat installments, Anne now seemed to be between the proverbial “rock and a hard place.”

Obliged to marry a King who was already married. However, like most Women of intelligence, Anne had a plan. It, like her previous decision to marry Charles, was a classic “no brainer.”

She agreed to marry Louis  12, if he could get his current marriage (to her former husbands sister no less!) annulled. Now, Today annulements are as common as experts on the internet. But in Anne’s time,( heavy Catholic vibes ) it was anything but a “slam dunk.”

Basically you needed to have a Pope in yer pocket. So – obviously Anne was banking on “no annulement = free, white and (already)21.”

But, when you’re a King, you don’t hang out the locals at the pub. And, sadly for Anne, Louis 12 DID have a Pope in his pocket.  Alexander 6, who dissolved Louis’ marriage.

So, never one to cry in her beer, Anne accepted her fate.(another good decision)  And, not letting Royal grass grow under her feet, Anne put on her travellin’ shoes….and headed back to her home turf(Brittany) to chill out and press the local flesh.

Marriage number three for the French Country Travel Life Double Queen went down on January 8, 1499, with her new husband (wisely) confirming her right to to the title “Duchess of Brittany.” And, the resulting power to issue decisions in her name.

This was a biggie for Anne, as her “raison d’etre” was always to keep Brittany independant. To make sure it stayed “in the family, in true “arranged marriages be us” fashion, Anne hooked her daughter Claude up with Charles of Austria. To beef up the French connection in the Franco-Italian war.

But when hubby Louis got the vibe that no male heir would be forthcoming from his lovely queen, he broke off the marriage and arranged his own royal love fest.  Hitching  Claude up with the heir to the French Throne, Francis of Angouleme. This, as you would expect, did not get Anne’s seal of approval.

But, sadly, time, and luck were both running out for Anne. In spite of her relatively young age, she had been pregnant a total of 14 times by two Kings.(even I can do the math here) Only three Children survived. Only Two made it to adulthood.

Renee, who by marriage became the Duchess of Chartes, after marrying the Duke of Ferrara. And Claude, who inherited her Mother’s title of Duchess of Brittany, and became Queen of France by her marriage to Francis.

Which meant, you guessed it, Brittany became a French possession.

Anne died at the Château de Blois on 9 January 1514 of a kidney-stone attack.

Her funeral, which was to set the standard for all Royal funerals to follow, lasted 40 days.

By her request, her heart was placed in a gold reliquary(a $10 word for “relic container”)

For my french scholars, here is the inscription:

En ce petit vaisseau
De fin or pur et munde
Repose ung plus grand cueur
Que oncque dame eut au munde
Anne fut le nom delle
En France deux fois royne
Duchesse des Bretons
Royale et Souveraine.
For everyone else:

“In this little vessel of fine gold, pure and clean, rests a heart greater than any lady in the world ever had. Anne was her name, twice queen in France, Duchess of the Bretons, royal and sovereign.”

A longer Last look at Anne’s Life HERE.


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Queen for More Than a Day – Part Two




DA BG’s faithful, who’ve read PART ONE of the fantabulous Story of the  The Queen for More Than a Day will remember that she made the wise (and possibly only decision) to marry the guy that had just conquered her country. He being Charles 8.

This union, for all it’s elaborate pomp and ceremony (and isn’t that the best kind?) was not a bed of roses for the young Queen.

Speaking of beds, she brought two with her as she was “installed” in the Kingly chateau of Langeais. Underscoring the fact that King and Queen in those days, were  pretty much that era’s Rock Hudson and Doris Day.

And, as you would expect, said King was often away on noble missions of conquering, capturing and enslaving. Which meant that even if one or both Royal personages were, shall we say – “hot to trot”….it just wasn’t in the cards.

What was in the cards for Anne – as, again you might expect, was producing a male heir. A princely one, who would someday become a kingly one. Thus ensuring that conquering, capturing and enslaving could continue.

Sadly, in this Royal Duty, Anne gets a big “F” in the heir-producing sweepstakes.

Of  her four children, only one lived. And only for three years. Felled by a virulent virus prevalent then. To which children were particularly susceptible. Measles.

When Charles died in 1498, Anne was 21 years old. And legally obliged, by the terms of her marriage contract with Charles, to marry the New King, Louis 12. One small roadblock. Louis was already married.

Did this leave Anne “free, white and (obviously) 21?”

Actually, no one word answer possible. but the exotic stranger from the faraway lands will tell ya all about it in Part Three of the Queen for More Than a Day.

Until then…..THIS may be of interest.


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