Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Vive La Difference

In the popular imagination every Provencaux corners his battered Renault as if it were a Formula One car while at the same time finding time to gnaw on a clove of raw garlic and cock a leg out of the window to enjoy his inalienable right to urinate in public.

But this is just stereotypical nonsense isn‘t it?

Yes and no - whenever I am on the point of concluding that the widely popularised differences between the French and Brits don’t really exist something happens that convinces me the stereotypes are true.

This week we visited an English vigneron - Rupert Birch - near Aix. Rupert’s far from the average smug rich Brit abroad who has bought a vineyard on a whim rather like you or I might buy Mayfair in a game of Monopoly. These former city types spend their days clasping glasses of “their” wine in manicured hands while employing a legion of Frenchmen to do all the work.

Instead Rupert’s gone native. Visit his cave and his eyes go all glazed as he eulogises about the Brillane reds with the passion of a Frenchman. His hands are calloused, he spends his days in the fields or anxiously studying the weather forecast. He’s as near as you can get to being assimilated into local society although I have yet to see him urinate out of a window. And yet it was our trip to Domaine de La Brillane that got me scratching my head about cultural differences.

Rupert was showing us through his extensive collection of press clippings - the front page of La Provence, a nice piece in the Figaro, and the wine column of Nice Matin - the pile of praise for his wines was seemingly endless.

“I’ll just go and get my copy of Playboy” he said mischievously and headed off to the anti-room leaving Tanya and I in bemused conversation.

On his return Rupert flicked delighted through page after page of nubile naked women - blondes draped languorously over sofas followed by brunettes lovingly entwined in each others arms. A Brit might have lingered over the arresting images, but Rupert behaved like a true Frenchman.
Apparently French Playboy readers just glance casually at the front page and then hurry to their favourite section - the centre page spread. What is it they are so anxious to see - Pamela Anderson in police uniform? Carmen Electra dressed as a schoolgirl.?

No the French Playboy reader is after one thing only - this month’s wine review of Domaine La Brillane. Vive La Difference!