Does anyone else remember when lead wrappings disappeared from wine bottles? Or am I showing how old I am (and how long I've been drinking wine)? In the eighties I remember first running into the aluminum foil and how much less satisfying it was to peel back than the thick lead-based one. But someone somewhere finally woke up to the fact that maybe lead foil on something you consume might not be such a great idea. I was sad, as I always am when something traditional disappears. (I'm kind of sentimental that way, but what do you expect from someone who grew up listening to James Taylor, Carole King and copious amounts of folk music?) Eventually, though, the foil came to seem normal. The only time you'll see the heavy lead seal nowadays is on a very old bottle of wine. We don't see those very often, here in the Casa Cutts.
That change was pretty minor, though, compared to the revolution I see happening in France today. Study the wine in my photo. Do you see what has replaced the soft aluminum foil? And the cork? Yes, it's a screw-top. A screw-top. Wine professionals from Australian and the US assure us that they are even more effective than corks at keeping air from the precious wine and of course they are never corked. But really. They are a bit tacky.
And the next sign of the revolution? The wine comes from a mountainous region not actually known for its wine production: les CÚvennes. "That interesting," I said delicately to the wine salesman in the Nicholas store. "I wasn't aware that the CÚvennes was known for its wine." There was a slight pause before he said "Yes, it's rather unusual. Some of our customers really like it." I suspect what they really like is the price-tag: less than four euros.
These cheap wines are starting to flood the French market lately. In addition to the wine-from-odd-regions trend there is also the bowing-to-stupid-Americans trend. A lot of the cheaper wines are now marketed not by their region but - gasp - by the kind of grape used to make them. Our local Monoprix now stocks a line of low-priced bottles that are labelled "Sauvignon" and "Merlot" and "Viognier". Mme Clicquot and the founders of Mouton-Cadet must be spinning in their graves.
And the wine itself? Well, it's as patchy as you would expect extremely cheap wine to be. The CÚvennes rosÚ was thin and almost metallic tasting. It was drinkable, especially ice cold, but I'm not sure I'd go back to it in a hurry. However the Sauvignon and Viognier wines from the Monoprix, coming in at less than four euros a bottle, are a very good deal. I wouldn't buy them if I was having a wine snob or French person over for dinner. But for the Critic and myself on a weekday night with a nice dinner they go down just fine. But then we are not difficult.