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Let Loose The Wines Of War

by Jonathon Alsop
March 2003

America's disdain for all things French has reached such a pitch that a quick web search on the phrase "cheese eating surrender monkey" yields 285 hits. This is no 1939 epithet: the French haven't had a major surrender in a good while now, but the phrase is in e-print only as far back as 1999.

Discouragingly, the same web search on "wine drinking surrender monkey" finds only two references, but this hasn't slowed down US Representative Dennis Hastert.

Last week, the Washington Post reported, the Speaker of the House was talking up an embargo on French wine as a way to vent America's anger at France's hesitancy to bolt into war.Drink up, soldier!

Granted, the French played a huge part in two 20th-century world wars, and it would be natural enough to assume they'd be up for another one in the 21st century. But Hastert has driven off the edge of his own personal flat earth with this line of reasoning.

The symbolism is pretty good -- this or that French proposal is always going to be something we can't swallow or stomach. But slapping French wine while it's also being buried alive in the world export market by Australian wine just feels too easy to do, and like piling on.

Most Americans don't need much encouragement not to do something they're already not doing, and damn few French people vote in Hastert's district.

Worse still, the Speaker came up with the idea of putting "bright orange labels" on all French wine warning it "may" have been treated with powdered ox blood. This possibility never seemed to bother him before, probably because it was banned in Europe in 1998.

Post-modern war is fought with new and terrible weapons: in this case, wine, and maybe some other gourmet foods.

Chateau de Flaugergues: delicious, unpronounceable, French. Until the war is over, I've sealed my French wine collection in plastic sheeting and secured it with duct tape, but first, I drank one to remember what peace tasted like.

2000 Chateau de Flaugergues (about $13, at Best Cellars in Brookline, Back Bay, and Wellesley, Gordon's in Waltham, and Fifth Ave. Liquors in Framingham)
Languedoc literally means "language of the south," and Flaugergues (flow-zhair-g') speaks with a refined voice. Although it doesn't say on the label, this southern French beauty is a polished red that tastes like it's blended from earthy mourvedre, potent syrah, and silky grenache all in balance. The result is a dense, multi-layered wine with super red and black fruit flavors up top, a base of bark and leaves, and soft prickly tannins everywhere. A fantastic buy at about $2.50 a glass.

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