Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Gaffe Of The Year

I posted about forgetting the name of Belgian brewer Cantillon, but that was nothing compared to the fool I made of myself in Paris last summer.  Paris in July is hot and the sun does not set until after 10:00 pm.  After a day of walking in the heat and waiting in long lines in under air-conditioned museums, we wanted a crisp white wine to accompany the bread cheese we picked up on the way back to our hotel.   The thought of resting our tired feet with some snacks and wine while people watching from the hotel balcony seemed just the right segue before our dinner quest.  I just need to get the wine.  Lucky for me the wonderful Left Bank wine shop La Derniére Goutte was right around the corner from our hotel. 

I know enough about wines to know I don't know much, and when it comes to French wine my knowledge is elementary.  I know Red Bordeauxs and Champagne - who doesn't.  I know Red Burgundies are made with Pinot Noir grapes and White Burgundies are made with Chardonnay grapes.  Finally, I know the reds of Southern France use the Syrah grape, among others.  Yes, my knowledge of French wine fits in three simple sentences.

I walked into La Derniére Goutte and milled around reading labels (er, checking price tags) as if I could pick a good bottle from just looking at the pictures.   I was hot, tired and in a hurry, and not in the mood for a wine I didn't know.  I wanted a simple white wine, a White Burgundy with the familiar Chardonnay grape.  When the woman working at the shop was free of the other customer, I went up and asked if she could recommend a nice White Zinfandel.

White Zinfandel!  In Paris!  I had just asked for help finding a bottle of White Zinfandel instead of White Burgundy!  This was akin to going into a Stone World Bistro Bistro or a Toronado and asking for a Bud Light Lime-A-Rita.  I tried to quickly correct my wine crime, but my ignorance was unleashed.  The store was suddenly quiet.  The other customers, a pretentious couple from Texas who had just placed a Texan-sized wine order for shipment back to the Lone Star Sate, whipped their heads around and a small, smirk spread across the man's face.  The saleswoman held up a dismissive hand and told my she'd never heard of White Zinfandel, but her aghast look was a sure sign she had (turns out she was an American from California who now lives in Paris, so of course she dang well knew White Zinfandel and its reputation.)

I quickly repeated "White Burgundy, White Burgundy," several times correcting my error and tried to crack an awkward joke to recover some level of respect and credibility.  I did not.

Rather than treat me like a complete rube and recommend glorified vinegar, the saleswoman took pity on me and suggested a lovely Chablis (also made with Chardonnay grapes) that was delicious.    I'm no stranger to foolishness, but this gaffe has stuck with me.  I should asked for help finding a Rosé, even I couldn't have jumbled that simple name.

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