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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

To a lecture and wine tasting last night, put on by Alliance Française de Buffalo. A. has decided to take French language lessons, and learned about this event, which would be, she reckoned, amusing, or possibly diverting. We entered a lecture hall at Buff State and took our places. On a table in the front of the room were trays of hors d'oeuvres, and rows of wine glasses. In a bucket behind the table were bottles of wine. On a small easel on the table was an open, book-shaped box filled with glase ampules. In front of the table, a Frenchman.

We started late. The Frenchman, a charming fellow, proceed to lecture. Apparently there are over 500 classifiable scents, which have been rounded down to 54. These 54 have been broken into 4 categories by Jean Lenoir, author of "Le Nez du Vin"-- the book of ampules in front of us. My mind wandered a bit at this point. I thought about Magnus Hirschfeld. Didn't he theorize that there were a similar number of sexualities? Were they related concepts? Was there a scent for each, perhaps? What does it say about the French and the Germans that counting this sort of thing, and carefully categorizing them seems utterly characteristic? No doubt a Frenchman also wanted to to count sexes, but yielded the field to the Germans because they could not be trusted with scents.

Meanwhile our Frenchman talked about what the characteristic scents are for young wines and older wines from a dozen regions in France. The scent we think of as "grapefruit" is not necessarily what is meant by the scent of grapefruit when we discuss wine, because here we are used to California grapefruit, not the grapefruit of Malaysia. White and red. We had a brief digression into méthode champenoise. Then we heard a bit about the two sorts of Rosé.

As we rounded into the second hour all in the room were growing hopeful, but our friend in the front of the room was just warming up. Now it was time to talk about terroir, and soil composition. The audience was polite, but it was still a Buffalo audience, and I could sense that we were close to walking out en masse and going to Coles for wings. Finally, two and a half hours into it he announced that we were invited up to the front of the room to sample a Chablis. There were six ampules from "Le Nez du Vin" on the table. When we had tasted the wine we should sniff each ampule and determine which of the six wasn't present.

Then he passed some ampules around for us to try smelling. Then he told us he was going to demonstrate how to properly taste wine. I have never seen a quieter room so close to breaking out into violence.

Nice wine, though, when we got to it.

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