There was once upon a time, in France, a well renowned pastime of intolerance for anything American. We have not had that misfortune since the dark ages of the 70’s. It has been our experience of anything otherwise, as its population has in general passed into this millennium unscathed by its reputation and has moved beyond that practice of such prejudice with a growing worldly awareness and openness to those of the other lands than France. We have only found its gracious people going about their lives quite simply while surrounded by quaint and pastoral nature. Except this Saturday late in the afternoon in June of 2013, when we had the occasion to engage a traditional cellar visit to La Grande Cave de Pierre Laforest in the village made famous by the noble Chateau du Clos de Vougeot.
Waiting patiently for the sales representative of the vineyard, our host, to finalize the transactions of the previous visitors to the cellar, we studied with great interest the many bottles on display in the reception. We awaited the permission to proceed to the caves accessed by the stairwell at the back of the tasting room. As our host approached we gave him our fullest attention when he expressed in a most unusual condescending tone, and surprisingly in English, “What would you like?” I replied with some surprise, “Yes, we wish to have a look around (the caves) and then if possible to taste some wines” (the traditional precursor to a purchase, a customary ritual in the Vineland’s of France.) Our host’s perturbed ostentatious expression was promptly followed with this insulting and assuming statement, “You will only taste the wines if you are purchasing”, his eyes surveying up and down the detail of our choice of this day’s apparel and footwear. It was an embarrassment irreconcilable for my wife to recover and she asked justifiably that we depart immediately to pursue our wine purchases elsewhere.
When I returned, to give our host my card, I am a restaurateur, I asked “What prompted you to such rudeness?” His reply was immediate in regarding to my question posed in English, “What, I do not understand you?” It was a show of regaining his position choreographed for his presence before a table of three couples, French, who had just climbed the stairwell from the caves and were taking their places at one of the tasting tables. I am sure they were not asked if they would be making a purchase.
As I again departed to return to my vehicle, my wife saw the host step up to the door in her plain view behind my back as he made an exaggerated display of ripping my business card into small pieces that were tread upon in returning to his qualified guests.
I can only summarize that though the French have moved on substantially in their sensitivities and cordiality, here in the Bourgogne, we may have struck a double nerve in that we have a German registration (D) on our Motor home and we fly an American flag in the windshield. Maybe it was a lost in translation that he only expects this countrymen to support his business.
Just a few Km’s south were hospitably well received and thoroughly enjoyed a very informative traditional wine tasting at l’IMAGINARIUM in Nuits-Saint Geroges. And yes, we did purchase some wonderful Borgogne wines. (About 320€ worth! and we will look for those labels from our distributors for our restaurants.)
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