In my quest to become as French as a pasty Northerner possibly can, and buoyed by starting a summer course at the Alliance Française in London, I decided to try and combine two of my favourite things: learning French, and learning about wine.
My recent trip to un caviste in Avignon made me realise that, while I can express a variety of wine terms and tastes en anglais, it’s a tad more difficult to be effusive in French. And if good wine has any great effect, it’s to loosen the tongue and make you want to discuss it. I needed an introduction to wine – essentially, a WSET-style book in French.
Le Vin C’est Pas Sorcier (Amazon, £16.62 as of July 2018, new edition) ticks all the boxes. It may look a little comic-like but give it a chance. Rather than being textbook in format, it actually tells the story of wine through Juliette, who is giving a party for five friends, all of whom know something slightly different about wine. Through meeting her friends, various topics are covered: service and hosting, tasting, growing and harvesting grapes, different types of wines, food matching and choosing a wine in a restaurant or for home. These are all accompanied by colourful, unintrusive illustrations by Yannis Varoutsikos – which are extremely helpful when learning the language, meaning you’re not reaching for a dictionary every five minutes.
The friendly illustrations and party storyline belie a pretty in-depth introduction to wine – it covers all the basics that you would in a wine course, and is very detailed and well-researched in each section. Despite all this, my favourite page shows “les aliments assassins” – the foods that kill wine. Particularly noteworthy for the illustrations of a zombie wine bottle (because of the killer vinaigrette, of course…) and a garlic bulb strangling a bottle. I know what’ll spring to mine when I next see that on a restaurant menu…
The cute cover and content may put off those looking for a more serious tome, but if that’s on the shopping list I imagine you already know most of what’s covered in this book. For French newcomers or wine enthusiasts studying the language, I can absolutely recommend this book. Just what wine should be – fun, informative, and with a different spin on the norm. And you wouldn’t find the “shoe method” of opening a bottle of wine in a WSET book.
The title is right – wine isn’t rocket science, but it’s just as fascinating in any language.