And so it ends not with a whimper but a bang. We cannot leave Paris without cracking bottles of bubbly. No 191 day EU Austerity Drinking Tour could finish France without value Cremant or Champagne.
For a mere €15.00 we find true, actual, not Prosecco, Champagne from Champagne, France (specifically the village of Buxeuil in the region’s southern extreme). Grower André Diligent et Fils created this Brut:
APPEARANCE: looks clear, medium gold, with medium sized, rapid fizz.
AROMAS: smell complete, with fairly intense caramelized pear, pastry dough, almonds, and musk.
PALATE: feels dry, with oodles of acidity, average 12% abv, and a medium minus body.
FLAVORS: taste moderately of tart lime, pear, honey, chalk and slate. However, they only persist a medium minus length.
CONCLUSIONS: Diligent Brut is just that, a diligent effort: good, cheap, tart, toasty, rustic, musky, and quick. There’s not much here but it is correct to type (3 of 5). Pairing sweets does improve our impression of it.
€10 gets us a bottle of an old, favorite producer: Gérard Bertrand. However, we have never seen his organic Autrement, Brut, Chardonnay, pinot noir, chenin blanc, Crémant de Limoux, France. 2009.
So can a hill called Limoux in Southern France compare to Champagne?
APPEARANCE: looks a clear, mild lemon color, with rapid, small fizz.
AROMAS: smell young and of medium intense lemon, apple tart, peach, and red fruit.
PALATE: feels dry, with a high but gentle acidity (hard to describe), medium alcohol 12.5%, and a medium body.
FLAVORS: taste moderately of lemon and lime, peach, and take a turn for the odd with lettuce, saline solution and light roasted nuts that last a medium plus length.
CONCLUSIONS: Bertrand’s Autrement Limoux Brut manages to be very good (4 of 5). Although strange at times, it challenges us and shows more complex character than the Diligent Champagne. Both are good. The Limoux is just more interesting. We will save the Vouvray Brut for last…
Aside from drinking, our last days hunt for free museums in Paris. Yes, there is more to life than the Louvre. The Petit Palais, built during a flurry of 19th century World Exhibitions, exhibits that century’s works for free.
Drama is high with writhing muses and stoic statues everywhere. Wine provides a veiling theme for this erotic, drunk, chalice tipping Bacchanal twisting among vines.
*ahem…”Bar tender. I’ll have what she’s having.”
Art Nouveau’s chameleon colors and materialism also enrich the space.
I get a bit desirous of an impressionist’s portable easel:
But down the swooping staircase we find another world. Collections of odd antiquities fill one hall. A crocodile wrestling drinking horn from ancient Greece must have amused a few Atheneans:
The Art Nouveau dining room, however, beckons us to luxuriate in its winding wood curves:
But free art is not relegated to museum walls. Paris clutters every urban inch with fantastic crafts, such as this oak tree framed door, whose branches extend like icicles into 3D glass panels.
Colorful shops abound, including La Pistacheri: yes, a shop devoted to pistachios.
Hell bent on finding more free museums, we stumble into the Museum of Modern Art. Intimate paintings and indescribably vast monuments to modernism color the blank white rooms.
From Delaunay to Art Deco, Chagal to Picasso, the museum shows a verve, futurism, and vibrancy that seems dead to the irony of post modern artists.
A walk down the Champs Elysees opens free museums to materialism with Mazaratti, Ferrari, and Mercedes flaunting their car craft (and me impersonating gull wing doors):
But we find the true gem of Paris on our last day. Musée Carnavalet: The Museum of the City History of Paris. Imagine, if London, Istanbul, or Rome, held a garage sale of its entire history in one day.
Rebuilt apartments, bedrooms, and dance halls jump decades and centuries as we walk through its galleries.
Items from the French Revolution strike us most, such as Voltaire’s desk, Robespierre’s hair, keys and pieces of the Bastille, Marie Antoinette’s slippers, Louis XVI’s last razor, or this militant room:
It all overwhelms us. But we power on. Even the Neo-Classical paintings are worthy of the Louvre. This detail was by Gérard.
Just past Marcel Proust’s bedroom is the most amazing hall from the 1940s. Silver leaf covers it floor to ceiling, which was then painted with something out of Tolkien:
But then we find a shopfront saved from the Art Nouveau period: G. Fouquet’s Jewelry Shop.
Imagine sticking your head in a Tiffany lamp. Every edge, every light, every screw, every backlit lifesize bronze peacock was hand crafted:
Completely undone by Musée Carnavalet we head back to Montmartre to pack for the last time.
But enough of the past. The New Year calls upon the present. Time for one last drink to the future.
For €8.90 we pop fizz from the Loire. This Brut comes from La Cave des Producers de Vouvray De Chanceny. It is their Brut Excellence Tête de Cuvée Vouvray, 2009 made from Chenin Blanc.
APPEARANCE: looks a clear, pale lemon color, with rapid, angry fizz.
AROMAS: smell moderately of honeydew melon, lemon, almond, and slate.
PALATE: feels dry, with unforgiving high acidity, medium 12.5% alcohol, a medium body.
FLAVORS: taste of medium intense melon, lemon juice, finished by medium plus length salted caramel.
CONCLUSIONS: In 2013, De Chanceny’s 2009 sounds too brusque, cheap, and uncompromising to be more than good quality.
Yet looking back on my notes, I mentioned “Has potential for aging. Too taut, too effervescent now, mellows in glass after an hour. Very good (4 of 5) in 5 years.”
Like this wine, we rushed Europe. We attempted to cram every major sight, sound, food, and drink from every city we could squeeze into a public-transport and budget-minded trip. 191 days of endless museums and churches blurred into anathema. We fought, got sick, and ended up hating Europe at times.
But that is why we love Europe. It never let us stop. A cornucopia of excitements still remains for us to find at some future date (hopefully with better shoes).
Thanks for following us on this journey. Happy New Year.