July 20: It was surprising to see Mumm champagne being served in tiny coupes rather than the flutes and tulips at the Bastille Day celebrations at the French Embassy in Delhi on Thursday but I would have kept mum except that it was also the last day for our friend Jean Leviol, Senior Trade Counsellor at the Embassy who was leaving after six years in Delhi and I must recognize his support and co-operation in India for the promotion of French wines among other products, writes Subhash Arora .
It was some time in 2005 when Jean Leviol had just arrived Delhi and the Delhi Wine Club had organized a farewell dinner for the previous Trade Counsellor at the Diva Restaurant; it turned out to be a welcome dinner for him too. Therefore, I wanted to invite him for his farewell at the next DWC dinner with wines from Bordeaux. It took me a few moments to comprehend that he was going to Brittany the next day, not for a vacation but a permanent farewell. Jean Leviol had been an ardent promoter of French wines in India and one could see him at any wine show or event where France was participating including whenever requested by the Delhi Wine club or the Indian Wine Academy.
After the short speech by the Ambassador H. E. Jerome Bonnafont with poignant reference to the Mumbai blasts a day earlier, it was time to pop the Champagne- from whom else but the French sponsors, Pernod Ricard. One could hear the popping of the cork of Mumm’s which was acceptable since it was a celebratory event for the French-their National Day. What would perhaps not be as acceptable- at least to me, was the ice cream coupes in which their national liquid treasure was being poured.
From the size of the rather shallow, not-very-broad-rimmed glasses it was apparent that the eighteenth century Queen Marie Antoinette whose breasts were supposed to have modeled for the Champagne coupes (though there is no evidence, it is just a legend from generations) would have shed a tear in her grave, looking at the size of the cups-unless she was an A-cupper. Each coupe might have been ideal for a scoop of gelato but not enough for Champagne even if the embassy had planned to go back in time when flutes and tulips had not become the de facto stemware for Champagne. Recent trends suggest that there is a small move to use white wine glasses instead of flutes, but the ice cream coupes have never been in the running after their use had been generally discontinued.
Champagne producers’ body CIVC talks so much about the elegance and intimacy of Champagne and works overtime (oops, that may not be correct!) to defend the appellation but obviously not half as much to educate people on which glasses to use to keep the bubbles close to you longer and not spill the drink over yourself or the person next to you. Perhaps, Pernod Ricard would do well to loan them the flutes next year, and better still, with their names engraved on it – a bit of direct publicity hasn’t hurt anyone ever.
And we won’t have to be reminded of Mary Antoinette and her legendry remarks, ‘if they don’t have bread, let them eat cake,’ speaking of which, there was plenty of bread at the party this evening… and plenty of Mumm’s…
…and plenty of our good wishes to Jean Leviol for his next assignment