France is the epitome of civilisation – the bread is so natural you have to run home from the bakers to eat it before it turns stale, strangers kiss each other on the cheeks when they first meet, they all use bidets.
But something very sinister is going on in their supermarkets, and not just in the cheese aisle, where lumps of furry not-quite-dead stuff look you straight in the eye and dare you to buy them. It’s worse. Wine bottles are disappearing.
At When in Rome we spend a lot of our time (and marketing budget) reminding people that the fabulous wine they drank in Italy probably came from a carafe, but there’s an even more tangible example closer to home. Box wine in France. When did you last go in to a French supermarket? Did you notice that almost half the wine aisle proudly displayed boxes? Yep. Box wine now accounts for fully 38% of retail wine sales in France, compared to just 3% in the UK.
Sure, some of it is plonk. But increasingly, it is really good too – take a look at Bibovino, whose top of the range wine box costs over €100 and who counts Gerard Depardieu amongst its fans (thank God a man who drinks 14 bottles a day has finally switch to boxes!). Whereas box wine in the UK was a passing fad in the 1980s (just like the bidet), in France it has firmly taken root and continues to go from strength to strength. There’s even an annual best-wine-in-box competition, which When in Rome has just entered.
Of course, the French know nothing about wine. If the Romans hadn’t have invaded and shown them how to make it, France would only be known for its temperamental bread and cheese. But if, like me, you quietly admire the French for both their joie de vivre and their savoir vivre, isn’t it time you tried box wine?