aviner (ah vee nay)
: to rinse one's wine glass with wine before sampling another wine
Avant de déguster un nouveau vin, il faut aviner le verre.
Before tasting a new wine, you must rinse your glass.
A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse
Yesterday we were late, late, late, to a very important Burgundian date! "Je déteste être en retard," Jean-Marc admitted, as he circled the car round the block once again in search of the exclusive address. You wouldn't know it by the neighborhood, where clunky cars such as our own were parked (where was the private jet landing and where were the Jaguars?). And the (abandoned) front office--which we would eventually find--with its modest table and chairs, would not give away this vineyard's forte: that of making the rarest wine on the planet.
Found loitering beneath the rain in the parking lot, Jean-Marc and I apologized as we were escorted, dripping wet, down some steep concrete stairs, into the subterranean tasting room. Almost slipping off a step, I was glad to have worn sensible shoes--and not the high heels that I'd wanted to.
Coming out of a dark corridor, rows of dusty bottles behind us, we stood peering into the sacred room, which stood, VIP after VIP, peering back at us!
Jean-Marc and I "sklunked" like thieves into the small stone-vaulted salle de dégustation. I don't know whether it was our lateness or a feeling of out-of-placeness, whichever, we were very fortunate to take part in this private tasting... having been smuggled into the appointment by a wine writer* and friend.
I watched Jean-Marc kiss Robert, then proceed to greet the others in the group. I followed my husband's example, planting two bisous on our friend's joues... and I kissed the next VIP and the next, quickly changing to handshaking when I realized my gaffe (Jean-Marc had only kissed those he knew, c-à-d, the other wine-makers smuggled in by Robert, characters we'd had the chance to meet last year in Sicily).
From here on we tried to quickly and discreetly blend into the group, which was currently being asked to "aviner". "Pardon me," I eventually asked, wondering whether it was wrong to break the silence... "but what does "aviner" mean?" I could not resist the urge to know this verb.
The man with the houndstooth coat and silk scarf lowered his chin and studied me, his eyes now perched above his glasses: "it means to rinse out your wine glass".
Robert broke the silence by conjugating the verb and so putting it to practice: "Avinons-nous, everyone?" and with that glasses were rinsed. Because I had no glass to rinse (having turned down the offer to taste the rare wines--I hoped this was not Gaffe Number Three), I stood and watched, awkwardly. That's when Robert handed me his camera. "You seem to know how to take photos," he said with a smile. "Would you like to take a few for me?" What a relief it was to find employment! I set off to capture the event, now feeling very much in my element.
But when the man in the beautiful coat and the low-lying glasses mentioned: "...photos are for your private collection only..." I nodded obediently. It was dommage to not be able to share these images, but I was grateful, nevertheless, to keep my job!
Driving home that evening, I couldn't help but ask my husband, Chief Grape, about the rare wines he had tasted: were they really that good? Jean-Marc confirmed that they were.
"Gosh, it must have cost ten bucks a sip!" I pointed out, only to notice the amused look on Jean-Marc's face. "Let's just say that each time a guest spat out the wine into the spittoon, it was like spitting hundred dollar bills!"
"Sans déconner!"" No longer did I wonder about my "missed chance" to taste the exclusive wine. I was just thankful not to have wasted one cent!
Postnote: In the car ride home, as Jean-Marc savored the wine, which lingering on his tongue, I was savoring another rare and precious commodity: my sobriety.
Le Coin Commentaires
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* read about wine writer and friend Robert Camuto, just below...
je déteste être en retard = I hate being late
la salle de dégustation = wine tasting room
bisous = kisses
la joue = cheek
dommage = too bad
sans déconner = no kidding!
c-à-dire (c'est-à-dire) = that is to say
Update! (this just in from Suzanne, a reader): I think deconner comes from the word "con" ... so it's a stronger and more vulgar meaning than "no kidding"! When I was growing up in Cote d'Ivoire, my French mom would have washed my mouth out with soap. I know it's commonly used, I say it all the time, but it's more like " no shit!" . " "Sans blague" or "sans blaguer" is what I would say...but I definitely cracked up when I saw "deconner"!!
And many thanks to Robert Camuto (check out his latest book), for inviting us to join the Sicilians in Burgundy! Robert will begin a USA book tour next month. Don't miss it! Check out this page for details.
In other books: Paris Café by Noel Riley Fitch:
In this droll, delicious little volume, Fitch and Tulka provide an affectionate portrait of the Select Cafe, one of those famous Paris eateries that have served as candles to intellectual moths--French, American, and otherwise--for nearly a century.
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This is our 15-year-old, Max. Behind him is one of our cement tanks, where visitors have signed their names :-)
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety