Our first two home swaps both took place in the suburbs around Paris. So when we returned for our second swap, in Fontenay-sous-Bois, we were much more experienced than we had been a year earlier. And among the many things we had learned from that first swap was a growing appreciation for wine.
That first summer in Paris, we had discovered that rosé was not some horrible combination of white and red wine, as we had been led to believe by the terrible boxed choices that were then still common in the United States. As important, we found that one could purchase wine in little neighborhood grocery stores—which weren’t much more than convenience stores to us—outside of Paris for just €2 to €3. Not just wine. Really good wine.
Flush with the inexpensive wine successes from our first swap, we immediately started buying similarly inexpensive wine the second time around, with an emphasis on rosé. We frequented the little grocery stores on the Rue de Rosney, a hilly road that ran from our home swap home down to the train station. And to our delight, we were initially just as successful. So we quickly concluded that any €2 to €3 wine we purchased outside of Paris would be fantastic. And we stopped bothering to keep track on which ones we really liked.
This was a mistake.
A week or more into our swap, some friends from the States came to visit. And after a few days of sightseeing, we took a day off, split up into groups, with the wives and kids heading off to a local playground to relax. The three guys—myself, a friend from the U.S, and a friend who lived locally near Paris—decided we’d hang out at the house and drink wine.
Having previously loaded up with inexpensive rosés, the three of us set out to be as French as we could be. (OK, one of us didn’t need to try so hard.) And a few bottles into this little adventure, I opened a new bottle and noticed an oddly familiar face on its label. It was Gérard Depardieu, the French actor.
After joking around about the pompousness of an actor owning a winery—and conveniently ignoring that director Francis Ford Coppola owns an excellent winery of his own—I took my first sip.
Something was … off. Enough so that one of my friends asked what was wrong. I spun the bottle around, looking in horror at the face of the French actor.
“I’ve been Depardieu’d!” I finally answered, to laughter.
The phrase stuck. And we now all use it to describe any food or drink experience that doesn’t live up to our expectations. But more important, perhaps, we learned something important that day, building on what we had learned earlier about French wine. Yes, much of it is excellent. But there are still some less desirable bottles. And it pays to be a bit more discerning about what you buy. Even at €3.