Wine is one of France’s most prized exports. It is the prime ingredient in the chateaubriand, the baguette — with red wine glass, perhaps — and the cognac that fills the biggest bottles at the New Year.
In France itself, wines are celebrated by the bierthier in a tradition known as parcours de parcours, or “box tasting.”
These tastings are carefully orchestrated by the country’s winemakers, who use special cellars to buy and store — even store in storage — specific wines. Each pairing is dictated by how they should be stored, and by what the customer is looking for.
For instance, patrons of a box tasting are looking for “warmness,” and for that to match the food they are eating, helping to coax out the fruitiness of the wine. Similarly, they will probably try a biodynamic blend of different regions. At the French house le Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, a box tasting is “rented out for three years, to be put into cold storage,” the winemaker’s brand director, Catherine Rauchenberg, told French TV earlier this year. A renowned winemaker, Philippe Laroche, said he used to know a box tasting could last for an extra 10 years, because bottles would become almost physically ill from being confined in a box for that long.
The vineyards use big, white crates in which they store the special wine. When the barrels are made for a particular box tasting, they are taken to the winemaker’s vault where a special wine maker practices cheese-rolling, or poulet de Bordeaux.
And then there is the Box of Mystery.
It’s made of gold, and about 18 tonne of the stuff are necessary to make one bottle. And it has been shown to last for 10 years, as the barrel will not leave the vault empty. But the owner’s name is concealed from the rest of the public.
“All the boxes are empty, without the name, so that the wines can be enjoyed by people who do not know anything about wine,” Francois Talias, the renowned winemaker, told the Courrier du Diable earlier this year. “It’s a secret that nobody knows.”