The sensual pleasure of Bordeaux
Manny Gonzalez (The Philippine Star) - January 4, 2015 - 12:00am

One: Drink some wine.

MANILA, Philippines - But not just any wine. These wines.

Look carefully at the picture of a wine bar dispenser, and you will understand the reason Bordeaux is on the map. Those prices are in euros – from left, Off (meaning Sold Out), 15 Euro, 25, Off, 35, Off, 25 and 25. That much money will get you, not a glass, but 1/5 of a glass, or say 1/30 of a bottle (two sips).

That makes the Angelus (second from left) worth 450 euros (that’s P25,000) for the bottle, the Haut-Brion 750 euros, and so on. Though they are not from mature vintages, this dispenser holds five of the best red wines of Bordeaux – Chateaus Haut-Brion, Latour, Lafite, Mouton and Margaux.

Up until about 40 years ago, these were widely accepted as the top five red wines in the world, with Chateaus Ausone and Cheval Blanc close behind. There are even more stratospheric wines from Bordeaux, called Le Pin and Petrus, but they were not in this wine-dispenser, probably because there weren’t enough digits on the LED display.

Since then, lots of great wines have sprung up all over – Napa Valley, Tuscany, Penedes, South Australia, etc., and it no longer makes any sense at all to talk about which wines in the world are “best.” But in Bordeaux, these are the best.

When you can sell wines for those kinds of prices, it is bound to generate a little prosperity around town – a practical example of trickle-down economics.

Bordeaux looks a bit like Paris, only cleaner and without an Eiffel Tower. (Thank goodness it has no Centre George Pompidou.) It does have a river. Plus, it has a nice, human-scale town center, beside a large park area which often has temporary attractions like fairs.

As far back as Eleanor of Aquitaine (1100 AD or so), the vineyards made Bordeaux (town and region) a pretty flush place, and the merchants of Bordeaux among the fattest in Europe.

In the 1700s and 1800s, Bordeaux got a further boost, which you will understand better if you look at the map.

Bordeaux is more or less the western-most part of France, very close to Spain, and on the sea (“au Bord d’Eau”), i.e. the Atlantic Ocean. When France acquired overseas colonies, especially in the West Indies and Africa, Bordeaux became the major port of transshipment for the colonial trade, which by the way was largely composed of slaves in one direction, and sugar in the other.

And that’s all that ever happened in Bordeaux.

Two: Find and use a pissoir

Once upon a time, there were pissoirs (piss-wahr) all over Paris.

The function of a pissoir, in case it is not immediately evident, is to hide a person who is pissing. It is a kind of public bathroom for the unself-conscious, available to both men and women, but for some reason women never liked them much.

The pissoirs are gone from Paris, and they have been replaced by electrically-operated monstrosities which let you do both #1 and #2. Unlike the old models, which could turn over one pisser every 30 seconds or so, the new-fangled ones were designed by imbeciles: After the previous occupant leaves, the next in line has to wait five minutes while the machine washes itself; queues build up very quickly.

The practical Bordelais (people of Bordeaux) do not go for the effete electric doodads of their Parisian confreres, and have come up with a minimalist approach to the subject.

A Bordeaux pissoir, elegant in its simplicity, can accommodate two users at a time, and has a customer-throughput capacity many times greater than a Paris public toilet.

Try one; you’ll find it functional and esthetically pleasing, a genuine sensual delight.

Three: Appreciate fine art

And on the subject of esthetically pleasing...

It is true that Paris has the Louvre, the Rodin, the Orangerie, the Orsay and the Marmottan. Bordeaux’s answer to all of those is its Museum of Fine Arts (Beaux Arts). This worthy municipal museum has no Winged Victory, no Soleil Levant, no Thinker, no Water Lilies.

But Bordeaux has many fine examples of Impressionist and neo-Classical works, and Bordeaux has – Rolla.

Technically, Rolla is owned by the Musee d’Orsay in Paris, but for reasons unexplained it is on apparently permanent loan to the Bordeaux Beaux Arts. So, if you want to see what, in my humble opinion, is The Most Erotic Work of Art, in Any Medium, by Any Artist, of Any Era, in Any Museum in the World, you have to go to Bordeaux, as I did.

This 1878 work is by Henri Gervex, whom you’ve probably never heard of. Rolla is the guy by the window. He is supposedly about to commit suicide. Marion, on the bed, is not about to commit suicide. In fact, Marion looks pretty darn satisfied with life. This is all from some poem, written 50 years before Gervex did the painting. Conclusion: Rolla is an idiot.

In 1878 Gervex submitted the painting for inclusion in the Paris Salon (an annual event which artists fought tooth and nail to get into), and it was brutally rejected by the Salon Selection Committee on the grounds that it was “immoral.”

As the committee reportedly elaborated, it is not the painting itself but the story it tells that is immoral. Perhaps most true connoisseurs of Fine Art will agree with the Salon Committee that this picture is immoral. All of Paris seemed to have agreed, too: when Gervex found a private gallery to display it in, the lines went around the block, and lasted months. And, immoral though it may be, it is nonetheless fine art.

A BORDEAUX ALL OF PARIS ANY ARTIST ANY ERA ANY MEDIUM ANY MUSEUM BORDEAUX GERVEX PARIS ROLLA
  • Latest
  • Trending
Latest
Recommended
Are you sure you want to log out?
X
Login

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

FORGOT PASSWORD?
SIGN IN
or sign in with