Mâconnais

dsc_6922“It’s like licking a bloody piece of slate tile” quoth my father post-quaff of this Mâconnais. He seemed to intend this as a compliment.

dsc_6913The Mâconnais is a Southern chunk of the Burgundy wine region, known for producing value-for-money Chardonnay. This bottle (Louis Latour Les Deux Moulins Saint-Véran) did indeed seem reasonably cheap for fancy-sounding Burgundy under a a classy-looking label. Whether it constituted value or not I am ill-equipped to judge.The shop claimed it was “rich and powerful” with “toasty brioche aromas,” as if it were some kind of boulangerie magnate / French mafia boss. I remarked at first that it was one of the blandest wines I’d ever tasted. But I remain something of a philistine regarding  white wine—it may have been just too subtle and elegant for me.

In Against the Day, Yashmeen’s posse of Lorelei, Noellyn, and Faun draw a bottle of Mâconnais while convincing her to dump Cyprian. Page 494:

“But he makes me laugh.”

“Yes they are good for that,” conceded serious Noellyn, “though one does hear, more often than one would care to, this ‘he makes me laugh’ defense. There being laughter, this is, and laughter.”

“And if laughing’s what you fancy…” Lorelei held out one of the bottles of Mâconnais they had brought.

I personally didn’t find anything very humorous about the Mâconnais. It struck me instead as rather serious. But Yashmeen is a woman of unusual tastes I suppose. And perhaps I just didn’t get through enough bottles for the funny side to reveal itself.

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Apricot Brandy

Apricot Brandy Pynchon

Around page 718 of Against the Day, Cyprian and Yashmeen meet up with Ratty McHugh to discuss Yashmeen’s fear that she’s being followed, including by a “Hungarian element.” (My recollection of this passage is close to nil, but the Chumps of Choice group-read blog has great memory-refreshing summaries of AtD chapters—it’s a great travelling companion if you’re reading the book now). They retreat to a safe-house of Ratty’s, where we get this little Slothrop’s-desk description of the kitchen’s contents (p. 718):

By the unwritten rules of these transitory dwellings, the cupboards yielded a sketchy culinary history of those who had passed through—bottles of Szekszárdi Vörös, Gewürtztraminer and apricot brandy, chocolates, coffee, biscuits, tinned sausages, wine, boxes of dried noodles of various shapes and sizes, a white cloth bag of tarhonya from the previous century.

I don’t mean to descend into petty quibbling, but doesn’t it seem a bit lazy to include “wine” in a list that’s already mentioned two specific wines? Whatever, it’s good for my list. Right now, I’m just going to handle the apricot brandy.

Apricot brandy these days is most often a liqueur flavoured with apricots, rather than a true brandy distilled from fermented apricot juice. But the real stuff can be found. I used a bit of this Fütyülős Barack in the Tequila Zombie. As you might be able to guess from all those accents, it’s Hungarian. This particular type of brandy is known as Pálinka, and Wikipedia tells me it’s a protected product that can only be made in Hungary or a few bits of Austria. It’s not the only morsel of Hungary in Ratty’s safe-house—the Szekszárdi Vörös (wine) and tarhonya (some kind of pasta) also hail from the Magyar lands. This “sketchy culinary history” does indeed seem a bit sketchy—what’s Ratty’s hideaway doing full of Hungarian food while Yashmeen fears pursuit by Hungarians?

I’ll say one thing—I can see how the apricot brandy got left in the back of a cupboard. Authentic or not, I’m finding it a bit rough. The apricots come through pleasantly enough, but the alcohol burn is too harsh for me to really enjoy this straight. I’ll find some more cocktails to put it in.