Frederic Beigbeder: 'Wine is a good excuse to meet other people'
Frederic Beigbeder: 'Wine is a good excuse to meet other people'

Frederic Beigbeder: 'Wine is a good excuse to meet other people'

Olga Bebekina

Author

26 February 2021

The editor of SWN, Olga Bebekina, discusses with Frederic his favorite Bordeaux wine, his private cellar, and his own brand of vodka.

I know you are a big fan of Bordeaux wine. What exactly do you love about it?

My family comes from the south of France, and my grandfather had a wine cellar with all Bordeaux grand crus. When I grew up, I started tasting old great Bordeaux wine. I was very lucky to have access to these incredible wines. When you have gotten used to tasting the best, it is difficult to switch to something else. I tried wines of Italy, Argentina, South Africa, California – but for me wine is Bordeaux. It is rich but not too much, it doesn’t have too much alcohol, and it is very complex.


It also reminds me of childhood and the castle of my grandpa. I come from an aristocratic family, but I don’t define myself as aristocrat because my name is Beigbeder. But my grandfather was Chasteigner de La Rocheposay, and he had a certain way of life. Drinking Bordeaux makes me a part of my family and their art of living. This is the last connection I have to my ancestors.

© Olga Litmanova

Do you remember trying any particular chateaux?

I remember Haut-Brion 1976. That year was extremely hot and the vintage was especially great. It was one of the best wines in my life. For the first time I discovered wine as an art. Each wine is different and each year of wine is different. So drinking Haut-Brion 1976 was like drinking history, the story of the place. As a novelist, I love the idea of drinking something that tells you a story. Every glass is like a poetry. For sure, there is a link between drinking and writing, but also drinking and imagining things. Charles Baudelaire wrote: “Always be drunk.” Well, I understand what he meant.

Do you agree with him?

I remember how shocked I was when we studied Baudelaire’s “Get Drunk” in school. The teacher said that you have to be drunk. I looked at him as if he was crazy. Now I understand the meaning. When you are drunk, you are free, you can imagine, create, escape reality. The goal of literature, and art in general, is to escape from reality, or observe reality from another point of view – the same with wine.

© Olga Litmanova

Have you been drinking while writing?

No, if I start I would not stop. Sometimes when I drink wine, an idea comes to me and I start to write. But I prefer to work with a clear mind. It is good to have a glass of white wine, light and dry – it can help you to be less shy. But if you drink too much, you will think you are a genius. And a writer should be severe with himself. A couple of times I wrote good pages when I was totally drunk. But more often, the next morning you realize that it is a piece of shit.

Which wines do you keep in your wine cellar?

I have many bottles of 1999, because it is the year of my daughter’s birth. Château Léoville-Barton, Chateau de Sales, Gruaud-Larose … different Bordeaux wine. It is the time to drink it, but I am keeping it for her wedding – even though she doesn’t want to get married. I hope the wine will still be alive when she changes her mind.

© Olga Litmanova

Have you ever thought about making wine under your name?

No, it is a mysterious process for me. Once I collaborated with Château Chasse-Spleen. Every year they ask one writer to create a sentence for the new vintage. In 2014 Chasse-Spleen asked me. I wrote: “The hunter of spleen ends by collecting trophies of melancholy.” Every year since then they send me 12 bottles. Not bad, right? Last June my brother and I released a brand of organic vodka: Le Philtre. The bottle is a piece of art, and the glass is 100% recycled. So it’s an eco-friendly product.

Why vodka?

My parents drank whisky, my daughter loves gin – but I prefer vodka. Twenty years ago everybody was drinking vodka at crazy parties. I can drink gin or anything else, but I always go back to the simplicity and purity of vodka.

© Olga Litmanova

Which wines would you take to the “Eternal life”*?

I would probably take Cheval Blanc. But I can’t drink it every day, so I need something like Chasse-Spleen. I will definitely take Gevrey-Chambertin and Pouilly-Fume Baron de L De Ladoucette. It is really a classic, round, humble and noble wine. And probably I will take Ribera del Duero – it makes me sleep!

Is wine a socializer for you?

For sure – I need to share it, talk about wine. Sometimes I drink alone, but actually wine is a good excuse to meet other people.

*“Eternal life” – one of Beigbeder’s novels, about searching for ways of endless life.

© Olga Litmanova

Blitz

How much wine do you drink a day? Depends. Around one glass…ok, half a bottle!

Most expensive bottle of wine that you ever bought? Cheval-Blanc for 5000 euros in a restaurant in Paris.

Are you a wine snob? Yes!

Your favorite restaurants in Paris. L’Ami Louis, L’Arpege, Lapérouse.

Cover Photo: © Olga Litmanova.

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