Merde de poule
By Musty Bunches | 12 February 2002
Chicken shit. We're not talking here about the slang term used by our American brethren for those of a cowardly disposition, but the real thing. Gen-u-wine, 100%, echt, merde de poule.
The stuff has many uses, fertiliser and, er, fertiliser being just two of them. But for all its undoubted versatility, the guano of your average rooster is generally recognised as being a Bad Thing for Beer.
Which is why the monks at Saint-Remy, one of Belgium's most famous monastery breweries, are getting a little hot under the cassock. There are, it seems, plans to expand a nearby poultry farm, bringing it perilously close to the source of the water used in the production of their beloved fall-down juice.
Not surprisingly, The Brothers are worried that the lovely pure spring water, so important to the taste of their beer, could be a whole lot less pure - and a whole lot less drinkable - by the time the poultry have finished their evacuations.
In this, the monks should surely be applauded for their honesty. After all, Musty knows a few large breweries who might have kept quiet about the whole affair and simply launched the new poo brew as an exotic flavoured lager instead.
Marketing, you see. There isn't a single event that can't be given a positive spin by an unscrupulous young buck with red braces, too much aftershave and the moral ambivalence of a Swiss banker.
Take German wine. For most European consumers it's about as sexy as Barbara Bush: sugary, old-fashioned and lacking in character. Yet now, in a classic piece of marketing doublethink, the British supermarket Sainsbury's has come up with an audacious new way of selling the stuff to a gullible population.
It can be summed up thus: German wine won't make you fat.
Or, as the publicity blurb puts it: 'The comparatively cool climate of the region where the grapes are grown means that the wine is naturally lower in alcohol, making it perfect for people wishing to control their diet.'
In other words, it's not ripe, it's not tasty and it won't get you drunk, but you've less chance of turning into a zeppelin. (Although this doesn't explain the less-than svelte dimensions of your average Teuton).
There is, however, another drink on the market which could give this Wine Lite a run for its money. It, too, is refreshing, low in alcohol and great with food, with similar complexity.
It's called water.
Water, in fact, has a few things going for it, not least the fact that it might make a safer present should you ever need to buy a gift for a Turkish member of parliament.
OK, so the whole "buying-a-gift-for-a-Turkish-MP" scenario isn't hugely likely, but Musty feels that she should give her loyal readers the info and let them choose what's useful and what isn't. You want a nanny state, go and live in Sweden…
Anyway, back to the story. Shortly before Christmas, Turkey's privatisation minister handed out a bottle of whisky to each Member of Parliament as a seasonal gift, only for some members to take offence and pour the offending liquor down the toilet.
This may have had something to do with the fact that Islam forbids the consumption of alcohol. Or it may have had something to do with the fact that it was Turkish whisky (!) made by the state monopoly.
Slightly more successful was the bottle of 1952 Malmsey, given to ex prime minister Margaret Thatcher by the Port/Madeira firm Blandy's. The excuse for this gratuitous piece of lickspittle generosity was the Iron Lady's 50th wedding anniversary, and she received it with her trademark 'rictus' smile. Even after more than a decade out of the limelight, though, Mrs T still provokes strong emotions.
"Shame they didn't give the old bag a barrel of the stuff and she could have followed the example of the Duke of Clarence," said one journalist sourly.
For those not au fait with Shakespeare's play Richard III, the Duke of Clarence is drowned by two assassins - in a butt of Malmsey.
Staying on matters sinister, Musty was amused to see the intention of Coca-Cola to obtain the exclusive rights to selling soft drinks in Romania's nascent Dracula theme park. The sugar 'n' caffeine monolith must be in with a good chance of clinching the deal if for no other reason than the marketing pitch of their main rivals, Pepsi, has no chance of succeeding.
Can you imagine the slogan 'Live life to the max' cutting much ice with members of the undead?
Nor is it just sad, deluded, gothic wannabe vampires who could do with getting a life. Musty recently caught a story about a very talented, but clearly bonkers Russian 'micro sculptor', Nikolai Syadristy, who has made a model of a brewery that sits on half a barley seed.
Quite why he has decided to do it is anybody's guess, but it does rather redefine the term 'microbrewery'.
Nikolai Syadristy would doubtless justify his madness as art, which is just what Mouton-Rothschild has been doing with its eccentric collection of labels for the last 80-odd years. Every year, Mouton commissions an artist to design the label for its Grand Vin. Famous names in the past have included Picasso, Warhol, Cocteau, Chagall and Dali, and if having a famous artist's work on the bottle happens to push the price up, well that's just a happy coincidence. Of late, though, the policy has rather come back to bite the big-name Bordelais on the derrière.
A few years ago, some self-righteous right wingers in the United States claimed that the tasteful drawing of a naked girl on the cover was a (get this) paedophilic obscenity - something which said rather more about them than it did about the painting. The case collapsed, however, when the French took the sort of decisive action they have become famous for when faced with market problems and ignored the whole affair.
For the 1999 wine, however, Mouton, has real problems. Why? Because the label is, frankly, ridiculous.
This year, Mouton has chosen the 93-year-old French artist Raymond Savignac (who must be in the advanced stages of Alzheimer's Disease if this effort is anything to go by) to express what it means to be a Bordeaux first growth.
After much thought, Monsieur Savignac has elected to capture the essence of Pauillac with a picture of a cartoon orange (?) sheep joyously kicking its back legs up as it expels the numbers 1999 out of its rectum.
- Is the ovine expulsion an oblique reference to the quality of the vintage?
- Is there any significance to the fact that when you lie the wine down to store it, the numbers 666 glare at you apocalyptically?
- And why is the animal nuclear orange?
Any readers who want to provide answers to the above are more than welcome to try. Those who can fathom the workings of the artist's mind will receive a monogrammed just-drinks straitjacket.
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