by Fred McMillin
for June 24, 1999


Dumas on Wine
Alexandre Dumas, Born June 24, 1803


Pol Roger Brut  
"Wine is the intellectual part of a meal." ...Alexandre Dumas, Le Grand Dictionnaire de Cuisine (originally, 303 volumes), published 1873

For 4,000 years in China, writers and poets were gourmets. They developed a vast, serious gastronomical literature. In the West, a work on cuisine by a literary master would not be considered a serious endeavor. An exception is Alexandre Dumas's Grand Dictionnaire de Cuisine.

...Jean-Francois Revel, Culture & Cuisine

Alexandre Dumas, the enormous half-Negro literary genius [Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Muscateers, etc.] Wednesday dinners were the talk of Paris. There were always 15 places, for the leading wits and artists of the period. While Dumas chef prepared most of the dishes, the salad was always prepared by the master himself. They were so renown that some who might miss a dinner would send their servant to pick up their share of the salad...Though Dumas produced 300 novels and made much of his wealth from his plays, he considered his cuisine dictionary his most important work. Its 600,000 words were published three years after his death in 1870.

...Alan Davidson, Betty Wason

The Rest of the Story

Let's skim the history of wine as seen by this gifted giant.

  • "The arts of eating and drinking are not learned overnight. When Alexander the Great wanted to add the title of Gastronome to his name, he took his degree at Persepolis [Persia] and Babylon to be named Doctor of Eating and Drinking. The fame of his orgies has echoed down two thousand years."

  • "When civilization disappeared with the barbarian invasion, wine, The Measure of Civilization, disappered too."

  • "Today [c.1865] nothing is rarer in Paris than a Bordeaux of the first cru and a good year, because the English buy them all up."

  • "Really excellent are the Persian wines harvested in the environs of Shiraz [alias, Syrah] and named after that city."

    About Champagne, Dumas says gourmands were not aware of it in the 13th century. Then Wenceslaus, King of Bohemia, came to Rheims in May of 1397 to negotiate a treaty. He found the wine so good that he would drink it daily from three to six. It was all so pleasant that he dragged the talks out for two years, and Dumas says, spent a "third year resting from the fatigue of all this diplomatic labor." Upon his departure, he revealed the real reason for the length of his stay, and "the reputation of champagne dates from this time." So, tonight we toast Dumas with champagne. King Wenceslaus' champagne was still; our will be sparkling. The best my panel has tasted in some time is Pol Roger Brut, Epernay, France, $34. For outlets, contact Odila Galer-Noel of Frederick Wildman, (212) 355-0700, Fax (212) 355-4719.
    Rating: EXCELLENT.
    See the March 24,1998 WineDay "Churchill's Choice", about Pol Roger.

    About the Writer

    Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


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