by Fred McMillin
for April 1, 1998

Brilliant Brillat


On April 1,1755 the little town of Belley (bay-yeah) northeast of Lyon saw the birth of the greatest gastronome the world has ever known: Brillat-Savarin.

...Curnonsky in "Traditional Recipes of the Provinces of France"

In his grand "The Physiology of Taste," Savarin lovingly describes their dinners.

Since English translations starting in 1883 were done in a stilted French syntax, the late M.F.K. Fisher was commissioned in 1949 to do a new translation, which captured the spirit of the tome delightfully.

...Dr. Paul Scholten, San Francisco

The Rest of the Story

I had a dream. Five years ago I sat next to M.F.K. Fisher during dinner and her remarks were priceless. My dream is that I could sit next to Savarin at one of HIS dinners. The conversation would have been sensational.

APRIL FOOL! One of Savarin's peers wrote: "He was extremely tall with a heavy tread. He spoke seldom and ate a lot." So much for my dream of a sparkling conversation. Apparently there would have been a shortage of words, but not of wine. Anne Drayton writes, "In Paris every year on his name-day he treated his guests to a wine from his native province brought specially in a barrel on the back of his old mare Babet." Hence, my April 1st toast to the great gourmet will be made with a grape that rose to fame in Southeastern France, as did Savarin, the Syrah.

The Wine

'95 Syrah, San Lucas District, Monterey County
Lockwood Vineyard, Steinbeck Station, Salinas, CA.
Tasting Notes—A big mouthful suitable for game, which is appropriate since as a judge in Paris he added aroma to the court with the game birds he aged in the folds of his judicial robe. Limited Bottling—1,650 cases
Contact—Jennifer Gould, (800) 357-9463
Price—$16 range


I have stood in front of the handsome, three-story house at 62 Grande Rue in Belley, birthplace of Savarin. Through the graceful arched porticos, one could almost hear the echo of his memorable aphorisms, such as "A meal without wine is like a day without sunshine." (N. Wemyss, "Soul of the Vine")


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 and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. 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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