“Savoir Vivre” and the French Culture of Wine

In 1998, before Elisheva and I even dreamt about having a winery, we sold our flavor company that we founded 20 years before to a French company from the South of France.  After the acquisition I continued working for them for an additional three years.  While Elisheva and I had travelled extensively in France, it was only after I sold my company that I learned more in depth about the French way of life.  Having negotiated with the French for over a year and then working for them for an additional three years got me embedded in their culture.

There is an expression in French that I learned from my new friends and that will stay with me for the rest of my life. “Savoir Vivre,” which literally means “knowing how to live.”  In practice it is used to mean “ability to live elegantly” or even “the quality of being at ease in life.”

Wine has always been an important part of a Frenchman’s “savoir vivre” culture which is associated with a long list of important aspects of life, such as gastronomy, friendship, tradition, history, geography and the list goes on forever.   For a Frenchman, tasting wine can be a ritual or an art which is taught from generation to generation.  To many, drinking wine gives them a source of pride and a sense of identity which is an essential part of what it means to be French.

In addition to those listed above, there are other benefits of drinking wine. Undoubtedly, you have heard about the French Paradox: while the French consume high fat foods, they have a 50% lower incident of heart disease and a remarkably lower rate of obesity than their counterparts in the US.   While this is attributed to their high rate of wine consumption with their meals there are also lifestyle factors that contribute to this phenomenon.

First of all, the French are never in a hurry during their meals which for the most part are shared with their families and friends becoming a time for socialization.  While the French diet is rich in butter, cream, cheeses and pastries, the slow eating decreases the food consumption.  This coupled with relatively smaller portions of food served during the meal significantly decreases their caloric intake.  Other factors are, the levels of fruit and vegetables in their diet, lower consumption of processed and fast foods and most importantly their attitude of “savoir vivre” which is intrinsically connected with the culture and life philosophy of the French people.

Did I sound like a Francophile?  I am!!  Am I immigrating now to France?  Not a chance.  Instead, I am adapting the “savoir vivre” into my daily life.

Cheers!

Chaim