I'm a writer based in Paris. After graduating college with an English degree, and before moving to France in 2009, I worked in the wine industry for several years. First as wine director at Nancy Silverton & Mario Batali's Pizzeria Mozza, in Los Angeles. Then later as a sommelier at the two chefs' next collaboration, Osteria Mozza, which received its first Michelin star shortly after I left to pursue freelance consulting. (Also, full disclosure, in pursuit of a girl who lived a plane ride away, which doomed relationship would otherwise have been precluded by the demands of full-time restaurant work.) During this time I designed wine lists for clients in Los Angeles and Boston, and to make ends meet I sold wine for a terrific, if eccentric, importer called JK Imports. It went well for a while, until, when the aforementioned relationship tanked, I realized I was shilling wine for a living, with no goal in mind, enduring an itinerant, hand-to-mouth existence largely dependent upon the pretensions of drunks, and if I wanted to live like that I might as well just be a writer. Use my degree for once.
Here in Paris I work for a fashion company. Something else entirely. But as an ex-sommelier I'm utterly unreformed, and routinely make myself unpopular among friends and colleagues by doling out unsolicited critiques of the swill we get served in most bars and restaurants. At some point it occurred to me I ought to just start a blog, already. Paris is a wonderful city, but it's also the tourist capital of the world, and many restaurateurs and bar-owners here seem to take that latter fact as disincentive to serve real wines. (For a related disquisition on what constitutes "real" wine for me, see here.) As Ford Maddox Ford, legendary blowhard, once said, "The primary responsibility of a wine is to be red." The sentiment is typical of your average undiscriminating drinker, tourist or native, for whom you would by no means open, say, the Corton-Charlemagne.
NOT DRINKING POISON is not, however, borne out of frustration that I can't drink Grand Cru Burgundy at every meal and with my breakfast cereal. Rather it's intended to combat a kind of minor depression, that which I feel whenever I'm sat at a lovely café on a gorgeous evening in a city of astonishing beauty, and it's fashion week and spindly Slav models are ornamenting every corner bar, and instead of a glass of wine I must lump for a beer, since the wine itself - unlike the the evening, the city, or the models even - is anti-real, just cynical machine-harvested dreck, a down-payment on a future headache. It's depressing to see half the city just coast on atmosphere, unwilling to put in the minimal thought or effort it takes to present honest wines. NOT DRINKING POISON is partly a guide to the other half of the city, to the restaurateurs and bar-owners who care about what they do. Then, since I no longer have any wine lists to play with, this blog also serves as a kind of a public clothesline for my own aesthetics of wine, all the thoughts, musings, and eventual convictions that go into my daily effort - it is an effort, if a small one - to not drink poison in Paris.
- Aaron Ayscough