The lovely Mary Kay from Out and About in Paris recently visited the Paris wine museum and came away less than impressed. When I was out for a walk on Sunday, this sort of inspired me to take a look at Tours' own wine museum. After all, there's not a lot else to do on a Sunday in these parts. It was actually closed for lunch when I went past, so I went home, ate some cheese, blogged about eating cheese, then headed back out.
I had read on I think the official Tours website, either that or the website of the tourist office, that you could get in for cheap with your local bus pass. The girl on the desk had never heard of this, but she made a couple of calls and said that she would let me in for half price anyway. Sweet. So I think it was 2.50 instead of 5 - something like that.
The museum is just in one room, in the cellars of the abbey of St. Julien, dating from the 13th century - and very pretty it is too.
The church of St. Julien - it always seems closed and I'd always assumed it was ruined and not used anymore, but on closer inspection, although it was locked up, there was a sign mentioning church groups for youth held inside, so I suppose it must be open sometimes
A capital on the columns of the church
The back of St Julien's
Inside the museum
Remarkably for a museum about the wines of Touraine, there is absolutely no information about what the most popular wines of the region are, their characteristics, what you might drink them with, especially good years to look out for, how the wines are made, a map of the different AOC areas... !!! There were about 5 pages that looked like they had been cut out of an encyclopedia from the 1970s which listed the different cepages (grape types) used in the region, and that was pretty much it as far as information on the wine went.
The rest of the room was mostly taken up with display cases on such themes as "Wine and Religion" "Wine and Social Life" and "The Benefits of Drinking Wine", which mostly contained photographs of people and wine and quotes from the Bible or famous authors. (My favourite of these was Victor Hugo saying that "God only created water - man made wine".) There were also cases in the middle of the room which contained wine glasses and jugs and associated implements through the ages.
Luckily enough, I am rather easily pleased with museums. I would rather a museum that's somewhat on the ridiculous side and hence amuses me, then one which is very serious but also lacks anything of particular interest. (Of course, a museum with spectacular exhibits and informative displays is also good.) I would rather hate to see these sorts of museums all die off and be replaced with the type where you spend the whole time pushing buttons and reading stuff off computer screens and the like (not that they can't be very good in their place, of course).
Here's some of my favourite things from the museum:
This is a bowl for a rôtie, a traditional drink of warm wine with sugar given to newlyweds the day after their wedding. I find the eye and the caption saying "I see you, naughty monkey" (exact translation up for debate) a little bit creepy! I looked online for a little more information on this tradition and found an article (first page only available for free) saying it was a tradition in the Auvergne to burst into the bridal room and present the bride and groom with a chamber pot filled with a mix of chocolate and champagne, which looked disgusting (and reminiscent of what normally would go in a chamber pot, of course) but tasted good. Everyone there would share the contents of the pot. As I said, the museum said the rôtie was wine and sugar, but if there was chocolate in the mix that might explain what's all over their faces in the photo they had of the ceremony (plus that pot does look a lot like a chamber pot)
I'd love to know who Martin Bigo was and what's going on here. It's around the time of the Revolution, but that doesn't clear anything up for me.
I thought these were pretty spiffy
A stained-glass window showing the AOC varieties of the region (so there is sorta a map)
A stained-glass window showing drunken people cavorting with a lion and a goat. Hey, why not?
Only in France would:
A picture of Mothers Day celebrations be considered ideal for a display on how wine accompanies us at all our important life events
A picture of schoolchildren looking at wine be captioned "Desire" (this was in the "Negative Effects of Wine" display by the way)
Someone write a book called "heal yourself with wine"
You get away with labelling a photo of a breathalyser "Alas! The alcohol-test"