We had arranged to do the La Maison Fontaine Absinthe tasting some weeks back and were hoping to do it outside in the, what now seemed to be normal, UK sunshine. Of course these plans were scuppered by the first bit of rain London had seen in months - and when I say rain... I mean rain!
We made up the absinthe fountain with the Fontaine of Youth - an infusion of cucumber, lemon and mint and we were off. I love talking to people about absinthe and dispelling all those myths,
"oh absinthe, it makes you mad, right?" is very common when offered a taste. "Will it make me cut my ear off?" is another classic or perhaps worse still is the "you set it on fire, right?".
Wrong! the idea that Absinthe makes you mad was largely fuelled and funded by the French wine industry trying to get back on their feet after the devastation on the phylloxera crisis of the 1860's. Phylloxera is a bug that attacks the roots of grape vines and within 25 years of its introduction the French wine industry had lost about 25 million acres of vines. Absinthe producers moved away from, the now scarce and very expensive, grape brandy to using neutral sugar beet spirit. Absinthe consequently rocketed in popularity with everyone across all sectors of French society now drinking it, simply because it was available. And, as for setting Absinthe on fire? A total invention of the 1990's, I imagine that had any one set their Absinthe alight in the 1800's, they may well have been declared mad!
Still, you don't have to take my word for it - there are some really well researched and in depth Absinthe histories out there - on the internet I'd actually recommend Wikipedia:
If you only ever buy one book on Absinthe make sure it is Barnaby Conrad III's "Absinthe, History in a Bottle" - written in 1988 - before the internet, it's an extremely well researched and original work (unlike a lot on the internet). The only flaw is the last section on the science of thujone which has since been updated - if interested, take a look here:
Recently released is the film "Absinthe" - a documentary by Chris Buddy, again, exceptionally well researched and well crafted - it delivers a comprehensive account of Absinthe's history from the beginning to the present day in a mere 70 mins! You can see the trailer on their website:
We're going to have a public showing of the film in June, do get in touch if interested.
So, after introducing The Salusbury Wine Store customers to a taste of La Maison Fontaine and a quick, myth exploding, potted history of Absinthe, we made quite a few new friends!
Here's Jez and Adam, now huge fans of La Maison Fontaine!
We are planning to go back to the Salusbury Wine Store to introduce some more of their customers to the delights of La Maison Fontaine (and so I can buy some more of their amazing cheese and wine) we will let you know when. Meanwhile, if you're in the area do pop in and get some great wine recommendations from Chris or Mattieu, there is only one Absinthe you would want to buy of course!
The Salusbury Wine Store
50 Salusbury Road
Telephone - 020 7372 6664
If you would like a La Maison Fontaine tasting in your Shop, Bar or at an Event or any further information please email me at: