Tue | Sep 19, 2017

Embassy of France mix culture through the senses

Published:Wednesday | November 23, 2016 | 11:00 AMMarcia Rowe
Thalia Lyn
Judy Macmillan stands with her favourite work of art.
Ambassador Despax (left) sharing with his guests.
Rickie Sterling on keyboard. Above him is a painting by Judy Macmillan.
Brian Heap and Mr Issa.
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There was a massive turnout for one of France's intriguing cultural experiences - the Beaujolais Nouveau party, at the Ambassador's residence in Kingston 6.

It was a pleasant experience as the French Ambassador to Jamaica, Jean-Michel Despax and wife Line Despax, complemented their French tradition with a display of Jamaican artworks and live music.

On the heels of a successful staging of Christina Stiebel's art exhibition as well as the Beaujolais Nouveau Party in 2015, Ambassador Despax and Mrs Despax, who also paints, decided to have a repeat of both events in 2016. This year, both events have been combined.

In so doing, they carried out their mantra of bringing together a mix of people. This year the plan was to engage three of their senses, "tasting the wine, cheese and ham, view the painting and the third is hearing the music."

"We see it as a way of reflecting what we call the republic in France: republic of equality, fraternity, liberty. And so you have a lot of different kind of people from culture, education, business, media and people from various places in Jamaica. Some come for the Beaujolais and discover the paintings; some come for the paintings and discover the Beaujolais. It's a good mix. Also it is appealing to all the senses," ambassador Despax told The Gleaner.

Rickie Sterling on keyboard, provided the music amid chatter, while Judy MacMillan exhibited works of landscapes and human beings, from 1968 to present. Patrons viewed, questioned and hopefully purchased, but no display was more pronounced than plates with bread, ham and cheese and wine glasses, boasting Beaujolais. So what is Beaujolais?

Beaujolais in Burgundy, is the name of the wine and a region in France. And in a clever marketing strategy, has given rise to the one-day phenomena on that began several decades ago.

"The wine is a new wine; the grapes are harvested in Beaujolais in the Burgundy region in September. It was elevated and bottled in October and in a tradition that existed for 60 years, on the third Thursday of November, one week before Thanksgiving in the US, we open the first bottle of the Beaujolais all around the world," Ambassador Despax explained.

The intriguing wine party, starts each year in France, in a public space in Lyon, the capital of the Burgundy, at midnight. And with the ripple effect of corks popping is generated around the world, including Jamaica.

"It is quite tricky getting the wine to Jamaica, as the wine is bottled in Burgundy at the end of October and we need to have it delivered to Jamaica before the third Thursday of November. This year we had this one (the wine) a week before. Last year we got it on Wednesday, just the day before, and we were really worried about not having it on time. If you don't have it on Thursday, that's it. It is only one night, after that it is all over," the Ambassador added.

He further explained that the wine is always served with cheese "and what we call charcuterie 'cooked' ham." The meat is salted and put in a warehouse in the mountain. And over a period of time, the ham is cooked by wind and the salt. "It is good."

"You have to know the rule of the game. You have to know how you raise your pig, what they eat and how they are slaughtered. I would like to see Jamaicans and agriculture farmers following this path. It is a way to protect your brand and product. You did that with the Blue Mountain Coffee that is great. There are so many other products that can be protected in that way, too, for example, the jerk chicken."