The most common tavern beverage in France is wine, followed by cider.

France is famous for its wine. The clarets of Bordeaux have been part of a brisk trade with England since the Black Prince's day at least. The vineyards of the Midi in the south began with Roman colonists, and the vignerons of Burgundy are the most powerful guild in that region. Wine was even produced in the Ile de France around Paris, and was known for its quality. Those vineyards have long since succumbed to the pressures of urban density and no longer exist in the twentieth century.

Wine has a tendency to spoil, and old wine isn't usually as good as newer wine. It is shipped in barrels and dispensed when it is sold. One goes to the vintner with a bottle and gets it filled. The cork is not yet the common way of sealing bottles -- one usually stuffs a rolled up rag in the neck. The cork, a refinement to come in the next century, will make the bottling and keeping of wine a rather different matter than it is now.

Wine is commonly drunk with water, the proportions between the two being a matter of personal taste. It is rare to drink either one unmixed, although the poor have always had to make do with only water.

The apple-producing region of France runs from the Bay of Biscay to Normandy. Cider is produced in great quantity in Normandy and is even preferred to wine there.

Beer is not common in France except in the northwest around Flandres and in the northeast around Lorraine, near the German states. As a beverage, beer is as old as Sumer and was drunk throughout Charlemagne's empire, although these early beers were not made with hops as we do now. Hops adds a bitter taste and functions as preservative. First mentioned in 822, hops appear in Germany in the 12th century, Netherlands in the early 14th century, and England in the early 15th century, although its use was forbidden there until 1556. The European "beer zone" is north of the vine-growing region (roughly the 49th parallel), from England to Netherlands, Germany, Bohemia, Poland, Muscovy. There are already different types in the sixteenth century -- homemade small beer, luxury imported beer, popular cheap brew. A book by Heinrich Knaust in 1575 (Vom Bierbrauen, Erffurth) lists names of of famous beers and their medicinal qualities.

The Flemish method of brewing with hops (a "high" fermentation) was supposedly developed by one of the Counts of Flanders, Jean Sans Peur (John the Fearless), and the Flemish fondness for beer is legendary. Here in Calais, we drink beer with almost every meal, including breakfast. This region does not produce wine, much to M. du Lac's dismay.

During poor harvests ordinances were sometimes passed against making beer as it took grain away from the food supply. Under the pressures of modern living, drinking is becoming more of a social problem in this day and age. The making of brandy and spirits distilled from grain is becoming more widespread, the high alcohol content often being a cheap calorie substitute for bread, not to mention an escape from life's problems.

Chocolate from the new world was introduced as a drink to Spain in the 1520s, but it has not yet spread to the rest of Europe. It is a bitter beverage, seasoned with cinnamon and hot pepper and rumored to cause lasciviousness.

We don't yet have coffee either. Although its becoming all the rage in Islam, there will be no cafes in Europe until the next century. The first boatload of tea won't arrive in Amsterdam until 1610.

Beere, is a Dutch boorish liquor, a thing not known in England, till of late days an Alien to our Nation, till such times as Hops and Heresies came against us, it is a saucy intruder in this land..And now in late days it is much used in Enlgand to the detriment of many Englishmen...for the drink, is a cold drink; yet it doth make a man fat and doth inflate the belly...

Andrew Boorde in Dyettary, 1542
cited in The Art of Dining

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-c. t. iannuzzo & a. newman