August 04, 2023
Dear Frenchly Readers,
I may have been a little late to this un-fun party. But the other day, my friend, the brilliant and addictive-to-read novelist, Christina Baker Kline, sent me a text, when discussing another writer’s missing sensitivity chip, that said, “My sister just made me read the wild Vanity Fair article in which that quote (again) appears–have you read?” I had not. It’s the one about the French estate called Miraval, or “miracle” in French, outside of Aix-en-Provence that Brad and Angelina bought and now have fought over in their break up. It was published in June. (People tend to send me French stories in the news, which I absolutely love, because I might have missed it!)
There were so many bits and pieces to this article that not only drove me crazy as a writer, but left me dismayed as a human: Brad and Maddox speeding through the arid vineyard on a four-wheeler and appearing out of a cloud of dust; the endless renovations and even more endless coterie of staff; Brad and Angelina parking their SUVs in the estate chapel; the notion that this would be the Brangelina French retreat/playground, ignoring, it seemed, not only 1,000 acres of landscape replete with history and natural resources, but also a working vineyard that had been in operation for hundreds of years. But more than anything, it was this idea that just anyone can suddenly become a vintner, whether they know the terroir or not, whether they know grapes or not. You can just buy your way into it. Which is, apparently, the way forward if you are Brad Pitt and want, suddenly, to make wine.
Now look, I am certainly no wine know-it-all, even after hanging on every word while watching Drops of God, the hit Apple TV series about wine that takes place in both France and Japan. But I am from Maine, which suffers from some of the same localization issues as France. We, too, up here, are trying very hard to preserve the way life should be, despite huge influxes of tourists every summer and more and more Covid refugees (a couple of which I wrote about in my new novel, Pete and Alice in Maine). But with wine, as with Marfax beans and Aroostook potatoes, I do tend to think that some knowledge of terroir might be necessary to figuring out how to be the best stewards of a vineyard. Not just for this second or the bucks you will make next year, but for the future generations of people, butterflies and rabbits that will also inhabit this piece of land.
Almost immediately after buying the estate, Brad joined forces with the famous Perrin family and started making a kind of rosé wine on his estate that was more typical of a Rhône-Alpes wine. They immediately jettisoned the history of wine specific to that southern, Provençal landscape, and even more importantly, the wine specific to that exact piece of land. And, unsurprisingly, with this power-house of a business venture he started making serious bank almost immediately.
Now, that same Miraval vineyard is co-owned by Pitt and a Russian billionaire who also makes Stoli vodka. (Angelina sold her share in October of 2021 to the Russian, enraging Brad.)
This whole story makes me sad and mad. About 1, 500 miles away from France the Ukrainian people are still fighting Russia for their independence. And now a Russian billionaire is cashing in on an historic vineyard co-owned by an American celebrity in a country neither of them has any claim to. I hope that at least one of these mecs has a true cultural affinity for France, beyond the obvious, and that one of them is interested in learning a word or two of the language.
The other day, I was driving my kids to Boston to see the allergist. And my older son said, “Do you realize people are the only animals on the planet that have to pay to exist here?” That really sunk in. And when I made a foray into the New Hampshire liquor store that afternoon, buying a few ingredients because Cat Rickman is teaching me how to stock a French Bar (this article coming soon and co-written by the two of us), I saw a bottle of Miraval rose on the shelf…and I did not buy it.
À cuisiner, regarder et lire çe weekend:
Ann Patchett’s new novel, Tom Lake, just came out a few days ago. I met her on Wednesday night at her reading in Portland and I am so excited to start her book, which is about a summer stock theater and a production of one of my all-time favorite plays, Our Town.
My neighbor, Adam, and I, both have birthdays in the next few days. So, tomorrow, we are doing some sort of hot chicken wing BBQ, envisioned by his wife, my dear friend Nora, who knows that Adam loves hot chicken wings. I have decided that not only will such an occasion need some sort of cold bubbly wine (perhaps a not-Miraval-rosé, like one of those, below, which Frenchly recommends, or a Piquette?), but it will also need this celery blue cheese and apple salad to balance out those hot wings.
Don’t ask me why, but we have started a Tom Cruise film festival in our house. Risky Business, Rain Man, Born on the 4th of July, Magnolia. Oh yes, and those little films, Top Gun and Maverick, too. Send me a note about what’s up on your screen!
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Caitlin Shetterly is the Editor-in-Chief of Frenchly. She is also the author of 4 books: Fault Lines, Made for You and Me, Modified, and the novel, Pete and Alice in Maine, which was published on July 4th, 2023 by Harper. She is a native daughter and she lives with her two sons and husband in an old house on the coast of Maine.