I’m not a fan of French wines. Er, let me rephrase – I don’t appreciate French wines. My palate for bottles of the red and the white has traveled as far as Napa (Chardonnay and Cabernet) and California’s Central Coast (red blends) but nowhere further unless I count the occasional bottle of Chianti from a college year in Italy. I can’t even name a French wine, other than a sparkler like Dom Pérignon. But maybe it’s time for a change, my friends. I’ve taken a sudden interest in a new Viognier… you know, the wine from the vineyards of Grey Poupon?
You read that right. Grey Poupon, the maker of Dijon mustard, wants to be a maker of fine wine as well. Described as “bright hints of spice and pronounced citrus” and “floral characteristics”, a bottle of Grey Poupon white “pairs ideally with charcuterie boards and sandwiches”. Of course it does, because there’s an infusion of crushed mustard seeds in every glass.
Mustard-flavored wine. Sounds like sour grapes, doesn’t it? Mustard wine sounds as appealing as the scoop of Goat Cheese Beet Swirl ice cream I can get right up the road in Denver. And if you think the name on the Grey Poupon bottle sounds fancy – La Moutarde Vin – think again. Translation: mustard wine.
I don’t expect to stock my wine cellar with bottles of La Moutarde Vin (once I have a wine cellar, that is) but I do stock my frig with mustard. Despite endless baloney-and-mustard-on-white sandwiches in my grade school days, I bounced back as an adult and reembraced mustard. The yellowest of condiments is delicious in potato salad. It’s ideal on bratwurst or a hot dog. And mustard wins out over mayonnaise any day on a ham-and-cheese.
For all the attention ketchup gets (for some reason Batman and Robin come to mind here), mustard has been around longer and comes in more varieties. In typical fashion, Americans first flocked to its most basic version, “yellow mustard”, before maturing to the spicy brown varieties of Europe. Mustard was created in Dijon (France) in the 1800s. Anyone who knows the taste of Dijon knows it’s a wholly different animal than the yellow. Why so different? Dijon mustard is made with white wine. And there’s the role reversal in a nutshell. Now we have white wine made with Dijon mustard.
[Trivia break: A popular brand of mustard in America is French’s. Where in France did it come from? No, no, no, back up the truck. It’s just yellow mustard. It has nothing to do with France. But it has everything to do with the guy who invented it: Robert Timothy French.]
We Americans adore mustard so much we built a shrine in its honor. The National Mustard Museum in Middleton, WI proudly boasts the world’s largest collection of mustards and mustard memorabilia. I have no plans to visit, but I do wonder if they’ve added a bottle of La Moutarde Vin to their display.
As long as I’m grappling with American vs. Dijon or mild vs. spicy, let’s address another challenge with mustard. It’s a branded color, as in mustard yellow. Sure, I get it – the yellow evokes the bright blooms of mustard plants. You’ll even find mustard yellow in a box of Crayola crayons. But what if you’re a kid in France? How does a French mom explain to her kid why his mustard yellow crayon looks like bright sunshine instead of Grey Poupon?
Grey Poupon’s La Moutarde Vin is a limited-edition product, sort of a “cheers” to the wine used in the mustard. At $30 a bottle, it’s reaching the high end of what I typically spend on wine. But with every bottle you also get a free jar of Grey Poupon. Okay, so maybe I have a taste for mustard wine after all.