Tuesday, 4 September 2018

James Joyce, Wine Lover

'Mr Bloom ate his strips of sandwich, fresh clean bread, with relish of disgust, pungent mustard, the feety savour of green cheese. Sips of his wine soothed his palate. Not logwood that. Tastes fuller this weather with the chill off.
   Nice quiet bar. Nice piece of wood in that counter. Nicely planed. Like the way it curves there.....'

'Wine soaked and softened rolled pith of bread mustard a moment mawkish cheese. Nice wine it is. Taste it better because I'm not thirsty....
  Mild fire of wine kindled his veins. I wanted that badly....
  Glowing wine on his palate lingered swallowed. Crushing in the winepress grapes of Burgundy. Sun's heat it is.'  

Leopold Bloom's burgundy in Davy Byrne's pub must be one of the most famous glasses of wine in literature. Thanks to Ulysses, rivers of the stuff flow through Davy Byrne's, especially on Bloomsday when the Joyce pilgrims gather there.  Burgundy was also served on the Ulysses Express, a Bloomsday train ride we took in Dublin in 2014.

Doesn't reading Bloom's thoughts make you want to pour yourself a glass of burgundy? And yet Joyce didn't even like the wine! When his friend Carola Giedion-Welcker told him that she liked burgundy, he asked her, 'Do you drink beefsteak?' (Ellmann, 1982 455)

One of Joyce's great gifts as a writer was empathy – experiencing (even tasting) the world through other minds.



'White wine is like electricity. Red wine looks and tastes like a liquefied beefsteak.'       

James Joyce only drank white wine, and his all-time favourite was a Swiss one, called Fendant de Sion. Sion is the capital of the Swiss Canton of Valais, so Joyce refers to the wine both as Fendant de Sion and Fendant de Valais. I learn from the Alpine wines website that the name 'Fendant' comes 'from the French verb 'fendre', meaning 'to split', which is what the Chasselas grape does if squeezed. A typical Fendant wine is fresh and fruity, with a refreshing prickle, and will be quite dry, with delicate fruit and racy mineral flavours, with hints of smoke and gunflint on the nose, and a touch of bitterness on the finish.'

Ellmann describes how Joyce discovered the wine in Zurich, and gave it a nickname:

'Several evenings were spent in tasting various crus, until one night drinking with Ottocaro Weiss, who had returned from the army in January 1919, he sampled a white Swiss wine called Fendant de Sion. This seemed to be the object of his quest, and after drinking it to his satisfaction, he lifted the half emptied glass, held it against the window like a test tube, and asked Weiss, 'What does this remind you of?' Weiss looked at Joyce and at the pale golden liquid and replied, 'Orina' (urine). 'Si', said Joyce laughing, 'ma di un'archiduchessa' ('Yes, but an archduchess's). From now on the wine was known as the Archduchess'.

Ellmann, James Joyce, 1982, p455   

It was natural for Joyce to think of an archduchess in a conversation with Ottocaro Weiss. Both of them had come to Zurich from Trieste. This was part of the Austro-Hungarian Hapsburg Empire, which was teeming with archduchesses.

Three archduchesses: Immaculata (known as Mac), Elisabeth Marie (the Red Archduchess) and Margaretha

'I cannot begin to give you the flavour of the old Austrian Empire. It was a ramshackle affair but it was charming, gay, and I experienced more kindnesses in Trieste than ever before or since in my life'

Joyce to Mary Colum, quoted by Hebert Gorman, James Joyce, p143

Here's Joyce, on the left, drinking the Archduchess with the British artist Frank Budgen.

Joyce (left) and Budgen in the Pfauen, by Budgen

Budgen has another story about how the wine got its nickname:

 'The Pfauen restaurant-café...was Joyce's favourite and our general rendezvous.... The white wine at the Pfauen was excellent. I never saw Joyce drink red wine unless white was unobtainable, and then he did it with a bad grace. It is one of the few things on which he is rigidly doctrinaire. When I asked the reason for his preference he said: 
  'White wine is like electricity. Red wine looks and tastes like a liquefied beefsteak.'
A Fendant de Sion in carafe was the speciality of the house. It was supplied by Mr. Paul Wiederkehr, who was a pupil of Joyce and also the inventor of that very drinkable temperance beverage Bilzbrause, now no longer obtainable, I understand, for love or money. The colour of Fendant is a pale greenish amber, and its taste suggests an earth rich in copper ore. 
   'Er schmeckt nach Erz,' said Paul Suter. ('It tastes like ore.'
   And Joyce, staring thoughtfully and with malice behindthought, at the yellow-tinted contents of the carafe, said slowly: 'Erzherzogin.' ('Archduchess.') And Erzherzogin it was and remained. Under this guise, or by her Italian title more affected by the Triestine Dubliner, this imaginary arciduchessa has had many a brimming cup raised and lowered in her Minnedienst.
  The waitress knew our simple wants, and supplied them without unnecessary questions and responses. First came the carafe of Archduchess, and then followed two Brissagos already aglow.'

James Joyce and the Making of Ulysses, 1934

Brissago is a brand of Swiss cigar

You can see a picture of the Pfauen restaurant on the Zurich James Joyce foundation website, where it says that  'Pfauen is now part of the Mövenpick restaurant chain. (A peacock sign is all that remains of the inn from Joyce’s time. The interior has been completely renovated).'
Budgen made this record in 1961
Joyce often mentioned the Archduchess in his letters to Budgen:

'Paul (Suter) was with us at the Pfauen restaurant where we did honour to the golden wine named by him who writes 'The Archiduchess' because....'

To Frank Budgen 19 June 1919, Letters p.126
Later that year, Joyce briefly returned to Trieste, where he complained to Budgen about missing the Archduchess:

'Not a flat to be had. Prices very high....No wine here like the archduchess....And as for Ulysses – it is like me – on the rocks.'

To Frank Budgen,  7 November 1919, Letters p.130

'There are in Mr Owen's room about 40 or 50 copies of Verbannte*. Could you...sell them (for yourself I mean) whenever anyone comes in and drinks my health in Her Most Excellent Excellency's the Archduchess's most excellent piss (Pardon! Fendant de Valais).'

To Budgen, undated (late 1919), Letters p. 131

*Verbannte was the German title of Joyce's play, Exiles.
August Suter

Luckily for Joyce, he was able to reunite with the Archduchess after he moved to Paris.  The Swiss sculptor August Suter,  brother of Paul, tracked down a Swiss estaminet on the Rue St Honoré which stocked the wine:

'Joyce loved Zurich, the Fendant wine that he drank there, and he used to say to Budgen later in Paris: 'I am dining with Suter tonight and I hope there will be Fendant!' (I was precautious enough to discover a supply of it in a Swiss restaurant in Paris.)'

August Suter, 'Some Reminiscences of James Joyce', Portraits of the Artist in Exile, p.63 

Thomas MacGreevy recalled visiting the Swiss pub in Paris with Joyce. They would buy Fendant there, which they would then take to Les Trianons, where Joyce ate almost every night in the 1920s. Yes, he used to take his own wine to Paris restaurants! He was such a big tipper that the owners didn't mind.

'The two men would go to an estaminet or small Alsace-style pub on the rue Saint-Honoré that was owned by a Swiss. This was where Joyce would buy a bottle of one of his favourite wines – the Swiss Fendant de Sion. While they waited for the wine, the two stood at the counter and Joyce ordered aperitifs - a Dubonnet for himself and a light mandarin curacao for MacGreevy....Carrying the wine the two would make their way to the Trianons restaurant to join Nora, arriving around a quarter to nine. The wine would be consumed with the meal, which would be followed by a liqueur.'

Conor Fennell, A Little Circle of Kindred Minds: Joyce in Paris, 2011, p 199 


In the Wake, Shaun the Post describes Shem the Penman (Joyce) drinking himself sick on Fendant de Sion. At the end, look for the urinating Archduchess, here named Fanny Urinia:

O! the lowness of him was beneath all up to that sunk to! No likedbylike firewater or firstserved firstshot or gulletburn gin or honest brewbarrett beer either. O dear no! Instead the tragic jester sobbed himself wheywhingingly sick of life on some sort of a rhubarbarous maundarin yellagreen funkleblue windigut diodying applejack squeezed from sour grapefruice and, to hear him twixt his sedimental cupslips when he had gulfed down mmmmuch too mmmmany gourds of it retching off to almost as low withswillers, who always knew notwithstanding when they had had enough and were rightly indignant at the wretch’s hospitality when they found to their horror they could not carry another drop, it came straight from the noble white fat, jo, openwide sat, jo, jo, her why hide that, jo jo jo, the winevat, of the most serene magyansty az archdiochesse, if she is a duck, she’s a douches, and when she has feherbour snot her fault, now is it? artstouchups, funny you’re grinning at, fancy you’re in her yet, Fanny Urinia. 171.12

The Wake is full of rainbows, and so the wine here has become rainbow coloured (rhubarbarous maundarin yellagreen funkleblue windigut diodying). 
if she is a duck, she’s a douches
deoch an dorais: parting drink; duchess; douche (shower)

feherbour: Fehér Bor is Hungarian for white wine.

The peeing Archduchess is easier to spot in the first draft (edited by David Hayman)




Fritz Senn in Dora Garcia's film, 'The Joycean Society'

Fritz Senn and the Joyceans of Zurich have always drunk Fendant de Sion at their celebrations. In 1968, Senn introduced the wine to the New York Joyceans of the Gotham Book Mart, where he'd been invited to speak:

'During the break, Joyce's wine, the Fendant de Sion, was served, as part of the ritual. Mind you, this was mid-June in New York, and the wine had been kept at room temperature and was served in Styrofoam cups. Strange looks were exchanged at the odd taste of the author who was being celebrated.'

Christine O'Neill (ed.), Joycean Murmoirs: Fritz Senn on James Joyce p28

The question of Joyce's favourite wine led to a disagreement between Senn and Stephen Joyce, the great man's grandson and administrator of his estate. In 1985, Stephen Joyce, giving a speech at a Joyce exhibition in Barcelona, told Senn they'd been drinking the wrong wine!:

'I was...blamed for perpetrating the mistaken view that Joyce, during the First World War, had favoured the Swiss wine, Fendant de Sion.  The correct authorised wine is a Neuchâtel variant. This, of course, has always been known, since the white wines of the western part of Switzerland...are similar in taste...At any rate the Fendant de Sion has become the standard for our ritual libations.'

Joycean Murmoirs p204

Stephen Joyce repeated the claim at a press conference he held in the James Joyce Pub Zurich on his grandfather's birthday in February 2004:

'Joyce preferred to drink a Neuchâtel wine (we were wrong about the Fendant); proof is that Joyce considered it a good omen that two blood donors for his transfusion before the final operation were from Neuchâtel.'  

Joycean Murmoirs p 208

In fact, Joyce only drank the Neuchâtel in later years. Here's the Zurich art critic, Carola Giedion-Welcker,  a close friend of Joyce from 1928:

'Wine played an important part in his life. It did not burdon him but elated him....The Vallois wine, which he baptized 'Erz-Herzogin' (archduchess) because of its earthy taste (erzgeschmack), and later the Neuchâtel, which he called a 'true Midsummer Nights dream', would always effervesce through those evening gatherings.'

'Meetings with Joyce' in Portraits of the Artist in Exile, p264  
Did Joyce not tell her the urine story? 


In 2004, to celebrate the hundredth Bloomsday, Provins Valais, the biggest Swiss wine producer, launched  'Cuvée James Joyce' Mary Dowey, wine critic of the Irish times, reviewed it:

'I haven't ploughed through Finnegans Wake to find Joyce's endorsement of Fendant de Sion, a white wine made from the Chasselas grape. I'll focus instead on the liquid in the rather flashy commemorative bottle released by Provins Valais. Fendant de Sion Cuvée James Joyce 2003 is a light, refreshing mouthful with a pleasant, lemony tang - not a bad summer buy at around 10.95.'

'The Red Baroness', Irish Times, 15 May 2004
Julie Hunt tells us what happened next:

'The idea was vetted and cleared by lawyers in Ireland before production started, to ensure that there was no breach of copyright. This did not prevent the highly litigious lone administrator of the Joyce estate, the author’s grandson Stephen Joyce, from trying to put the cork back in the export plan.
  After 18,000 bottles had already been sent off to the emerald isle, Joyce secured an injunction in the Swiss courts blocking further sales. Provins Valais entered a counter plea claiming damages. 
  The interim injunction was overturned at the beginning of June, leaving the author’s only surviving relative another 30 days to appeal.'

'Swiss winemakers pay tribute to Joyce'. Swissinfo.ch

Later, a Swiss court ruled against the Joyce estate.  But there's no sign of Cuvée James Joyce on the internet, sadly not even a picture of its 'flashy commemorative bottle'.

Budgen's charcoal portrait of Joyce in August Suter's Zurich studio in 1919

I'll leave the last word to Frank Budgen, from the moving obituary he wrote for Joyce on hearing of his death in 1941:

'I shall go to Zurich if I am alive when this war is over, and I shall take the No.5 tram up the Zuri'berg, and I shall stand before a mound of earth, but I shall not look for Joyce there. I shall hail him across the Bahnhofstrasse as jauntily, shortsightedly, he saunters lakeward. I shall bump into him as with coat collar turned up and coat belt tight he turns a windy corner in Niederdorf. I shall hail him: 'Hullo there,' as he comes into the Pfauen café, spectacles gaily glittering and a wisp of Ulysses sticking out of his breast pocket, to take his place on the other side of a litre of Fendant.'

Frank Budgen, 'James Joyce', Horizon IV, February 1941. 

Joyce's grave in Zurich, from Dora Garcia's film,' The Joycean Society'