By Paul Ress
I was sitting in my favorite Geneva restaurant, L’Echalote, a few weeks ago. Suddenly I noticed bottles of a Swiss red wine on several tables. There was nothing unusual about that except for the name on the bottle. That is what attracted me: “L’Humaniste.”
I learned from the restaurant’s progressive owner, Philippe Nicolet, that the bottle was one of a series of wines honoring well known Geneva citizens. The “Humaniste” in question was Andre Chavanne, a leading educator.
On the label the wine producer described Andre Chavanne as “a determined activist who fought all his life for free education at all levels for everybody.”
The label went on to call Chavanne “a learned humanist who loved books and was passionate about the literature and the history of the sciences. Chavanne died in 1990 at the age of 74 in his library.”
The wine, a mélange of Gamaret and Syrah, was tasty and the label informative. I tried to buy a bottle for 14 francs (about $15.50) but Nicolete insisted on giving me one.
Nicolet explained why he was probably the first restaurateur to try to popularize Chavanne’s Humaniste wine: “My father Raymond was a close friend of Chavanne. They acted together in the theatre. And I was of the generation of his daughter with whom I was acquainted. So, it was natural for me to publicize a wine in his honor.”
It was also natural for me to be attracted to this Swiss Humaniste wine because for years I have subscribed to the Humanist magazine. I felt that there could not be many, if any, bottles of wine anywhere else in the world named for “a learned humanist.”
Paul Ress was born in the United States and lives in Switzerland. He graduated from Yale and spent 30 years as a reporter and foreign correspondent for the Paris Herald, the Chicago Tribune, and TIME Magazine.
To learn more about L’Humaniste wine, visit the producer’s website at http://www.cavedegeneve.ch/.