The hottest drink among French wine-and-food freaks this summer? It’s not an Aperol spritz or a rosé. Instead, it’s a wine long seen as fit for peasants only: rhubarb wine, such as Michel Moine’s, which is currently being served for 60 euros a bottle at the Hôtel de Crillon bar.
Forty years ago, Moine, who owns a pig-and-cattle farm in the Vosges Mountains, east of Paris, was looking for a way to diversify his crops. He tried to buy endive from a dealer in Belgium, but he was sold out; instead, Moine bought 400 rhubarb plants from a farmer looking to get out of the business.
Four years later, he decided to make wine with it, using his grandmother’s recipe. Created as an inexpensive alternative to grape wine, the rhubarb varietal has been popular with farmers and laborers for centuries.
“We made two barrels in 1989, but it was too much for [our family], so we tried selling it.”
At first Moine took his bottles to local wine fairs, but before long he was invited to tastings and wine exhibitions in France and abroad.
“The experts say our wine is magnificent,” the 70-year-old Moine says. His sons and grandsons now run the business and produce six varieties of their vin de rhubarbe, including a dry white to be paired with fish, and a sweet white to be paired with foie gras.
And while the crowd at the Crillon isn’t likely to care, rhubarb wine has one other advantage over grape wine: an open bottle can last three weeks in your refrigerator.