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by Fred McMillin
for February 25, 2000


Winery of the Week

The Nazis Are Coming!


Prologue

"Dad! The Nazis are coming," cried little Pierre Lillet. Twenty miles south of Bordeaux, father and son dashed to their historic aperitif plant, and worked frantically. Alas, the German soldiers spotted them, swept up all the cases of white and red Lillet, and were off.

So why were the two Lillets smiling after such a loss? In their haste, the Germans had not poked into all the trash which father and son had quickly stacked up to the ceiling at the rear of the small warehouse. What was behind the trash? Let's go back to 1872.

Grandfather Raymond Lillet and his brother, Paul, founded their firm at the village of Podensac. In addition to producing their original herb-and-fruit-flavored aperitif, granddad collected the best Armagnac brandy. So what was behind that stack of trash? The last thousand bottles of Raymond's Armagnac.

Pierre and my wife where the Nazis once strode.
The Lillet's little ol' shack in Podensac.

The Lillet's "little ol' shack in Podensac."


The story must be true, for on May 8, 1971, we were guests at the Lillet home. When the apple tart dessert was served, Pierre carefully opened and poured an Armagnac dated 1892! Absolutely the smoothest brandy I have ever tasted... and saved by a stack of trash!...now, let's see what the experts think of Lillet.

"Aperire, Latin for 'to open', is the origin of our word 'aperitif', that is, a wine that usually 'opens' a meal as a stimulant to the appetite. One of the most popular aperitifs is Lillet, best served on the rocks with a twist of lemon rind."

...Professor Robert and Kathleen Lipinski, Guide to Alcoholic Beverages

"A gourmet's cellar should include six bottles of an aperitif such as Lillet."

...Grossman's Guide to Wine and Spirits

"The Lillet's secret process includes distilling liquor from a mixture of herbs and fruit, mixing it with carefully chosen Bordeaux wine, and aging it three years in specially selected Yugoslavian oak."

...London Evening News

"Lillet is not available in all smart U.S.A. bistos, but it should be."

...Robert Balzer


The Wines

If you like white wines or martinis, try the white Lillet. If you prefer red wines or Manhattans, try the fuller-flavored red Lillet.
Contact—Premiere Wine Merchants, 1350 Ave. Of the Americas, N.Y., N.Y. 10019
Tasting—My panel gave a slight edge to the red.
Price—$12 range


Postscript—Zeus's Juices

I first poured Lillet for a wine class in l968. My handout advice is still valid. "Try a twist of orange rind with the white, a twist of lemon rind with the red." However, the last line of the old writeup is NOT valid: "The price of either is $3.50!"

 
About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

 
 


This page created February 2000

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