The NY Times has a review today of a new biography of Friedrich Engels (“Fox hunter, party animal, class warrior,” http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/19/books/19garner.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;) which portrays him as something of a foody and a wine geek:
Engels was proud of his lobster salad and liked to fox hunt. He hosted regular Sunday parties for London’s left-wing intelligentsia and, as one regular put it, “no one left before 2 or 3 in the morning.” On a personality quiz, three of Engels answers were: “Favorite virtue: jollity”; “Idea of happiness: Château Margaux 1848”; “Motto: take it easy.”
(Let’s hope he didn’t pair the claret with the lobster.)
His co-author, Karl Marx, apparently had more proletarian tastes, for the two reportedly bonded during “10 beer-soaked days” in Paris.
It got me thinking… what did Stalin drink? We know he was blood-thirsty, but what was his favorite tipple? And what about Mao?
There was a great review of this book in a recent issue of The Economist. Kind of made me want to pick up a copy.
That review made it sound as though Engels sacrificed and had a more proletarian lifestyle so that he could support Marx and allow him to live the high life? No mention of their tastes in alcohol, though.
I bet Lenin had nice tastes in booze. He seemed to be a pretty high-brow type. I picture Stalin as a straight vodka guy.
According to the NYT story, he was very generous to Marx but, evidently, had much to be generous with and probably didn’t sacrifice much, since he ran the English thread factory of his German family’s business.
I’m disappointed that you can’t help out by speculating a bit more, Greg.
I believe you’re right about the Georgian stuff, now that I think about it. Makes me want to venture out out Grand Wine and Liquor in Astoria to check out their Georgian collection – a wide range of sweet reds, as I recall. Wanna join me? They used to have a full line of Armenian stuff, too, some of which was good. And then there was the (gawdawful) Moldovan stuff. Really made you understand why The West won the cold war.
I haven’t bought as many lately, but Georgian wines used to be a bit hit or miss. The sweet reds, like Khvanchkara, Akhesheni, Kinzdmarauli, varied between awful and quite nice. When I first started visiting Russia I had a rule that if the host stated “this was Stalin’s favorite wine” it was invariably dreadful, sweet, tannic, lots of VA. Then I had a few good ones and started buying a few. The dry reds, like Mukhuzani or sometimes labeled with a varietal like Saperavi or Kabernet, can be thin and harsh, or can be quite good.
If you live in an area with ethnic Russian food stores, they often sell Georgian wines. K&L is currently carrying several Georgian wines under the Vinoterra label. They are very reliable, I’ve had the Tsinandali (dry white), Saperavi (dry red), and Mtsvane (an interesting “orange” wine, a white made in an oxidative style).
Moldovan wine used to include a lot of plonk, but made a step up in the mid-90’s when joint ventures with Western companies started to appear. My avatar photo comes from a picnic where the wines included a Moldavan red (I think a pinot noir) produced by a German-Moldavan joint venture. It wasn’t a wine to cellar but was quite nice. At one point during the 1990s, Wente was starting a venture with some Georgian producers but I’m not sure whether the partnership continued.