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James Thurber: ‘It’s a naïve domestic Burgundy…’

Cartoonist, wit and fine wine lampoonist, James Thurber, was born on this day in 1894.

james thurber on Burgundy
A James Thurber cartoon

Most famous for his short story The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Thurber also drew (or perhaps scribbled) one of the best-known wine cartoons with its convolutedly ridiculous caption (pictured).

A wry take on wine snobbery, the cartoon was first printed in The New Yorker on 27 March 1937 and was later reprinted in a collection of his short stories, The Thurber Carnival, in 1945.

A few years earlier in the 1934 February edition of The New Yorker, Thurber wrote a humorous screed entitled: ‘How to tell a fine old wine.’

The great wines of France, he reasoned, were divided into three classifications: the ‘grands vins’, the ‘petites vins’ and the ‘vins fins’, the latter meaning ‘finished wines’, “that is, “wines that did not turn out as well as might have been expected.”

An excellent faux-guide to fine wine it is one of the lost gems of a gentler form of wine writing – another being Wynford Vaughan-Thomas’ ‘How I Liberated Burgundy’.

Subscribers to The New Yorker can view Thurber’s piece here. It is well worth tracking down.

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