France’s phone hang-up is a conversation starter

Smartphones have undermined everyday social interactions by eroding our ability and desire to talk to one another

France’s phone hang-up is a conversation starterFrench legislators recently passed a law banning children between three and 15 from using smartphones in class. The government of President Emmanuel Macron said the move will help combat an epidemic of screen addiction among France’s children. At first glance, it looks as if the legislation will help to curb screen addiction. Even if it…

Cognac’s global reach keeps spreading

While making inroads in urban American culture and gaining a foothold in China, the industry is also innovating its products

Cognac’s global reach keeps spreadingPart 7 of our series The Business of Cognac According to the Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (BNIC), the industry’s trade association, cognac’s three largest markets are the United States (78.7 million bottles), Singapore (23.6 million bottles) and China (22.6 million bottles). Singapore has the distinction of having the largest per capita consumption of Cognac in the…

Discovering Monet’s lifelong fascination with architecture

London’s National Gallery exhibit offers rare glimpses into the artist’s examination of the play of light on human structures

Discovering Monet’s lifelong fascination with architectureOne of the great things about being a retired museum and art gallery CEO is that you know most of the basic tricks of the trade. For instance, you can get a very quick gauge of an exhibition’s successes and high points by talking with the gallery security staff. So as soon as we had…

Cognac’s rise from a regional product to a worldwide phenomenon

Export sales drove the development of the industry, a feature as true today as it was three centuries ago

Cognac’s rise from a regional product to a worldwide phenomenonPart 6 of our series The Business of Cognac From the very beginning, the cognac industry was dominated by cognac houses that acted as intermediaries between the producers of eau de vie and their overseas markets. Many of the first cognac houses were founded by English and Irish entrepreneurs: Jean Martell was from Jersey, while…

Aging and blending create cognac’s extraordinary fusion

Part 5 of the understanding cognac series: The blend is at the heart of cognac and its formulation is the industry’s highest art form

Aging and blending create cognac’s extraordinary fusionAfter distillation, the new spirit is casked and moved to a warehouse where, depending on its intended use, it may age for a period of a few years to several decades. Generally speaking, cognac is aged in barrels made from oak from either the Tronçais or Limousine forests. The eau de vie is aged in…

Getting to the essence of cognac: the distiller’s art

Part 4 of the understanding cognac series: the deft hand of the master blender is critical to production

Getting to the essence of cognac: the distiller’s artAt first glance, cognac production seems straightforward. The local wine is distilled twice, aged in oak casks from a few years to decades and eventually bottled. In reality, it’s an exceedingly complex minuet where the subtle influences of terroir merge with the distiller’s art and ultimately flower under the deft hand of the master blender.…

With Cognac, it’s all about terroir

Cognac part 3: The environment, including the chalky soil, is everything when it comes to producing the right grapes

With Cognac, it’s all about terroirCognac begins as wine. Like any wine, it’s shaped in part by the environment in which it grows. Soil, aspect and climate, among other things, combine to create a unique environment, what the French call terroir. A wine, in turn, is a distinct expression of that terroir. In the Cognac region, terroir is, for the…

Cognac: A spirit’s spirit to survive and thrive

The traditional cognac houses have had to overcome grape plagues, the rising popularity of Scotch whisky, counterfeiting and war

Cognac: A spirit’s spirit to survive and thriveAugier, the first modern cognac house, was organized in 1643. Today the brand is owned by French spirits giant Pernod Ricard. It recently relaunched the brand with a line of cognacs said to reflect the early style of the product. Over the two centuries following 1643, many of the leading cognac houses, including the big…

Cognac, a short history of an enduring spirit

Part 1 of a seven-part series on the history, production and business of cognac

Cognac, a short history of an enduring spiritCognac is a type of brandy produced in the Charente region of France, centred around the towns of Cognac and Jarnac, and stretching from the Île de Ré to the Gironde Estuary on the Atlantic coast, to Angoulême and the foothills of the Mastiff Central. The Cognac Delimited Region, the exclusive area where cognac can…

Flu pandemic of 1918 brutal, virulent killer

One hundred years ago, a flu pandemic swept across the world, killing tens of millions of people, particularly those in the prime of life

Flu pandemic of 1918 brutal, virulent killerFrom the wet and windswept northwest of Ireland to rural southwestern Ontario, the flu pandemic of 1918 to 1920 was remorseless. My mother and my wife’s father lost siblings to an illness where death might come within 24 hours of first symptoms. And sometimes it was particularly brutal. Historian John Barry has described it this…

Debunking the myth of immigrant assimilation

Language, religious laws and practices, cultural and culinary traditions all function to discourage, prevent or, at the very least, slow down assimilation

Debunking the myth of immigrant assimilationThere are approximately 260 million immigrants in the world. An immigrant is defined as someone residing in a country other than their place of birth. Of that number, roughly 50 million are “illegal immigrants” who lack official authorization to reside in their host country. In 2017, roughly 3.4 per cent of the world’s population of…

Vive le Quebec libre, 50 years later

There was a swift response to Charles de Gaulle’s intrusion into Canadian affairs during the centennial summer of 50 years ago

Vive le Quebec libre, 50 years laterI remember the reaction to French president Charles de Gaulle’s intrusion into Canadian affairs during the centennial summer of 50 years ago. Astonishment and outrage are perhaps the two best descriptors of public sentiment, at least as far as English-speaking Canada was concerned. Being a new Canadian of less than two years standing, I didn’t…

Macron moves to the head of the globalist, progressive class

Staring down Donald Trump, and then addressing the American people directly about the need to combat global warming, shows a man willing to lead and inspire

With what should have been a simple and forgettable handshake, newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron showed his intention to be a thorn in the side of U.S. President Donald Trump. Meeting for the first time at the recent NATO summit in Brussels, Macron and Trump shook hands. Then, to the apparent consternation of Trump, Macron…

Did France put an end to the new nationalism?

If Marine Le Pen can rebrand her party’s new nationalist identity, she can still be a huge game changer in Europe and North America, despite her loss

Did France put an end to the new nationalism?In recent years, Europe and North America have faced a rising political force called the new nationalism. It’s a cobbling of right-leaning and left-leaning parties and politicians with nationalist, populist and anti-establishment views who oppose such things as free trade, globalization, open borders and modern liberal values. Brexit in Britain, Italy’s Five Star Movement and…