Let’s say you are lucky enough to find yourself somewhere like oh, I don’t know, Aix-en-Provence, in late-ish September or early-ish October. Late summer, anyway. There aren't really any towns quite like Aix. There are others in France as personable, but few as beautiful. You will be, if you're anything like me, (and I'm certain you are), sitting, at 7pm, in the Place de Verdun with a glass of rosé in front of you. You’ll be feeling no pain in Aix. You will have reinforcements of ice cubes because, when it’s warm, you like wine to be really cold. There is a dish of peanuts to keep you going until dinner.
The square is busy. It is lined with cafés and is popular with the Aixois. So you sit, taking in the excitement. It's 25°C and you're wearing shorts and sandals.You may even be fanning yourself, lazily. You're feeling almost as lucky as the young people of Aix and you notice something: they are dressed differently from you. The collars of their coats are up, their scarves are coiled cosily around their necks, you can hear a shiver being suppressed. They are in a different season to you. They are not, for the most part, drinking rosé and certainly not with ice. They have moved, as you have not, from the summery half of the year to the wintry half of the year. There is pastis, of course – there is always pastis – but on the tables and in people’s hands are gins and tonics, bottles of deep red wine and cups of hot chocolate.
Aren't we lucky, us northerners. Northern Europeans, I mean. If it’s sunny for a few hours and the thermometer rises to 14°C in March, we all throw off our woollies and dance at signs of an early spring. If the watery sun warms us to 13°C in November we pack picnics and cheer an Indian summer. I know, we can have hail in June and be shivering all through Wimbledon, but it’s still summer. It must be, I’m wearing shorts and drinking cold white wine. Summer is stretched, in our minds, at least, to nine months of the year. It may be spring in February in Aix, but the Aixois will call it winter until they’re picking cherries from the trees.
I, too, like the Aixois, drink to match the season. Sometimes the season I want it to be, sometimes the season it is. I don’t mean I drink rosé in January, as much as I ache for summer. But, roughly, from the time the clocks go forward until the clocks go back I drink cold white. And, roughly, from the time the clocks go back until they’re put forward again, I drink fruity red.