A History of Coq au Vin

The coq au vin is an emblematic dish of French cuisine, based on marinated rooster cuts, then braised in a red or white wine, with a bouquet garni, bacon, mushrooms, carrots and onions.

A famous legend, from Auvergne (France), related to the history of the coq au vin, tells that the head of the tribe of Arvernes, “Vercingetorix”, sent to taunt his besieger Julius Caesar, a Gallic rooster, a symbol of combativeness, aggressiveness, and valor of Gallic warriors, during the Roman siege of Gergovie in 52 BC, in the midst of the Gallic Wars.

In his turn, Julius Caesar taunts him by inviting him to a cena (Roman dinner, last meal) where he serves him his rooster stewed with wine.

Vercingetorix and his warriors Arvernes then inflict an overwhelming, and humiliating military military defeat, to Julius Caesar and the 30,000 men of his Roman legions, before the siege of Alesia the following summer. Coq (rooster) au vin is a traditional Burgundy dish, but Alsace, Champagne and Auvergne also claim paternity. Its sauce, both fine and tasty, and the fleshy consistency of the rooster, call for moderately tannic, aromatic wines with a still present fruitiness.

The first choice is the reds of Burgundy, apart from the often inaccessible vintage wines, such as côte-d'auxerre, haute-côtes-de-nuits or givry. An Alsatian pinot noir, in Champagne the bouzy, an astonishing red wine, or a côte-d'auvergne.

The coq au vin also comes in a Franche-Comté version: rooster with yellow wine and morels.

In this case, it agrees with the white wines of the Jura as a rib-du-jura, a yellow wine or a castle-chalon. The sacrifice of the cock certainly announced a king's feast. It must be said that in a farmyard, there may be many small broilers for the spit, many laying hens, but rarely more than one rooster at a time.

At the end of his career (his only reason for being in the farmyard is reproduction) the rooster was intended for marinating and simmering at the corner of the stove, for him, only one way out is the coq au vin.

The traditional recipe asks for at least three years old rooster, and sometimes even longer, it offers firm meat that needs to be softened with marinade and long cooking. The political use of the Gallic rooster as an ethnic or geographical emblem is a late invention of scholars of the Renaissance (Paul Émile, Jean Lemaire) who spread this expression, wrongly thinking that this animal was the emblem of independent Gaul, before the Roman conquest and, by that, the oldest French emblem.

In reality, this expression appears in Roman poets who create a homo-phony play on the word: Gallus, "the rooster" and "the Gaul" inhabiting Gallia.


© 2018 Wessel Woortman

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