Friday, 12 March 2010

Dubonnet, and 'Caves de Monmousseau', Montrichard

Today we cross the Channel to look at not one but three extremely colourful signs found in Montrichard, a small town on the north bank of the river Cher. Painted just outside the historic centre on the main approach from the north, they are pretty hard to miss by anyone coming from Blois. However since we came from the west and were going east along the river, they weren't on our way. Luckily it was hot that day and after exploring the centre of the town and climbing to the ruins of the medieval castle we all thought we should get some fresh drink. Having no time to sit in a cafe, we went to pick some fruit juice from the cool shelves of the local supermarket, and as we entered the car park, those flashy colours appeared!

The upper sign is for the Caves Monmousseau (the Monmousseau Caves or Cellars), situated just to the west of Montrichard. In 1886 Alcide Monmousseau purchased an abandoned stone quarry and transformed it into one of France's largest wine cellars. You can learn more about the history of the company and their different types of wine by visiting their website (in English).

Visitez les caves
Direction Vierzon [*]

*: Vierzon is widely known in France and other French speaking countries thanks to Belgian singer Jacques Brel. It is the first town mentioned in Vesoul.

The sign in the middle reads:
Quincaillerie [Ironmonger's]
... à droite [... street on the right]

As for the third sign, which was painted twice, it is for what used to be a well-known aperitive: Dubonnet. First sold in 1846, and still available today, it is made of fortified wine, spices, herbs, and quinine. It owes its fame largely to the posters designed by Cassandre (real name Adolphe Jean Marie Mouron). They first appeared in 1932 and featured the slogan "Dubo, Dubon, Dubonnet", which in French sounds like "Something nice, Something good, Dubonnet." In the 1950s and 1960s, commuters on the Paris métro could see the slogan expand as the trains made their way through the tunnels. An early version of those screens where the images move roughly at the same speed as the train (they haven't arrived on the London tube yet, but I saw plenty in Beijing).
Actually I've never tried any Dubonnet, so I can't tell you what it tastes like. There used to be a bottle in the aperitive cupboard at my grand parents' but I can't remember anyone ever drinking any. I shall check next time whether it is still there, hidden behind the more popular Sauternes, Pineau des Charentes, Martini, Whisky, or the homemade raspberry or peach liquors (my favourites as a kid...). As one of the characters created by writer Didier Daeninckx in Metropolice says: "everybody knew it, but nobody drank it."

As I took a closer look, I realized there was not only the name of the firm that painted the Dubonnet sign (Publicité Cheveau à Blois), but also a fouth sign there! Unfortunately it has almost completely disappeared but the letters 'Mon' could suggest this was an earlier sign for the Caves Monmousseau. Maybe?

Location: Route de Blois, Montrichard, Loir-et-Cher / Pictures taken on: 29/05/2009

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