Tuesday, 15 June 2010

St Rahaël and Byrrh, Saintes

Eleven minutes in Saintes, part 6 (Go to part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9)

A little bit further down the road from the second Redondeau sign was a much more interesting wall with three signs, two of which advertised, you've guessed, it... aperitif drinks!

Let's start with the most recent layer, which reads
Et Pension [Guesthouse]

However the most colourful and easily recognizable sign here is for the aperitif St Raphaël. This 1950s design, the work yet again of Charles Loupot, is much bolder than the one from Rigny-Ussé I posted a couple of months ago, and is similar to an enamel sign auctioned some years ago at Drouot.
These large red letters in a white and black background would have caught the attention of passengers on passing trains. Since there is almost no traffic on this street, these were the targets of this sign. Having said that, I used to travel a lot by train between Bordeaux and Saintes as a kid and teenager and I can't say I ever noticed it. Maybe because I always waited until the last minute to pack my stuff or was looking for my grand-pa's car parked by the local railway headquarters across the tracks...
Equally noticeable would have been the earlier sign for Byrrh, in even larger white letters on a red background. Byrrh was invented in 1886 by two itinerant drapers, brothers Pallade and Violet Simon by mixing dry wines from Languedoc-Roussillon and mistelles. To this they added some cinchona and obtained a product that was originally considered to have such invigorating properties that it was only sold by chemists. Its reputation as a health drink ensured its success in the early twentieth century and sales peaked between the two World Wars. However after the Second World War sales of Byrrh declined sharply because of fiscal advantages awarded by the authorities to naturally sweet aperitif wines and of changes in people's tastes. By the 1970s Byrrh, which had remained a family business, was bought by spirits company Cusenier, already part of the Pernod Ricard portfolio.


Location: Rue du Souvenir, Saintes, Charente-Maritime / Picture taken on: 06/06/2010

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