Not only does Loubre explain how altered environmental conditions have enabled pioneering enologists to create styles of wine more suited to contemporary tastes and living arrangements, but he also discusses the social impact of the wine revolution on the employees in the industry. The third generation of this new viticultural regime has encountered working and living conditions drastically different from those of its predecessors, while witnessing the near disappearance of the working class and the decline of small and medium growers of ordinary wines.
Originally published in 1990.
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There are two main sections. Côte de Nuits, named after the village of Nuits-Saint-Georges, is a mere one mile by 12 miles but it’s home to 24 Grand Cru vineyards and some of the world’s most expensive vineyard real estate. This is the northernmost region, starting just south of Dijon and running to Courgoloin, a few kilometres south of Nuits-Saint-Georges and it grows mainly Pinot Noir and other red grapes. It is responsible for some of the great names of French wine, Gevrey-Chambertin, Nuits-Saint-Georges and Beaune itself. The second part, the southerly Côte de Beaune, is well-known for its whites but actually grows both Chardonnay and red grapes. One of the most famous villages in the Côte de Beaune is Pommard, known for its heavy, full-bodied reds.
It’s an intimidating terroir but Raymond Blake’s companionable Côte d'Or demystifies it. There is hardly another wine region where knowledge of the back-story is so critical to understanding the wine, for it is impossible to understand burgundy without reference to the place it comes from and the people who make it. In Côte d'Or Blake transports the reader to the heart of Burgundy, telling the whole story and painting a complete picture of life there: the history, the culture, the people, the place, the geography and the climate.
In the 1930s, cheap, mass-produced wines from the Languedoc region of southern France and French Algeria dominated French markets. Artisanal wine producers, worried about the impact of these "inferior" products on the reputation of their wines, created a system of regional appellation labeling to reform the industry in their favor by linking quality to the place of origin. At the same time, the loss of Algeria, once the world’s largest wine exporter, forced the industry to rethink wine production. Over several decades, appellation producers were joined by technocrats, public health activists, tourism boosters, and other dynamic economic actors who blamed cheap industrial wine for hindering efforts to modernize France.
Today, scholars, food activists, and wine enthusiasts see the appellation system as a counterweight to globalization and industrial food. But, as The Sober Revolution reveals, French efforts to localize wine and integrate into global markets were not antagonistic but instead mutually dependent. The time-honored winemaking practices that we associate with a pastoral vision of traditional France were in fact a strategy deployed by the wine industry to meet the challenges and opportunities of the post-1945 international economy. France’s luxury wine producers were more market savvy than we realize.