The Wine Revolution in France

The Wine Revolution in France: The Twentieth Century

Leo A. Loubère
Copyright Date: 1990
Pages: 302
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  • Book Info
    The Wine Revolution in France
    Book Description:

    During the past eight decades French vineyards, wineries, and wine marketing efforts have undergone such profound changes--from technological, scientific, economic, and commercial standpoints--that the transformation is revolutionary for an industry dating back thousands of years. Here Leo Loubre examines how the modernization of Western society has brought about new conditions in well-established markets, making the introduction of novel techniques and processes a matter of survival for winegrowers.

    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.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6116-3
    Subjects: History, Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xiii)
    (pp. xiv-2)
    (pp. 3-15)

    This book is a continuation of my first study on wine,The Red and the White: The History of Wine in France and Italy in the Nineteenth Century. It is, I am sad to state, an incomplete continuation because it does not include Italy. This absence was not planned in advance; it is, rather, the result of the theft of all my notes from my car when it was parked at the University of Bordeaux in June 1983. Six years of research simply disappeared. When I discovered the robbery I think I shared the same feeling of hopeless despair of...

  8. CHAPTER ONE General Trends and Conditions since 1914
    (pp. 16-36)

    It was unfortunate that Europe was not ruled, in the late summer of 1914, by men who tended vines. They would never have made war. How could they have contemplated any activity other than the preparation of their baskets for grape harvesting and their vats for wine making? They were not lacking in patriotism, nor were they all averse to violent collective action, as they had revealed on several occasions in the past. Their desire for peace in August and September would have resulted rather from their personal interests. As a vintage year 1914 was promising of grapes of ample...

  9. CHAPTER TWO The Viticultural Revolution
    (pp. 37-75)

    The first great change in grape culture of the nineteenth century did not result from the rapid and planned application of new techniques by forward-looking growers. It issued, rather, from the immediate need to reconstitute the vineyards of France and of Europe after their complete destruction by the phylloxera. The phylloxera cleared the way. Within a generation after 1870 the deadly aphid had spread everywhere. The earliest experiments were aimed at saving the vines by protecting their roots through the use of chemicals injected into the soil. Being too costly, however, injection gave way to planting American rootstock that was...

  10. CHAPTER THREE Viniculture: The Marriage of Pragmatism and Theory
    (pp. 76-112)

    Viniculture, the knowledge and process of transforming grape juice into wine, is the raison d’être of most viticultural activity. To be sure, many growers concentrate their energy on table grapes; but the great majority grow wine grapes that are rarely edible, almost useless for jams, and indeed are good for nothing but producing a rather acidic juice for making wine. Over millennia these two professions, viticulture and viniculture, have enjoyed a contrapuntal relation based on men’s keen observation and accumulated knowledge. Through purely pragmatic methods, men learned to grow highly prized fruit and to transform its juices into various wines...

  11. CHAPTER FOUR The Attack on Fraud: Classification and Appellation
    (pp. 113-136)

    Although the French government may at times seem lax in the enforcement of wine laws, and may even appear ever ready to create rules and regulations in numbers that make them unenforceable, the appearance belies much of the reality. The vast wine code that is the subject of this chapter was not created by bored politicians looking for something to do; rather, they were the midwives. The real progenitors of the code were the myriad grape and winegrowers who pressured the highest powers to bring forth the laws they believed would facilitate their fight against fraud. The very old pure...

  12. CHAPTER FIVE Cooperatives among Individualists
    (pp. 137-154)

    The creation of cooperative wineries (caves coopératives) is a factor in the wine revolution that is as important as the new technology. It contributed enormously to the modernizing process. In fact, it is really difficult to avoid the idea that without these collective enterprises the vinicultural revolution would have turned most small vineyardists into a rural serving class, if not a landless proletariat. Modernizing would have certainly taken place, but almost exclusively to the advantage of large landowners andnégociants-éleveurswho would have used the small growers to trim vines and provide them with fresh grapes. Given the sizable costs...

  13. CHAPTER SIX The Economics of Wine
    (pp. 155-176)

    The cultivation of wine grapes has always been part of the general agricultural economy in France. Not until the later decades of the nineteenth century did specialization in viticulture become extensive, a tendency that entailed risks and was limited mainly to lower Languedoc and Roussillon. Vignerons who did not make wine, who sold their grapes directly tonégociants-éleveurs, rarely enjoyed a comfortable income. Like general farmers in an industrial society, their monetary revenues were seriously lower than the level of the national income, rising rarely above 70 percent of the latter.¹ Their situation was better if they transformed their grapes...

  14. CHAPTER SEVEN The Commerce of Wine
    (pp. 177-211)

    The nineteenth century was not only a period of major viti-vinicultural change, it was also a period of almost feverish commercial activity. In the second half of the century, the major and the main secondary railway lines had been laid out and were in use. At first large casks or tuns containing several thousand liters were loaded onto flatcars (see figure 7.1) and sent out to markets formerly unattainable except by slow barge and wagon transport at high costs—too high for any but the finer, expensive wines. With the putting into service of tank cars in the late nineteenth...

  15. CHAPTER EIGHT Conditions of Life: Propertied Growers
    (pp. 212-243)

    The vignerons who were able to leap with unblemished joy at 11 a.m. on November 11, 1918, and could emerge from the stench and filth of their trenches, still sound in body and mind, were indeed a happy and lucky array of homesick rustics. Like the hordes of demobilized farmers, they returned to home and land. There they found their families: wives fatigued from overwork, children older and active on the land, and vines in diverse states of neglect. Because they did not reach home before winter had set in, the harvest having been completed two or three months earlier,...

  16. CHAPTER NINE Conditions of Life: Laborers
    (pp. 244-259)

    Wage workers, like small independent vineyard owners, steadily declined in number during the eight decades of this century. And for the same basic reasons came the abandonment by their children of a life that offered an uncertain future. As their hope of rising in status by acquiring land declined, so did their numbers. It was always difficult for a vine dresser without property to accept the condition of landlessness. This is why so many of them, really a majority in most viticultural regions, bought small parcels of land in order to become worker-owners. This urge to possess even a few...

    (pp. 260-266)

    The persons whose lives and endeavors make up this volume belong to three generations: that of the 1910s, that of the 1930s and ’40s, and finally that of the 1970s and ’80s. The first prepared the way for the unprecedented transformation of grape and wine growing that followed World War I. Their successors, recognizing that a new age had been inaugurated by so devastating a war, were far more foreseeing than their political leaders whose goal was to restore the past. They were the first wave of viticultural revolutionaries, youthful and ready for action. The revolution in which many of...

  18. NOTES
    (pp. 267-282)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 283-288)