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Bordeaux/Burgundy: A Vintage Rivalry

Jean-Robert Pitte
Translated by M. B. DeBevoise
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: 1
Pages: 268
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Seeking to penetrate the mysteries of two great wine regions-"two opposite civilizations, two distinct ways of feeling"-Jean-Robert Pitte embarks upon an evocative and fascinating exploration of the land, people, and wines of Bordeaux and Burgundy. His account is a rich tapestry of terroir, history, culture, and economics from Roman to modern times. The unique qualities of the wines of each region, Pitte believes, cannot be entirely explained by the differences in their physical environments: they have social origins as well. Beginning with an entertaining look at the remarkable variety of insults exchanged by partisans of the two regions, Pitte delves into the key role played by medieval monks, dukes, and peasantvigneronsin building their respective reputations and in creating the rivalry between bourgeois Bordeaux and earthy Burgundy that we know today. His sparkling, fair-minded narrative, engaging the senses and the mind alike, conveys a deep appreciation of two incomparable winegrowing cultures, united despite their differences by a common ambition to produce the best wines in the world.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93331-6
    Subjects: Environmental Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Maps
    (pp. ix-ix)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    (pp. 1-12)

    The famous anecdote of the Faubourg Saint-Germain told by Brillat-Savarin, which I have used as an epigraph, reveals an educated and eclectic connoisseur who varies his wines to suit the food he eats, the weather, and his mood. Brillat-Savarin himself, another amiable judge, delighted in having been born in Belley, at the gates of the ancient capital of the Gauls, a land superbly irrigated by all the fine red wines of France: “Lyons is a town of good living: its location makes it rich equally in the wines of Bordeaux and Hermitage and Burgundy.”¹ He does not say that these...

    (pp. 13-56)

    If there is one thing that annoys people as much in Bordeaux as in Burgundy, it is the suggestion that soil and climate do not exclusively determine the quality of wines. For the estate owners, the merchants, and the many other professionals who work with them, the physical landscape is an inviolable fact that suffices by itself to explain why great wines are produced in the Gironde and the Côte d’Or. Any challenge to this belief is seen as a sacrilege, one that can only be committed by people who know nothing about wine or else by jealous natives of...

    (pp. 57-105)

    No matter that the physical environments in which the wines of Bordeaux and Burgundy were born scarcely resemble each other; they nonetheless have certain characteristics in common, the same ones that all vineyards of quality have shared since antiquity. The vine, that unruly creeper of arid Mediterranean lands, produces fine grapes that yield good wines as long as it has its feet in dry earth and its head in the sun. The less water the soil retains, the deeper the vine sinks its roots in search of the precious liquid and the more fully it mobilizes the mineral matter that...

    (pp. 106-172)

    Over time, despite the different environments from which they emerged, Bordeaux and Burgundy came, as we have seen, to follow parallel paths. Both routes led to the production of quality wines, even if some regettable detours have made it necessary to qualify this picture somewhat. But if one now stops to consider the wines themselves, one cannot help but notice that for the most part they do not resemble one another. Attempts to explain this fact by appealing to differences in climate and soil are simplistic, all the more so as some Bordeaux wines do in fact happen to resemble...

    (pp. 173-176)

    For a long time the French, whether they were from Bordeaux, Burgundy, or somewhere else, never for a moment believed that great wines could be produced in other regions of the world. Alas, many people in France continue to think that. One might perhaps still maintain that the great Bordeaux and Burgundies constitute the finest imaginable expressions of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, chardonnay, and pinot noir. But even this is becoming increasingly hard to do.

    In 1987, Christian Millau convened in Paris an international jury of thirty-two judges who conducted a blind comparative tasting of twenty-nine white wines and thirty-six red...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 177-216)
    (pp. 217-230)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 231-246)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 247-249)