What Does It Mean to Have a Wine Culture?

Jon Bonné, former San Francisco Chronicle wine writer, was the Keynote Speaker at the In Pursuit of Balance tasting held in San Francisco a week or so ago and which I wrote about here. Bonné recently wrote a book in which he segregated winemakers here into the “old” (read, those who are doing it all wrong) and “new” camps.

Bonné does not love California, neither the predominant wine “style” (if such a thing actually exists) nor the wine scene in his erstwhile home town. If one wanted to be sensitive, much of what he spoke about were the viticultural and enological failings of CA when implicitly compared to Old World regions that he obviously prizes (I look at Bonné as I would anybody else trying to sell something. He’s attempting to build his brand, and whether he actually believes what he writes or not, it may be “good business” to move against what he perceives to be the overarching critical flow of the moment). Though he didn’t flesh the point out well, Bonné noted that great wine culture was about intent and that great wine was, among other things, culturally significant.  This argument is somewhat self-referential and circular, but I think I understand what he means.

Great wine is made with a very specific and thoughtful philosophy and rationale. The winemaker shepherds and escorts grapes through the fermentation process and helps the fruit to achieve its inherent best so that it reflects a time and a place and that philosophy. Though I may take issue with Bonné’s attention-seeking style, his lack of deep knowledge about California wine history, and his very cursory tasting of the bounty of CA wine, this subject is at the heart of winemaking and profoundly resonates with me. Much more waits to be written about it.


About Steven Kent Mirassou

6th generation winemaker in the Livermore Valley, writer, lover of beauty and joy.
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