Sean Thackrey :: Wine Maker

Sean Thackrey :: Wine Maker

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Wine Notes issue 1

A particularly interesting thing about the history of wine-making is that there isn't one.

Yes. Wine has been made for at least 10,000 years; yet no one has ever written, or at least published, a history of how this was done.

But why should that be surprising if wine has been made in France since at least the arrival of the Phocaean Greeks in ca. 800 BCE, has always been a major underpinning of the French economy, one of the glories of France and of French culture and creativity, and yet there's no word for wine-maker in French, which there is not?

So the history of wine-making is interesting for many reasons that have nothing to do with technique, and cut across vast expanses of history, sociology, national identity, the eternal games of the oligarchy, and as a reward for slogging through all that, even finally the history of pleasures, and how they change.

This interests me intensely, since it's the craft by which I live and opens out into such an astonishingly vast but secret garden where endless swaths of unanswered questions bloom in riotous profusion, while still untended and indeed unseen; so, being pretty well trained in elementary academic procedure, I thought, I'd better read through the source material first; and due to a birth freak rather like an aptitude for crossword puzzles, I have a certain aptitude for languages, and can read easily in all those I thought would be central to my search, at least at first.

For reasons I'll go into later, it turned out there really was no way to read the material without finding it myself, collecting it and actually reading it, to the genuine distress of some of my favorite rare book dealers, who felt that actually reading these things, instead of admiring them as objects, was a suspect trend not to be encouraged. But I wound up with the library I needed, that neither the Bibliothèque Nationale, nor the British Library, nor the New York Public Library, and so on through the rest, could provide; which was a library not based on nationalist collecting but on wine-making itself, wherever it was practiced and described, from the beginnings of literacy until the present.

Hopefully it will be understood why this is such a long-winded introduction to a series I'd like to pursue of short posts drawn from all this material; they will be called "Sean's Wine Notes" until I come up with something less blockheaded.

I'll start these posts with one tomorrow about the invention of "Champagne" by the British, who used the "méthode Champenois" for their cider at least 50 years before I have any evidence of its use in France…

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