We have a guest post today! If you know me at all, you know I am obsessed with everything and anything that has to do with wine! In fact, I am drinking a delicious Argentinian Cabernet as I type this. Although it is quite different than what I usually post, I’m sure you will enjoy the following piece as much as I did.
Generations of Wine – Like Father, Like Son
by Joe Gilmour
Visiting a domain in Burgundy, there is a sight you will soon get used to. Whilst tasting the new vintage with a young and fresh-faced winemaker, a door will creak open, if you’re listening you’ll hear an almost imperceptible sigh and there he’ll look, to the door as the father potters in. You shuffle a bit awkwardly.
Burgundy Ancient and Modern
Looking at father and son together you see old and modern Burgundy in a glance. The father’s gnarled skin and slight stoop attest to a hard life working in the vineyards, a hard life selling the wines to a world who weren’t interested in paying top dollar for anything other then a handful of the Grand Cru’s. The son, on the other hand, has seen a bit more of the world, he perhaps trained outside France and his hands are yet to bear the marks and scars of hard vineyard graft. He knows they grow good Pinot Noir outside the Cote d’Or.
In My Day
So, they talk, and we talk and it becomes clear that the father is slightly suspicious of the efforts of the son. Perhaps he thinks he made better wine when he was still in charge of the domain. The son has to bear down this challenge, he see’s the future better and wants to make changes to the style of the wines. Often, he would want to make them a bit earlier maturing, a bit more supple, a bit more, well modern. This is a scene you see across the region as sons (or daughters) take over from fathers. A generational conflict. It’s much the same across any family vintage. Sometimes, the succession is smooth and the father is proud and happy to leave the work and the domain to the next generation. Sometimes it is acrimonious in ways that only family struggles can be. In the Rhone valley Michel Chapoutier disagreed with his father to such an extant, he effectively forced him out of the domain, saying: “My father was my boss, but he had no taste and knew nothing about winemaking, my brother was paid four times what I was paid to work in the business. I was paid nothing because I disagreed with him”
But, generations do rub up against each other and it’s a positive thing. Domaines are revitalised and given new direction whilst being respectful and anchored in the past. It’s something that modern business with it’s zeal for short-term profits and lack of sense of legacy and responsibility could do well to learn from. Just ask the Chave family, in the family since 1481. I can’t think of any privately owned enterprises that have lasted even half that long. And the wines, they’re pretty good as well.
Joe Gilmour has worked in the wine industry for the past 9 years, drawing on his experience Joe writes about Fine and Vintage wines covering everything from buying fine wine online to wine rituals and the last wine trends. When he’s not online or at wine tastings he enjoys running, eating and shouting at the TV.