Culture: Frustrated by Traditional Rules, Modern French Winemakers Are Redefining the Industry
With several prestigious regions, France is iconic in the world of wine. Some might even argue that French wines set the bar for other countries and wine producers. But it’s also deeply traditional, with a winemaking culture defined by rules and regulations. Or is it?
In this episode, Jacy Topps sits down with Jon Bonné to discuss his new book, The New French Wine, and the sea change afoot in France, one of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world. Modern French winemakers are frustrated by the country’s famously rigid winemaking systems, he says, and increasingly choosing to make wine outside them.
Jon Bonné currently serves as managing editor at Resy and was previously a senior contributing editor for PUNCH. For nearly a decade, he was the award-winning wine editor of The San Francisco Chronicle. Prior to The New French Wine, he authored The New California Wine.
Listen as Bonné explains why he decided to write about France; what he thought about French wine prior to writing the book; what regions surprised him and his main takeaways from writing the 850-page, two-volume book.
Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting.
Speakers: Jon Bonné, Jacy Topps
Jacy Topps 00:09
Hello, and welcome to the Wine Enthusiast podcast. Your serving of drinks culture, and the people who drive it. I’m Jacy Topps. This week we’re discussing all things French wine. With numerous prestigious wine regions, wines from France are iconic. Some might even argue that French wines set the bar for other countries and wine producers. With such iconic and Old-World status, can France do anything new. I sat down with Jon Bonne to discuss his newly released book, The French wine, and what’s changing throughout one of the oldest wine producing regions in the world.
Jacy Topps 00:48
Currently the managing editor at Resy, Jon has served as senior contributing editor for PUNCH. And for nearly a decade, he was an award-winning editor of the San Francisco Chronicle. And prior to the new French Wine, he also authored The New California Wine. So, listen on, as Jon explains why he decided to write about the iconic wine producing country, what he thought about French wine when he started his research, what regions surprised him and what his main takeaway was from writing his 800 Page two volume book.
Jacy Topps 01:25
Hi, I’m Jacy Topps. And today, my guest is Jon Bonne. Currently the managing editor at Resy. Jon Bonne is an award-winning journalist and author. John’s background includes MSNBC, Seattle magazine, The Washington Post, and The San Francisco Chronicle, and, of course, many others. He is the author of The New California Wine and his latest book, The New French Wine. Welcome, Jon. I’m so glad you can join us today.
Jon Bonné 01:53
Thank you so much. It’s a pleasure.
Jacy Topps 01:55
So, you have quite a background in food and wine.
Jon Bonné 02:03
For a long time, yeah.
Jacy Topps 02:06
I’m really interested in when you got started like, and when your interest in food and wine started
Jon Bonné 02:13
Really early, I couldn’t tell you exactly when, but certainly in single digits. So the explanation is my father had an interesting career. He was a corporate executive, but he also trained as a chef. And so he went back and forth a little bit between those two things. And when we were growing up, he was cooking all the time at home. And we were drinking very good wine from again, a notably young age. And he ran a gourmet foods and catering business for a while. And so it was just my sister and I grew up with it really always around. And I don’t think we even thought much of it until much later, clearly did something because now she runs a winery in Sonoma, and I do what I do. So it was, you know, it made its way into our heads. But it was just always there. And, and then I sort of forgot all about it. Not like forgetting entirely, but just you know, you go off to college and other things, occupy you whatever, and started doing internet stuff started doing journalism. And it really wasn’t until around sort of like turning the millennium. And about the time I ended up at MSNBC that I started getting interested in it again.
Jacy Topps 03:28
Okay, so your career in journalism when it started, it wasn’t in food and wine initially.
Jon Bonné 03:35
No, it, it actually was in public radio. And I was doing all kinds of stuff. I was reporting a lot in New York, and it was public radio station in New York. And so it was covering, you know, politics and culture, and also the sort of weird, you know, Weird New York stuff. And then when I, when I graduated, I got into the internet really early and did like internet ad stuff and other stuff. And then really missed journalism went back and was doing sort of, like hard news and general news. And again, like politics, environment, drug policy, all kinds of stuff. So honestly, when I got when I, when I started, like sneaking wine and food into my stories, I was a business reporter at MSNBC. And I found that I kept going out to Eastern Washington because I was based in Seattle at that point, and there was not only lots of interesting sort of hard news stories out there. But there was, you know, there were a lot of vineyards, and I was really getting back into wine at that point and kept sneaking it in the stories and finally, one day, just sort of suckered my editor into giving me a wine column. And that’s, that’s how it all began to unravel.
Jacy Topps 04:50
Oh my god, I love that. Like, I’m gonna sneak some wine into this. This story. Way, way
Jon Bonné 04:56
more interesting when writing about like rental cars and mortgage Yeah,
Jacy Topps 05:01
Right, exactly. Okay, so you are covering wine and you’re a wine critic and you’re writing for various publications. At what point did you decide that you wanted to write a book about California wine?
Jon Bonné 05:17
So, by that point, I was the wine Editor and Chief wine critic at the San Francisco Chronicle. One of the unicorn jobs. I had taken the job maybe not fully thinking through how I felt about California wine at the time, this was like, the mid 2000s. And it was really the, the end of what in The New California Wine I called the era big flavor, which was just like, more is more Robert Parker, all the scores, all the oak, all the things, you know, 16% alcohol, just, it was a moment. And I showed up in California, sort of at the, the, you know, the, the late decadent moment of that. And I knew that I didn’t like those wines very much. I maybe should have thought twice about taking a job in California covering California wines. I had a very different vision of California wine that that came from an earlier time and I was always curious to find people who just hadn’t gone down that path or had gone down that path and decided they didn’t like it like Copaxone where, you know, wells, sort of, you know, pursued all those things, and then realized that he didn’t really like the wines he was making. And not just the style of the wines, but also culturally I think I was never quite comfortable with where Napa especially had gone and became a you know, a perennial pain in the ass for the people in Napa who had the money in control all the things I just, it felt like it was totally off from the way that I had, you know, a remember California and an earlier time and be just were to me, the wine world was and so so I kept sort of poking at that for a while and eventually wrote a piece for server called the new California wine that was that put together the threads of like, a lot of people I’ve been following who now we sort of talked about, you know, in a familiar way, you know, Steve Mathias in and Leonardo and are not Robert Brock sellers, people like that. But at the time, this was all very unknown. And so they commissioned me to write a piece out of tying these threads together. And that, as magazine pieces do, got turned into a book proposal. And, and I think by the time I started writing it, it was clear that there was a very big sea change underway in California. And I was incredibly lucky to have been there sort of, you know, chronicling it and getting to know the people and tasting the wines and helping to provide a bit of a platform for everything that was happening.
Jacy Topps 07:56
Okay. Okay, that’s great. So let’s talk about The New French Wine. Why did you want to write about French wine? I mean, I love French wine. I’m super excited about this book. I’m one of the French wine reviewers for Wine Enthusiast. So it was so great to do like a deep dive into the country. Why did you want to take on French wine?
So the glib answer would be, you know, having, like, dropped the mic on California, you know, then you turn you’re like, Well, where else can I warm it? But no, but but legitimately, it was, I wish I had a better origin story for the book, but new California was out. This was 2014. And I, you know, it had done really well, I was, you know, like, sort of thrilled at just the reception, and how more than that just how people were seeing or, you know, sharing in this this crazy vision I had of where California was going. And so I was looking for other ideas and had some sense of like, maybe I should do something on the old world and I don’t know, like France, Spain, Italy, you know, like, what, what, you know, what threads can I see and was just kind of thinking through things. And then as one does, went out drinking with my editor, to a natural wine bar in Oakland. probably drank a little too much on Gamay and anyone who wants to put on natural wine. I can tell you this is what happens when you do that. Exactly. Like he’s like, she’s like, so what about France? Like, like New France? Like Sure. That’s a great idea. You know, like, yeah, we’ll bang it out. You know, a couple years. It’ll be awesome and famous last words, had no idea what I was getting myself into. But even it’s interesting when I was putting the book proposal together for The New French wine.
Jon Bonné 09:53
Even then I thought I had a sense of, you know, here’s some things on the fringe and some people doing Vin de France. Almost and all the crazy, you know, like natty wine that’s out there. And you know, and there’s like, there’s kind of like an alternative story for France, which would have been fine. And in some ways like other folks have attempted that book. But what I realized probably the second or third trip in when I actually started reporting, it was the things that were changing in France, we’re not in any way in the fringe. And it was, you know, it had similarity to California. But it was like, it was a very different thing in that the entire French wine industry was in the midst of radical change. And it’s funny because people think of France is the not only the North Star of wine, but also very rigid and unchanging. And what I was discovering is that that was, as far from the truth as could be that things were moving so fast there. And it wasn’t just these interesting things around the edges, although that was that was those were good indicators, but they weren’t really the whole story. And the whole story was that in one way or another, and really in different ways, in different regions, that the French wine industry was transforming itself in a way I had not expected, and I really didn’t have a context for. And what I realized, and again, like it would take years was that the basically the French wine industry was undergoing what I argue in the book is the biggest change that it has had in about 150 years since since before phylloxera that, that where things are now are so profoundly different than they were they were 30 years ago that you can you can draw the connections, you can see how we got there. But it’s just all the things that people loved about French wine are actually still there. But even better, along with all these new things that were never there before.
Jacy Topps 11:53
Wow, that that is so fascinating. So, let’s back up a bit.
Jacy Topps 12:04
It’s a beautiful box set, it’s two volumes, over 850 pages. How long did it take you to write this book? And what year was it when you started writing? Well, researching it and writing?
Jon Bonné 12:18
Yeah. so the contract got signed at the end of 2014. And I actually had already started researching it by then. And we shipped it to the printer in late 2022. So it took eight years.
Jacy Topps 12:35
Oh, wow. I was not expecting that answer. Okay.
Jon Bonné 12:42
Either was I when I started the project.
Jacy Topps 12:44
Right, exactly. So a lot of this was also taking place during COVID. A lot of your research and writing the book.
Jon Bonné 12:52
Yeah, the last part of it was I think I did my last sort of official reporting trip in 2019, mid 2019. And then I was sort of hardcore writing. And I actually did go back and do a couple trips during COVID small ones. But I don’t even know that I would have done more because there was just so much writing to do but I suppose being you know, being holed up in your house for three years is a good way to focus yourself on writing a book? Yes, under the complicated that a little bit, but it was also like I started it, I was still living in San Francisco moved back to New York. And then obviously, we’re spending a ton of time in France. So yeah, it was, it was in every way the scope of it ended up bigger than I had envisioned than my agent had envisioned. And my editor had a vision than anyone who ever would have put up with me for trying to do this silly project would have imagined.
Jacy Topps 13:51
So were you living in France for like, I mean, are your trips were like, a week or a month? Or like, was it three months or six months? How long were you in France, doing your research,
Jon Bonné 14:03
I more or less what the year for for four years. Part of it is we actually bought an apartment in Paris and the course of this, which sounds incredibly glamorous, but for anyone who lives in New York, it is a shockingly pragmatic real estate decision. It’s maybe a third of what it costs to buy in New York. So it’s, you know, it’s maybe the one good, like real estate investment I’ve ever made. But so, so some of it was just literally having a home base, but even then you have to go out you have to go to each region. So typically, my, my church would be about three weeks, which was about as long as I could go just, you know, routine would be about six days a week, maybe four to five visits a day and so it’s just, you know, visits around two hours because like you want to spend some time with the producer you want to you know, not just taste the wine but see the vet 10 years and, you know, get a bit of Gestalt and kind of understand what they’re up to. And so it was just, you know, it’s at some point you’re like I this is this is the maximum I can absorb without a break. So that was more or less the routine, I think I, you know, it ended up something like 30 or 35 trips in total, and you know, of varying lengths, and, you know, sometimes tacking on some, you know, time in Paris or not, or what have you, but it was a lot of back and forth. And as nutty as that sounds, I don’t know that, that even like living in France full time would have necessarily been a better solution, because it didn’t really matter in some way, because I had to go, you know, I literally had to go to like every corner of France to to see what was going on. And I, you know, I’m sure that there are ways that smarter people could have shortcut this, but it just became apparent to me that like, I had to have boots on the ground and go see what was going on, go get a feel for not just the wine, but the culture in the regions and whether it was progressing or not. And so yeah, I mean, it’s on the one hand, that sounds like a great French vacation, on the other hand, like, you know, if anyone wants to hang out in Airbnb is in like little towns for a couple years. Like, I don’t know that I recommend it.
Jacy Topps 16:23
Yeah, I think that a lot of people think that writing a book sounds really cool. And I guess, definitely, it would, I guess it would seem that way. I’ve never written a book. But I know that it is a lot of reporting and a lot of boots on the ground, as you say, and it’s not all fun and games sometimes.
Jon Bonné 16:43
Well, to be fair, not not to like not to, like throw too much shade on, on, on authors. But wine writing is, is hard. And it’s not typically very lucrative. And certainly, I my advance for this book was about as good an advance as anyone’s going to get for a wine book. But, you know, I think I think you often see with a lot of books that it just wasn’t, you know, whether it was that the author didn’t want to, or that they literally couldn’t afford to go and do that work in person, you know, you there, there tends to be a lot of short cutting. And it’s just, I mean, I think it’s a reality of where like wind journalism is. And again, like if I was in any way, saying I probably should have done more of that. But I think I just, I felt that if I didn’t go, I wasn’t going to get the story I wanted.
Jacy Topps 17:37
So I mean and the book is like so well reported, it’s so comprehensive. So it definitely shows. I mean, it shows that you did the work.
Jon Bonné 17:49
Yeah, and probably too much and it will shock people, but we actually cut a lot in order to like get the book, quote unquote, down to the size
Jacy Topps 17:59
Down to the two volumes. Okay, so one volume was called the producers. And the other one is called the narrative. So what’s going on in these two volumes?
Jon Bonné 18:12
So we, we were trying to figure out the exact format of this book and structure is, is actually a really important thing to me, in that books are meant to entertain, but certainly wine books are also tools. And I honestly, like started out with, you know, with the geographic chapters and then tacked the wineries onto the end of each chapter, which is a pretty standard format. And then we literally got to this point where we were probably not gonna be able to put it all in one volume, because like the spine would crack. And so we started talking about two volumes. And I think what we what we landed on was that people, people access different types of blind books in different ways. And, you know, my brand, if you will, is to try and tell a story and to place people in, wherever, wherever I’m writing about. And that ultimately is what the narrative is. And it’s all the geographic regions, there’s some interstitial chapters where talk about climate, talk about farming and talk about appellations. But it was really being able to tell the story sort of beginning to end of everything that was happening to explain geography, things like that. And conceptually, you can try and read it beginning to end it’s a lot but in theory, and then you in terms of the producers at some point, same things like realized we had a lot of producers and even with pretty severe editing down there. We’re just there’s so many new talented vineyards in France that you know, even having to do some triage on it like there were going to be a lot he ended up with with over 800 And when people are looking for that information in a wine book, they You know, they don’t, they don’t want to dig through all the other stuff they like they’re looking for the producer they’re interested in, they want to reference it and go and read it and be done. And so, I think it was just acknowledging that, like, people use those two different types of information in different ways. And the best thing we could do, just from what I guess would now be called a UX perspective, would be to split them out and to let people use the two different volumes in totally different ways.
Jacy Topps 20:27
Okay. Yeah. I mean, it’s definitely a reference book. I mean, you can just keep going back to it. I mean, to look up anything, anything about the country and wine, it’s great. It’s very well organized.
Jon Bonné 20:44
But I think I think that my editor and our indexer, will very much appreciate that. It wasn’t organized when we started.
Jacy Topps 20:55
So let’s talk about the actual wine. And like in your takeaway, like, I think it’s in the narrative volume, right, where it starts off with this chapter about patrimonie? Is that how you pronounce it or what is old? What is new, again, is that one of the takeaways or like the main takeaway that you got from writing the book about the country in wine, it is.
Jon Bonné 21:20
And I think that was just about the last chapter I wrote, because as much as anything, I needed time to get my head around, everything that I had seen everything that I experienced all the, you know, 15 notebooks worth of reporting all of it. And again, when I started, I thought this is all net new, this is new stuff that doesn’t have a precedent. And over time, what I realized is that there the one big parallel to the new California, is that one of the Theses in New California Wine was like a lot of what was happening in California wasn’t out of the blue, it actually had very strong reference to, to the historic wine industry there. And a lot of things that existed in the 19th century before everyone was so sure of themselves and before, as industries do tended to sort of to calcify that all those things were coming back in a in a more progressive, modern, contemporary way. And what I realized, as I really started to dig into the the deeper research with France was that almost everything that is happening there today has a precedent, and very specifically a similar timeframe, kind of the mid 19th century, after the revolution, and before phylloxera when wine was one of the true economic staples of France, and it was, you know, it was in almost every department in France, and it wasn’t nearly as stratified and and as class driven. And as status driven, as it is today, we’re, let’s say, was at the end of the 20th century, that there was there enormous diversity in terms of grapes, and farming and practices and all kinds of things. And this, this true sense of a deep culture that had been very, very significantly narrowed first through for Lazzara and then fraud, and then World War. And so by the time the post war wine industry and emerged in France, it was a, a very narrow, constricted version of itself. And so the fact that I was discovering all of this diversity people bringing back, you know, varieties like John Saul noir that hadn’t really been planted for a century, you know, it was, it was great in terms of the the curiosity and the evolution, but in fact, you could find that it had some version of that had taken place 100 120 years ago, which is where what’s old is new, again, came from and in France, it’s particularly important, because of this sense of patrimonie, which isn’t, isn’t quite history, it’s, it’s a very specific cultural view of history where you are preserving the cultural lineage of what has come before. And it’s interesting because the French talk about it all the time. And yet, if you see the way a lot of wine appellations, for instance, are written in France, literally, in French law. It’s this very kind of buffed up, you know, polished version of, of pattern when of the, of the past of past culture. And so what a part of what I wanted to do to to set the tone for the book was say, you know, there is, in fact, enormous historical precedent for this, but it’s not necessarily what you think,
Jacy Topps 24:47
Wow, that’s a huge takeaway.
Jon Bonné 24:51
Yeah. And as I write in the chat, it was like, you know, I spent a lot of time alone sort of driving around and you know, thinking and writing in notebooks, and it was like it was later really like, on the side of a road, outside cow or the southwest, I just like pulled the car over and like grabbed my notebook. I was like, I finally got it. And, you know, it just was tying together 1000 threads but, but the more I, the more I honestly pressure tested it is, is that thesis like, the more it became clear that, you know, everywhere I looked this was this was ultimately what was happening.
Jacy Topps 25:30
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Jon Bonné 26:30
So there’s, there’s bits and pieces around the edge? I think if you look at specific winemaking techniques, that that does mark some new things. Some of it is what’s happening everywhere, you know, everyone needs him. Everyone needs him for everyone needs you know, they’re weird vessels of choice. I think maturation is not entirely new, because you look in there was there’s there’s lots of potential precursors to things like light red wine, which a century ago was just called rose. And now we call it trousseau and we drink it in Bushwick. But if you look, for instance, in Alsace and the way that people are going back to grapes, like Pinot Gris and gewurztraminer. What are not really white grapes, and are making them as orange wines, that’s kind of net new for France, but is in fact, I think, very much in line with the real nature of those grapes. There’s, you know, there’s certainly improvements to farming and probably the biggest change in some way, which is not a deliberate one. But the responses to it about what usually been deliberate, is climate. And so, you know, for 1000 years, let’s say, the presumption in French agriculture was that you were in a marginal climate, you would probably not get your grapes fully ripe. If you had a really great vintage, you might get them to 11 or 12% alcohol but unbalanced, there was there was a there was a deficiency of photosynthesis in France, to be very, very wonky about it. And really, let’s say, maybe 2025 years, and to some extent, like let’s talk champagne in 10 or 12 years, the absolute inverse has arrived, which is to say that a long tradition of farming that presumed you would never get enough ripeness, you’d add sugar to the wines, you’d have to compensate in some way has suddenly been flipped on its head and there is complete maturity in the grapes, they are getting ripe enough not to ripe in somewhere like champagne. This goes from the entire reason that champagne exists as a sparkling wine in a way was because you couldn’t make a drinkable still wine in the region where it was very hard. And now suddenly you can grow baseline for champagne that’s completely right that 12 degrees, and you have to suddenly adapt to while you’re not you’re not adding sugar and making up for deficiencies and insane acidity, the wines come out completely formed. So that suddenly means that you can make single partial expressions without it being a constant challenge. It means that, you know, the availability of really high-quality based material is available to like every grower. And so it’s probably the one thing that I think is has forced more change onto French wine than anything else. Not necessarily in a bad way. I think everyone talks about climate as a crisis and in the larger human future existence sense. It absolutely is in the very narrow and selfish realm of French viticulture climate has been at the at the very least a mixed bag, but there there is enormous potential for ever better wines to come out of it.
Jacy Topps 29:51
Yeah, yeah, I agree with that. Well ask the question about you know, new because I think that you know, France has this reputation. I mean rightly so for being so rigid and having these very strict rules and regulations and are they doing new things like can they do new things I think is kind of what people are interested in and kind of want to know
Jon Bonné 30:16
And so think about like the rise of Vin de France in this this is very closely tied to the natural wine movement there were these are vineyards Who are they don’t feel that the rules serve them anymore or they don’t they don’t receive the appellation you actually have to be approved to use it. So what do they do, they, they make they make the wine they want, they put vendor finance on it, and they sell it and traditionally in France, Vanda, France or Vanda tabla was like the worst cheapest crap wine out there. And kind of like with the Super Tuscans this was inverting the reputation of a label. So that now like all the cool fun wines are in Vin de France, not all of them, but, you know, that’s it has become a tool for winemakers who really want to pursue the Avant garde. What I didn’t realize until I really started spending time there is that this wasn’t, this wasn’t a fashion statement. I mean, in a few cases it was but this was almost always Vigneron, who, who worked in a specific appellation, like a known appellation, let’s say, Alexandria, and put you from a, they had every desire to use the appellation to make appellation one, two, to find a personal expression. And the rules, combined with sort of, you know, old grudges, local politics, all the things that, that hold French wine and many other things back, we’re just making it impossible. And so they, when they left the system, they didn’t leave the system as a deep rebellious statement, they left because the system wasn’t serving their purposes. And I think, you know, so there’s tons of new brands, and some of it falls within the old rules. Some of it doesn’t. But I don’t think that there’s, there’s tons of vendors out there who are seeking to tear down the system, I think they just, they wish the system would work for them, I think they largely hope that they can change it or evolve it and they leave as a last resort. And so what we see perhaps on the on the on the far end, as being net new and not falling in the rules is just them trying to make it work and simply realizing that there isn’t a pathway that allows them to do what they want to do.
Jacy Topps 32:30
Right. Right. I love how you explain Vin de France. I’m actually that’s actually one of my regions, or I’ve actually reviewed for Wine Enthusiast.
Jon Bonné 32:40
You’ve probably seen like, there’s these ones that you know, it’s I mean, it’s in the French in the French hive mind, it’s kind of crappy, you know, table one, but it’s not that at all anymore. And it represents, you know, literally everything and every region. Except champagne, where it’s literally illegal to make anything but champagne, which is the cause of some frustration there. But yeah, I mean, you probably know better than me, like, you know, vendor phones can be so much now.
Jacy Topps 33:11
Yeah, yeah, exactly. It’s like, there are definitely some producers that are doing some great things, and it’s blowing my mind. So, yeah, I 100% agree. I’m curious is, were there any particular regions that surprised you at all, with like, you had an idea about a particular region and you went in and then you came out? You know, like your mind was changed about something? Or you were surprised?
Jon Bonné 33:39
There were I had a vague sense, but I didn’t really know until I went there and spent time how, remarkably musket A is transforming itself. And really the whole sort of Western Loire figured it was this kind of, you know, sleepy little region not was kind of a sleepy port town and literally rolled into North one day and was, my mind was blown. It’s one of the youngest greenest cities in France. It’s a tech hub, like everyone’s riding around on free bike share. There’s all these chefs who left Paris and other cities to cook there because you have a young affluent clientele who like, you know, they, they spend money, they love eating, they love drinking local wine, they have all the produce that alar and all the seafood Brittany, and Muscadet has basically kind of undergone the same transformation that Beaujolais has except for white wine where there’s now 10 crews, you can very specifically tell the differences in geology and in taste and terroir, and the quality has absolutely rallied and some of the best white wines in France are now being made. They’re from what used to be considered kind of cheap oyster one roussy All blew me away. I didn’t really have an expectation but figured it would be sort of the remnants of the old, fortified wine industry. And just the both the interest in in creating the net new like creating dry, fresh wines from manuals literally like we used to have, you know, used to be sort of the old head trained Grenache like, absolutely astonished me, and especially the fact that they’re like 20 years ahead of almost anywhere else in France and even some parts of California in thinking about how to modulate ripeness for the sun. And so like, you would go visit the folks in Cal select Goby family and talk and talk to them. And they, they were they were thinking they were thinking about things that like, only the most progressive farmers in California were thinking about. And the third, the third place I’ll throw in as a as a ringer is, is Bordeaux, which I figured was going to be an incredibly depressing region to write about, and I would just sort of perfunctorily go, and, you know, do what I had to do and be done. And there is a lot in Bordeaux, that’s really depressing. There’s the word that one of them in your own use, there is futile. And I think that’s very appropriate. But it’s fascinating, because even with that there’s so much progress and so much momentum to change. And so my goal was to find 5050 producers in Bordeaux, who I felt were really contributing to deep change, and what is France’s greatest, like, biggest fine wine region. And went back for three trips, three long trips, ended up with that no 52 or 53 could have for sure, if I had kept going at it found more. But it just became very important to me because it’s a it’s a region that I did grew up, like really liking to drink, not like fancy Bordeaux, but just cheap Bordeaux. But it’s also you know, it’s Cabernet Sauvignon, we’re low. It’s wines that people inherently like to drink. And so you know, my thing was if, if you can figure out how Bordeaux can change, then you can figure out how anywhere in France could change.
Jacy Topps 37:12
Yeah, I love that. Exactly. I absolutely love that idea. So now that you’ve dropped the mic on in French wine regions What countries are you thinking about next?
Jon Bonné 37:30
What’s in the crosshairs? It’s a good question. I wish I had a clear answer. Italy would be interesting. I know with certainty that I will not do that. Because I just got through eight years of France and if you think so I’m gonna let someone who actually speaks Italian and has 15 years of their life to spend on that do that one. I mean, personally, the book I would love to do would be the new Australian wine. That’s a good one. My publisher might feel otherwise I think I think that’s complicated and that there is so much incredibly interesting stuff that’s going on. They’re like, even more radical than like all the stuff in California, a lot of the stuff in France, it’s just, it’s it’s one of these things when wine industry is truly industrialized, then when the inevitable snapback happens, it happens in relative proportion to how much the industry went overboard. And when you think about how far Australia went to like making completely boring, lifeless, like unremarkable wines, the way in which that’s unraveling now is amazing. And so, you know, someday in my spare time, when you know, money is no object, I will for sure do that. Honestly, right now, I am trying to figure it out. You know, there’s lots of amazing things happening. I feel like I should not be the only one to chronicle it. So a little bit TBD.
Jacy Topps 39:01
Okay. I mean, I think you deserve a break too after eight years.
Jacy Topps 39:11
One final question for you. What’s in your glass? What are you drinking these days?
Jon Bonné 39:16
Um, you know, it’s, it’s kind of all over the place. I it being sort of the end of spring, I’ve gone through my, my now I think annual tradition of drinking an enormous amount of Vermentino, slash legato slash roll slash whatever. Like, that was one of the really interesting things, which I think doesn’t quite have a form yet in France. But you see in Corsica especially like the quality of Vermentino bass, white wines, it’s just astonishing. There was always an enormous amount of Beaujolais in my glass. I am following my own thesis that Beaujolais is the new Burgundy and drinking every last drop of it, I can still afford it and on Honestly, like evermore there’s, there’s sake in my class. That’s surprising. Yeah, it’s something I’ve drunk for a long time. But it’s just like, the past few years, I think even during COVID The quality of like artisan sake that, again, sort of falls outside the traditional lines of what people like, think they know about sock a has really just boomed. And so it’s you know, it’s fun for me because it’s legitimately something that I get to explore and not feel like I you know, I’m a No at all, which I tend to be on on.
Jacy Topps 40:36
Jon Bonne, thank you so much for joining us. It has been such a pleasure. Your book is amazing. Thank you. Pleasure. And I look forward to reading the next one. Whenever that break ends.
Jon Bonné 40:49
Thanks so much.
Jacy Topps 40:55
Has the past reshape the future? Is what’s old new again in French wine? Well, that’s not for me to say. Maybe we should all grab a glass of our favorite French wine and check out Jon’s latest book to find out. If you liked today’s episode, we love to read your reviews and hear what you think. And hey, why not tell your wine loving friends to check us out to remember, you can subscribe to this podcast on Apple, Google, Spotify and anywhere else you listen to podcast. You can also go to wine enthusiast.com backslash podcast. For more episodes and transcripts. I’m Jacy Topps. Thanks for listening