Wise bottles

Philosophy has its say on wine: on its definition, on its tasting, on what it inspires, but also on the virtues of liveliness.

Uprooting of vines in the Bordeaux region, increasingly early harvests in a context of climate change and changes in consumption practices symbolize some of the changes in the contemporary wine landscape. To put this situation into perspective, the social sciences have long been interested in wine, including history, geography, sociology, law and economics. Pierre-Yves Quiviger, known among other things for his research on Sieys, offers us a philosophical reflection on wine in a well-informed and lively style book. The choice of educational writing that is not devoid of humor allows you to follow the proposed route whatever your level of knowledge on the subject. A short lexicon of nological and philosophical terms is associated with a brief but up-to-date bibliography which opens in a pleasant manner with a category entitled primary literature thus listing in the order of appearance the vats and all the wine estates cited by the author!

What is wine?

Young taster, by Mercier

Organized in less than ten chapters, the proposed approach is far from being limited to an anthology of philosophers' comments on wine and is rather structured around questions that are all falsely obvious. The first person who opens the book seems to question the project itself: Wine and knowledge or do you have to know what you drink?. The book thus begins without an introduction with a questioning of the interest of taste blind to use the established expression, that is to say tasting a wine without knowing its origin, vintage and producer. The point is dissected with precision, because it is less trivial than it seems and the arguments are all finely weighed to arrive at a place of practice and comparison.

What is wine? Here is the question that organizes the second chapter and it is not so simple either. The author of course recalls the issues at stake in successive legal definitions (national and international since the French law of 1889, known as the Griffe law, named after the senator who then promoted it), but he does not limit himself to this. In a claimed phenomenological approach, the author explores the diversity of wines and his reflections will guide (and undoubtedly surprise) the novice. Working on the eidtic variationhe concludes with a more elaborate definition than it seems: wine is a drink that comes from a specific place, which has importance in the evaluation of its quality; it comes from the transformation of grapes by a fermentation process, it has a color (either white or red or ros possibly orange) and it contains alcohol (but in a moderate proportion, less than a fifth). (p. 62).

The object defined, another question becomes pressing, what is a good wine? The demonstration here joins an old questioning of the social sciences on the construction of great terroirs and the evolution of wine markets, but chooses to treat it with references from Hume and contemporary English-speaking philosophers who have written on wine (Roger Scruton, Barry Smith and Cain Todd). Here we also develop a reflection on the place of classifications and expertise which is quite interesting even if it gives little importance to the achievements of economic sociology on this point.

Drunkenness, religions and philosophers

The following pages of the book are quite original since the author tackles a dimension that is often overlooked when we talk about wine: that of bookishness. Even if the alcohol content of wine is moderate compared to other drinks, ingested alcohol always leads to a disorder in the analysis and whatever the level of knowledge of wine can be altered, hence the practice among wine professionals of spitting out tasted wine without ingesting it. Without denying the very real hygienic arguments and the risks linked to uncontrolled consumption, P.-Y. Quiviger recalls the specific place given to bookishness by authors of Antiquity (Plato and Senecus in this case). As a counterpoint, the author delivers a short and very funny story entitled Muscovite drinking party!

The question addressed subsequently is not unrelated to bookishness since it reflects the social experience of wine or can you drink alone?. The author first recalls that many wine professions (producers, wine experts, experts, merchants, wine merchants) regularly drink alone, but that the wine experience is most often collective and accompanied by a meal. This experience, beyond its sociological aspects, also passes through specific conditions: marriage with food, serving temperature of the wine and quality of the glassware (a point unfortunately too often neglected).!).

The reflection of P.-Y. Quiviger then offers a digression under the title drink or believe by focusing on the link between wine and religion. Well-marked link in many names of wines and appellations, often recalling the role of monasteries in the diffusion of wine throughout the long history of Christianity. But the author reminds us that the concern is not only that of the New Testament. The Hebrew Bible and the Koran also give a place to wine six occurrences in six surahs for the book of Islam. P.-Y. Quiviger also emphasizes that if there is a wine of religion (for monothisms, but not only), there can also be a wine religion with its codes and it ironically illustrates: The religion of wine manifests itself through its esoteric vocabulary, its schismatic temptations, its codified rites, its idolatry (there are big names whose wines everyone wants to drink ()) and his condemnation of idolatry (the drinkers labels, p. 177-178).

The book then presents itself in the more expected form of a journey through some great figures of the European philosophical tradition, but this is conducted in such a way as not to tire the reader. Laws of Plato, Senque, Rabelais (who became the symbolic figure of the Chinon vineyard), Locke, Montaigne and Montesquieu (two figures from the Bordeaux region!) constitute the first step. The second from Rousseau Clément Rosset via Kant and Kierkegaard to finish with Gaston Bachelard and the lesser known Mary Daly (1928-2010, feminist philosopher and theologian) is undoubtedly the most original, because the references used are often less known. For Rousseau, P.-Y. Quiviger comments precisely on passages from the book II of themile and of Julie or the New Hlose. For Bachelard, it is not the famous philosopher of science who writes about wine, but rather the philosopher of the imagination who devotes the last chapter of The Earth and the reveries of rest At wine and () the vine of the alchemists.

Following the scholarly and informed reflection on wine of the philosopher Quiviger can also find echoes in two recent and fascinating books by wine practitioners: the sommelier Pascaline Lepeltier and the Jura winemaker Valentin Morel.

The book by P.-Y. Quiviger concludes after a Rosset greeting with a specific example of tasting and a statement that we can remember: THE wine does not exist, there is only of the wines. And there are only bottles. Even specific moments when these bottles are exciting (this does not always mean delicious), and, sometimes, cry with emotion, literally (p. 256).