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Sunday
Mar192017

The Takeaway

Traveling to Burgundy this past week for me wasn't just about buying new wines or finding new producers (although I did do a lot of both those things). It wasn't just about expanding my knowledge or increasing my understanding either (although both of those goals were achieved as well). What I truly was looking forward to doing in Burgundy over the course of the last seven days was comparing the French experience with the American one; to observe the way the locals talk and think about their wines, versus the way the American audience presents them here at home. I'll be honest here and admit I wasn't going in without my own prejudices or pre-formed conclusions. In my experience in the American wine industry, Burgundy tends to bring out the worst in people. The chip-on-the-shoulder, insecure, pedantic wine academics flock to Burgundy because there's a lot to chew on. You can make an entire career out of that type of wine knowledge—knowing the specifics of each vineyard, the ins and outs of each producer, the micro-climates of each vintage. But like a professor who's forced to teach when he feels his brilliance would be better served in the field researching (we've all had one of those, right?), the Americans I've met who are forced to sell, peddle, and talk Burgundy for a living are the ones constantly trying to show you what they know, rather than simply tell you what will help you better understand the wines. 

The overwhelmingly good news for me this past week was that none of the producers I met were of this ilk, nor were their representatives or brokers. It was like a breath of fresh air! I got to taste, drink, and learn about Burgundy from knowledgeable winemakers whose only hope was that I enjoyed myself. No one ever broke out a map and began lecturing about soil types. No one gave a five minute speech before pouring a new glass. It reconfirmed my belief (one that I believe transcends wine and spirits into life in general) that when you go to the source and meet the people behind any cultural phenomenon, they're rarely interested in their own medium as much as the people consuming it. That can be wine, whiskey, movies, comic books, music—you name it. It reinvigorated my love of Burgundy because it removed the bitter taste these people have left in my mouth over the course of my career and replaced it with a sweeter one left by those who are far more important: the producers themselves, the real people who make Burgundy what it is. It's a lesson I needed to learn, not just so that I could get rid of the elitist stigma I feel Burgundy has represented lately (at least in my mind), but also because I'm someone who routinely lets a few bad apples spoil the bunch. I don't say this to a lot of people, but I've been pretty depressed over the last year about Bay Area living; mainly because I can't shake all the bullshit around me. I let it eat into my soul and overwhelm anything good with negativity. As a result, I tend to look for greener pastures abroad rather than recognize the great things around me here at home.

To give up on something great simply because you don't like the evolution of its culture makes you the asshole, however (or me, in this case). It's like letting Trump or Hillary supporters (depending on which side you fall on) ruin your opinion of America. You have to know: the worst of either base doesn't represent the majority. Those who speak the loudest don't speak for everyone. The real people in this existence are out there waiting for you to meet them and talk sensibly about real life, face to face, not via an anonymous message board or a Twitter account. You have to go and make the effort, however. In the case of Burgundy, I let the snooty American Francophile crowd overshadow the real world that exists outside that thickening cloud of smug. That was my fault. I should have known better. 

And now I do. It was a pretty great week. 

-David Driscoll