Vino Business: The Cloudy World of French Wine

I have read my share of books on the topic of wine, but I gotta tell ya’ none had me turning the page in such jaw-dropping expectancy like Vino Business, written by Isabelle Saporta.

Vino Business gives a telling view into the world of wine in France, particularly the details of the 2012 classification of the wines of Saint-Émilion, and the role Hubert de Boüard, the owner of Château Angélus, had to play in this ruthless melodramatic.

Vino Business starts with setting the stage for readers, ensuring all understand the power of wine in France and the great lengths Châteaus go to ensure classification, and the declassification of others.

Modern day J.R’s [Dallas] have entered the vineyards and made the prices of wine and land skyrocket, and just like the characters of Dallas, they don’t shy away from using the dirtiest tricks to make this red-gold sore.

Saporta lays out her findings showing that larger chateaus continue to fix the classification process to ensure they retain their classification, but in doing so, small family run productions end up either finding the terms of classification unreachable, due to is obscure and subjective rules, or altogether losing their once held classification. According to Saporta, they way a wine tastes accounts for only 30% of what goes into the classification, because the fetching beauty of a hostess, the refinement of a conference room and the size of the parking lot, apparently, also need to be considered.  In a cheeky retort to this nonsense, Saporta writes:

Wine lovers will be thrilled to learn that when they drink a glass of Grand Cru Classé that cost 500 euros a bottle, they are also tasting a bit of its parking lot and events space. On the contrary, Ausone, the Romaneé-Conti of Saint-Émilion, is located at the top of a steep road where buses can’t go. It not only lacks a lecture room but also had the bad taste to keep its historical cellar building and so, was penalized.

Imagine, 500 century’s of historic architecture called into question and placed second in comparison to a parking lot.

In this book, Saporta tells all. No one with a role to play in what she calls the “cruel, medieval micro-society” is exempt, from winemaker to wine critic. To see what I mean, pay close attention to chapter 5, entitled ‘The Very Nice Dictator’. See if you can tell who she’s talking about before the name jumps off the page.

Whether you are a wine enthusiast or just wine curious, I highly recommend Vino Business by Isabelle Saporta. It’s that enjoyable that you will likely read it a few times, just as I did.