What if someone were to tell you that you could improve your life and make the world a better place simply by modifying your wine-drinking habits? I imagine most of us would be on board. It’s a bit more complicated than that, but reading Olivier Magny’s latest book may induce you to make a few lifestyle changes.
While attending business school, Magny began to question the course his life was taking and set out to discover the future he wanted for himself. Stripped to the essential, he realized that what he most wanted was not to contribute to making the world an uglier place. This, of course, limits one’s choices. Happily for us, he elected to get Into Wine, which just happens to be the name of his new book.
Magny is the founder of Ô Chateau, the award-winning wine bar and wine tasting school. In 2012, Ô Chateau became the first Parisian wine bar to win the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence and was ranked “Best Wine Bar in Paris” by Bonjour Paris. This is his second book.
Those who have read his first, the best-selling Stuff Parisians Like, know that Magny is a very clever guy with a light-hearted approach. In his latest work, he delivers a more serious message, but in a very palatable way. Into Wine combines the best elements of memoir, manifesto and user’s manual, debunking some myths and deflating a few wine snobs along the way. What’s not to like about a book that starts out with, “Wine changed my life”?
It will come as no surprise that what some call “progress” has wrought some undesirable changes in the health of our planet and its inhabitants. As you read along, it becomes clear that modern farming practices and technology – pesticides and irrigation, for example – are in no small way responsible. Reading the statistics may prod you to look in a new way not just at wine but at everything that fuels your body. However, Magny is no prophet of doom. There are solutions available, and they can be rewarding and fun.
Olivier Magny is a self-proclaimed “terroirist” (I told you he was clever.), and so he devotes a lot of the book to the subject. The concept is summed up in the equation:
Terroir = soil + climate + humans
In other words, terroir is the soul of a place, that particular combination of characteristics which gives it its essence and its personality. In an increasingly homogeneous world, terroir speaks to individuality and to authenticity. It may even be the key to enjoying wine – and life. L’art de vivre as the way to joie de vivre – why not?
Magny takes us through the process of winemaking, literally from the ground up, presenting hard science in laymen’s terms. As he learned about wines, he found that those he enjoyed most were produced by biodynamic farming – terroir wines – and he makes a compelling case for their consumption. Not to be confused with organic (which eschews chemical pesticides), although the two are not mutually exclusive, biodynamic farming aims to revitalize an impoverished soil and improves the relationship of a plant with its environment.
Magny took to heart the advice he received early on from a sommelier: “If you want to learn about wine, just learn about wine.” In other words, keep it simple. He encourages us to do the same. Experience different wines, and those you prefer will rise to the top. Intimacy enhances appreciation.
A good teacher is passionate about his subject, and one who is born to teach transmits that passion to his students. If Olivier Magny is even half as engaging in person as in print, good times are to be had. Since founding Ô Chateau in 2004, he has conveyed his knowledge and passion for wine to more than 50,000 students, from professionals to novices.
Having piqued our interest with a wealth of clearly presented information, he leaves us with a thirst (and the tools) to continue learning. At the end of the book, an appendix answers some frequently asked questions, while another provides a guide to vineyards worldwide that implement biodynamic farming practices. In lieu of a bibliography, a third appendix offers a list of good documentaries on the subject. (I’ve seen a couple, and they are good.)
So uncork a bottle, pour yourself a glass and begin to discover the world of terroir wines. I can’t promise that Into Wine will change your life, but I suspect you’ll be making more considered choices.
Want to learn more? As further incentive to expand on what you’ve learned, on the last page of Into Wine is a coupon for 10% discount at Ô Chateau, located at 68, rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 75001 Paris. Visit their website for additional information.