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Jon Bonné's "The New French Wine" is a towering achievement in wine writing.
Full disclosure on this: I consider Jon Bonné something of a distant friend, having (slightly) stalked him before his first appearance at the Vancouver International Wine Festival several years back and having gone out for a few drinks thereafter. But in my defence, my inner fanboy was fuelled by my passion for his first book, The New California Wine, a highly readable, reasonably opinionated take on where The Golden State was heading circa 2013. It’s proved to be highly prescient (it reads like it was written last week, not at start of Obama’s second term), with the lesser-known producers he championed becoming the thought leaders of the fight for wines of character and passion in Napa, Sonoma et al.
When he spoke at VIWF, Bonné was hard at work on his new book—it was going to be about France, where he had been spending much of his time since leaving his gig at the San Francisco Chronicle. That was 2020—and I seem to recall him saying it was almost done. Now, three years later, it is. The book—The New French Wine—has some of the same themes as his previous work: Bonné has sussed out producers who are making a difference, mostly using biodynamic or organic farming, aiming for a wine that strives for balance over power, and never missing a chance to champion the little operator. But unlike the California book, this one is massive. It’s two full volumes (one on the producers, one on the narrative) with a combined 800+ pages. It might all be a bit daunting save for the immense readability of Bonné’s prose. And lest this turn into some cloying love-in, there are some limitations. If you love Bordeaux for example, this probably isn’t your book. Bonné not only dedicates more space to the Western Loire than to France’s biggest fine wine region, he gives Bordeaux an intro that can be charitably described as a series of backhanded compliments. But even in a region he doesn’t love, he finds the gems: a sizeable portion of the wineries he features on the Graves section of Bordeaux don’t even show up on Google Maps.
But in the areas of France that are housing the dreamers (read: most everywhere but Bordeaux), Bonné is in his element, crafting a narrative roadmap that can transform a wine newbie into an expert in the new wave of French wine in almost one sitting. It’s jut about the best gift you could bestow on a oenophile, be they budding or an expert.
And in a lovely bit of kismet, Bonné is coming to town next week to promote the book. The event is on Wednesday, September 27 at Burdock & Co.—pretty much a perfect fit sensibility-wise—and features a four-course dinner from Chef Andrea Carlson for, wait for it, $90. That’s crazy circa 2013 pricing. Pairings, with French wines that reflect the ethos of the book are an additional $60. If you love wine and want to be surrounded by likeminded adventurers, this is a no-brainer. Tickets are here.