Wine as happiness? Oh yes! Into Wine, Olivier Magny’s new book is full of oenological passion but something else lurks beneath. Magny, French of course, is a true devotee of terroir. It could be said that the charming young Frenchman is positively evangelical about the stuff. He’s heavily and deliciously biased on the side of the organic and biodynamic wines but backs up his stance with a variety of facts about winemaking, taking his readers on a journey from the soil, to the winery, to the glass.
Magny has an honest and infectious humor, he’s blunt about both his fervor for all things wine and his firm opinions on where the current wine media has gone astray. The book’s footnotes are almost a separate work, full of charming asides and notations. We caught up with Magny, currently on his book tour in New York, to probe his philosophy on all things wine.
1) What does the title of your book, Into Wine signify to you, how does it reflect your philosophy of studying the world of wine?
Well, I think if you want to cut through all the BS infused in the world of wine, you need to genuinely understand how things works – from the soil that will give us the grape all the way to the moment your drink your wine. What I found out is when you really pursue that goal, you’re going to have to dig deeper than you imagine. It is that fantastic journey into wine that I share in this book: one that will give the reader not only knowledge and perspective, but also a sense of discovery and adventure!
2) Your book shows off your great sense of humor, do you think overall people take wine too seriously?
Two words: Hell – Yeah!
Wine is a fascinating topic but talking about that very wine for twenty minutes simply isn’t my thing. Call me unprofessional, but I’d much rather drink a wine than talk about it!
3) In the book you come out strongly against the use of pesticides and promote the idea that good soil is essential to good wine. Why do you think Americans find the notion of soil/earth less appealing than the grape?
No matter where we’re from, we live in a time where we all take our soil for granted. We get soil and dirt confused and in the process, we forget that without a healthy soil, there can be no healthy food or wine. Contrarily to what most wine drinkers imagine, the wine industry as a whole uses ginormous amounts of pesticides, and most of them end up in the wines that people drink. I’d much rather drink pesticide-free wine!
Now when you start looking into your soil, you realize that each place is different and therefore has the potential to grow grapes that will taste different, thus leading to unique wines. But this approach to making wine is necessarily an approach based on attentive farming. Culturally, and that is mostly due to history, the European wine culture is quite a rural one: it is a culture that recognizes that wine starts first and foremost with farming. If you look at the sociology of who is behind most US wineries, you’ll find a lot of passionate people, a lot of rich people too, but not a whole lot of farmers!
4) Do your wine preferences change with the season? Do you have a go-to wine for summer parties?
Yeah, big time. They even change during the course of one day! My go-to wine for summer parties is not original at all but it’s Sancerre. Delicious, crisp and fruity, I drink it by the gallon!!
5) You’ve been traveling to promote the book, how do you make sure you find great wine to try when you are in a new city? Do you tend to look for local favorites?
I don’t have to go with great wines. Fancy wine is a bit like fancy food: I absolutely love it but I wouldn’t want to have it every night. So when I go somewhere new, I always try and ask what’s a good place. And then I follow my mood and if it tells me “Olivier, let’s have a crappy wine tonight”, I have no problem with that!