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a book of french wines, p.morton shand (1960)

a book of french wines, p morton shandWhilst this book actually covers 399 pages, I’m basing this discussion only on the 59 page section about Burgundy – including appendices. Despite my skin-deep approach, this book can be truly described as a reference work for its time. My copy is a 1960 reprint from the original 1928 work, and is clearly and largely based on that original text as there is no mention of AOC – merely a few statistics are changed to reflect reprinting dates. AOC is later discussed in quite some detail, but only as an appendix. [Edit: I later note from Mr Shand’s Wikipedia page that he actually died in April 1960]

The burgundy section opens with an erudite discussion of the enigma of the region – Maisons de Négoce – followed by a few meandering and largely unexciting pages that cull quotes from authors past – Dr Middleton, Brillat-Savarin, Stendhal – all extolling the virtues of burgundy wine. We then move onto a travelogue of sorts, taking the now traditional route from the northern Yonne outposts to the southern (essentially Rhône valley) vineyards of Beaujolais.

The text is actually very interesting once you get past the puffery, as there is detail that you don’t find in modern manuscripts – probably because the information is culled from a generation who still remembered the tracts of vineyard land that were perhaps lost to phylloxera – but those little addressed areas such as the Tonnerrois, Auxerrois, Châtillonais and particularly the Côte du Chalonnaise, Mâconnais and Beaujolais receive wordy treatment with the author listing primary vineyards, many of which that seem to be lost from today’s labels. e.g. a short passage from ‘Beaujolais’:

According to the délimitation cadastrale of 1919, both Moulin-à-Vent and Thorins (each of which is partly in the commune of Chénas and partly in Romanèche-Thorins) were entitled to the appellation ‘Grand Cru’ – a privelige enjoyed by 32 named vineyards of a total of 284 hectares in Moulin-à-Vent (the most famous being the Carquelin, or Grand-Morier, known as ‘le rognon du Moulin’ from its situation), Rochegrès, Combes, La Roche, Les Champs de Cour, Les Savarins, Les Brasses, Les Grolliers, Les Caves, La Rochelle and Vérillats, and 46 named vineyards, covering 291 hectares, in the case of Thorins.

There is (before the AOC appendix) some attempt at classifying vineyards: Chablis is quite straightforward with 1st, 2nd and 3rd class wines. The first class list extends to La Moutonne, Les Vaudésirs, Clos, Valmur, Les Grenouilles, Blanchots, Pointe des Preuses and Pointe des Bougros. Preuses and Bougros themselves are second class. Bringing up the rear are “the wines of Clichet and Milly (Lechet), together with the wines known as Chablis village and Petit Chablis”. As for the Côte d’Or, the author makes a large table and tries to make a distillation of the work of Lavalle, Danguy et Aubertin and Camille Rodier using the ‘Tête de Cuvée’, ‘Premier’, ‘Deuxiemme’ and Troisiemme’ levels.

The appendix on AOC is much more detailed than you will find in most publications, offering allowed vines, alcoholic strengths etc. e.g. for:

Appellation Contrôlée ‘Rosé de Riceys’: (Aube): decree of Dec 1947.
This appellation is confined to rosé wines grown in the Commune des Riceys, some 20 miles south of Troyes, from Pinot noir vines to a minimum 75% of the encépagement with a maximum 25% of Svégnié and Gamay. The maximum production allowed is 30 hectolitres per hectare and the musts are required to contain a minimum of 170 grams of grape-sugar per litre and develop not less than 10 degrees of alcohol after fermentation. The production of this rather delicately flavoured wine is very small; it is rarely met outside its more or less immediate area.

Summarising: Whilst P.Morton Shand doesn’t deliver up a personality like that of Harry Waldo Yoxall or Philip Youngman Carter, what he puts on paper is, as you can see, extensive and rather comprehensive for its time. Certainly a book worth picking up for the relatively low outlay required in a ‘pre-owned’ bookstore.

PS – anyone ever heard of Svégnié?

4 responses to “a book of french wines, p.morton shand (1960)”

  1. Tom Blach

    The erudite Mr. Shand was also Queen Camilla’s grandfather!

  2. Claude Kolm

    Curious. I have the original 1928 edition which has only 247 pages, although 61 on Burgundy (pp. 124-184). Is all the rest the appellation appendix?

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