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Banished Then Reborn

The idea that we all have wine preferences is axiomatic and indisputable. You may prefer, say, cabernet sauvignon over zinfandel. But what if someone were to designate themselves as a sort of grape police? What if someone could unilaterally decide which grape varieties were acceptable? Someone did. That person was Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, who in 1395 set forth an edict to: “rip out and never again plant the ‘vile and noxious’ gamay plant.” Philip, who imposed punitive fines on noncompliant growers, designated pinot noir as gamay’s replacement.  But of course, fragile pinot noir is not easy to grow. A shortage of wine ensued—and at the worst possible time. With the plague known as the Black Death in full force and water supplies greatly polluted, wine was the safest drink in 14th century France. That reality led to a new acceptance of gamay, which was eventually replanted with enthusiasm in Burgundy’s southernmost region—Beaujolais.

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