Preserving Intangible & Tangible Heritage in Wine
09 Friday Mar 2012
I recently read a Geographic Expeditions newsletter that began with an excerpt from a Jonathan Keats piece titled “Why Wikipedia is as Important as the Pyramids” in Wired magazine. In it, Keats campaigns for Wikipedia to become the first digital World Heritage Site. His article debates the relevance of some of UNESCO’s 936 World Heritage Sites and outlines how UNESCO has grappled with the concept of intangible cultural heritage (for example, music versus monuments, mines or water systems). This brought to mind the bid by Burgundy’s Côte d’Or to classify its “climats”, or vineyards, among UNESCO’s hand-picked honorees. From my viewpoint, Burgundy’s climats cover both the intangible and the tangible angles of cultural heritage.
One of Keats’ arguments for Wikipedia’s greatness is that, as an ever-evolving information site, it will remain relevant in the future. How true this is of Burgundy’s vineyards and cellars, especially considering the improvements in their production techniques in the last 30 years! Burgundy transformed, not only to stay relevant, but to become greater. Indeed, one of the committee’s official aims is to “Hand down the legacy of this heritage to future generations”. Had Burgundy not radically transitioned much of its vineyard management from chemical to sustainable, organic and biodynamic methods, perhaps her soils would have become so starved they would not make wines in the world-class league they do today. Had Burgundy not begun estate bottling and ridding its cellars of brettanomyces (among myriad other changes in its cuveries), perhaps her wines would have become less reflective of the underlying greatness of their places of origin. And, mind you, this is the fundamental premise of the climats bid. But, Burgundy’s Côte d’Or did revive and advance, and this will remain necessary going forward.
Keats also argues that, because of its digital nature, people around the world can access and interact with Wikipedia; they can create their own experience with it. How true this is, too, with the wines of the Côte d’Or. Granted, the wines of Burgundy are far from free as Wikipedia is, but many are exported and shared around the world, allowing people to experience a part of Burgundy in their corner of the earth. What an interesting parallel between Wikipedia and Burgundian wines: by consuming them, you can participate in both a tangible and intangible experience almost anywhere.
If you want to support Burgundy’s UNESCO bid (it won’t cost even a centime), become a benevole by signing up today.