Burgundy, Bordeaux, and Bourdain—He Was a Wine Geek Just Like Us

Photo by Dave Lastovskiy

Like so many others, I’m gobsmacked by the suicide of Anthony Bourdain. I can brag about my Bourdain love fest, ranging from “Kitchen Confidential” to “Parts Unknown,” and wax poetic about his impact on me culturally and creatively.  Every columnist feels a duty to impart his or her connection to him.  I’m a rather naïve gal from southern Idaho who loves the notion of adventure, but is a bit restrained and shy.  Through Bourdain, I traveled from my couch each Sunday, wine in hand, to corners of the world I’ll never see, never smell, and never taste. 

Bourdain claimed he wasn’t that into wine. I beg to differ. I think he just didn’t want to be lumped into the wine snob category—someone who pontificates about “time on the lees” and “brix levels.” I’ve spied enough “Parts Unknown” camera shots—bottles of Cornas, Burgundy, and Bordeaux—to believe that he deeply appreciated wine. In an interview with Wine Enthusiast, he said, “I don’t need to know what side of the hill it’s grown on. The older I get, the more rough and rustic I’m enjoying my wines. I’m moving away from Bordeaux and toward unpredictable Burgundies, which [are] always a spin of the wheel and half the fun. Or Côtes du Rhône. Or no-name Italian.” Clearly, he knew the subject.  I once read that he didn’t focus on wine on TV because it films merely as “colored liquid in a glass.” I agree.  But, I sure worked hard to learn what wine he, Eric Ripert, Ludo Lefebvre, or the local Italian guy were pouring in one episode.

Regardless whether or not he owned his love of wine, his connection to the experience of food and wine was magnetic.  “Meals make the society, hold the fabric together in lots of ways that are charming and interesting and intoxicating to me. The perfect meal, or the best meals, occur in a context that frequently has very little to do with the food itself,” he noted.  Bourdain showed us people around the world—some like us but most not—sitting around a table, glasses clinking, and forks noisily scooping food off the plate.  Watching people gather together because of the food, but stay at the table because of the people, is something we all long for but only attain a few nights or holidays a year.  Bourdain helped us reflect on our own travels and connections.

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A friend once said that at the end of each” Parts Unknown,” Bourdain’s words left her “with a smirk on my face, sorry that he was done talking to me.”

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