A Tribute to Bernard Pivot

by Jacky Rigaux

Jacky Rigaux, university professor who taught many of today’s Burgundy vignerons, is a universally recognized expert of all things Burgundy, a man who has made the quest for terroir in wines a life mission. He pens for the TerroirSense Wine Review an admiring, grateful ode to Bernard Pivot, who recently passed away.

Goodbye friend Bernard. You turned Spinoza’s beautiful phrase into your relationship with life: “Joy is the increase in our power to act, what makes life in us“. You gave Burgundy, for all eternity, this brilliant description: “In Burgundy, when we talk about a climate, we don’t raise our eyes to heaven, we lower them to earth“.

You, the man from Beaujolais, were not angry with Philippe le Hardi for banishing the disloyal Gamay grape. Retreating to the granitic terroirs of the south, it became the fabulous translator of the beautiful Beaujolais terroirs, giving you the joy of writing three odes to this magnificent terroir, the longest and most moving chapter of your Petit dictionnaire amoureux du vin (p.43 to 65). A few pages further on, you devote a luminous chapter to Burgundy (pp. 80-87), which perfectly sums up the philosophy behind the climats. The UNESCO coronation of which you accompanied by happily accepting the chairmanship of the support committee for their inclusion on the World Heritage List (on 4 July 2015), in their all-important role as the cradle and archetype of terroir-based viticulture in the world. This is an essential listing at a time when the steamroller of globalization has industrialized all agricultural production. The philosophy behind the climats is the most innovative form of resistance: this even though they have existed for thousands of years, “that it’s been that way for a long time“. Or to put it another way, suing your own words: “…In an increasingly standardized global wine market, it is certain that Burgundy’s terroir will remain a safe haven, as they say in the wineries listed on the stock exchange, if the winegrower makes every effort to get the best out of each vintage. ” (p. 86).

A true guardian of the Burgundian truth of the climats, you were able in your life to verify and appreciate just how unique and magical is the reality of the climats . « The wine of Burgundy needs, demands even, enthusiasts with character and willpower. Willpower so as to not drink it all up when still young, even though its calling is irresistible, starting with its colours of yellow with green highlights or crimson red. Or when its crunchy fruit beckons you invitingly to have a bite. We need to adopt an enological approach to our gluttony : we need to set aside and separate those bottles that will have a short life span from those that will age and improve with time. From the former group of wines, we will appreciate an explosion of aromas, of the garden for the whites and of the orchard for the reds. From the latter, we expect bouquets of subtle fragrances that both the tonge and the palate will have to discover, given that the nose alone will no longer be up to the task in and of itself”. (p.87)


Bernard Pivot passed away in Neuilly-sur-Seine on May 6, 2024, at eighty-nine years of age. Pivot, a journalist, held numerous posts during his lifetime, amongst which one cannot forget that he was the longtime literary critic of the Journal du Dimanche; a former Chairman (2014-2019) of the Academie Goncourt, and also a famous French TV personality and presenter who had manned the show Apostrophes (1975-1990), an unmissable literary rendez-vous on France’s Antenne 2 TV channel. In 2018, he even collaborated on a book, “Lire!” with one of his two daughters, Cécile Pivot. But Bernard Pivot was also an immensely well-respected man of wine: president of the support committee of “Les Climats de Bourgogne” and his contribution to their reality constitutes an important part of his legacy. (Ian D’Agata)



Jacky Rigaux

World-renowned wine writer, French wine critic, researcher of Université de Bourgogne, Jacky Rigaux is one of the most active advocate of the importance of terroir in winemaking. He is also a psychologist and approaches wine as an expression of a historical and cultural context. To underline the importance of the relation between wine and culture, he organizes many summits in France between winemakers and experts: the most important is the annual “Les Rencontres Henri Jayer – Vignerons, Gourmets et Terroirs du Monde”, gathering about 30 vignerons devotee to the philosophy of terroir. He is author of many publications, including “Le Terroir et le Vigneron, Terre en Vues”, “Grands cru de Bourgogne”, “Le réveil des terroirs – Défense et illustration des ‘climats’ de Bourgogne”, “La dégustation géo-sensorielle”.

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Jacky Rigaux