How did you come up with the idea for VinoPhilo?
Brice de Beaudrap : The origin of VinoPhilo is based on a desire and a surprise. My masters in philosophy completed and my first years of courses given, in 2019, I felt the desire to share philosophical reflection in the professional world. However, having been a student but also a teacher, I was well aware of the aridity of philosophy. So I had to fix it to make it accessible to corporate workers – the question was how. It was during a meal with my brother that my mind cleared. We were talking philosophy while tasting good wines and I realized that it was possible for me to illustrate my point with this beverage and that the very fact of drinking, with the right measure, helped us to think together. So the link was made. Trained by my brother who has a solid oenological culture, I decided to imagine the association philosophy and oenology. Let us remember that the vine has always been a vector of spirituality in human culture. It was therefore with a glass in hand and in good company that the idea of the oenology philosophy conferences came to me and that VinoPhilo was able to see the light of day.
“The vine has always been a vector of spirituality in human culture”
One of the founding texts of the philosophical tradition relates A banquet. It is not a coincidence ? Tasting a wine is a privileged opportunity to discuss philosophy?
If the Banquet of Plato knew how to become a key text, it is good however to remember that Greek philosophy began with Thales and his wonderful thesis “everything is water”. Nevertheless, tradition has preferred to make Socrates the emblematic figure of the philosopher, water has therefore not been able to completely seduce us. On the contrary, we preferred a Socrates whom Plato describes as a man who drinks more than the others and yet who has never been seen drunk (Banquet 220a). Thus, the history of philosophy remains far removed from the drunkard, while favoring a perspective tastier than water. History has preferred to go beyond questions of the composition of things to reach reflections on dispositions and virtue, which wine questions directly, as Plato reminds us in Laws. This historical choice does not seem surprising, because tasting wine is already questioning our relationship to reality, our relationship to the world and therefore our philosophy. This relationship to the world begins with a relationship to oneself: drinking well requires honest self-knowledge, because drunkenness can reveal to us many aspects that we hide from ourselves. This relationship to reality continues with a questioning of our feelings, yet the first vector of knowledge of what surrounds us. This face-to-face with the universe ends with a transport, with a slight intoxication that makes us rub shoulders with a few ideals on condition that we do not fall into drunken madness. The man who drinks will necessarily question his relationship to the world. Thus, it actually seems to me that wine has always been a privileged tool for philosophizing, even beyond the simple educational aspect that we could give it. The saying in vino veritas is perhaps not so anecdotal as that. ” Wine [est] the defense of the truth and the truth that of the wine”, writing Kierkegaard.
“The man who drinks will necessarily question his relationship to the world”
The very exercise of tasting and what it entails – taste education, moderation, attention to experience, etc. – is already a philosophical exercise?
A tasting implies the seizure of a harmony, the listening of an order of which we are not the cause. In this, we are already in philosophy. “The friend of wisdom” that is the philosopher, according to Greek etymology, will become in Latin the friend of taste, by the verb know, where is the translation taken from wisdom but which, initially, means to taste. The very act of tasting is therefore linked to wisdom, to knowledge, to the profound being of the philosopher. To do this we will have to work, educate ourselves, moderate ourselves and show internal dispositions, because tasting is an activity requiring very special attention, listening to oneself and the world which places us in an attitude of humility and ignorance. , an attitude dear to the philosopher. The very exercise of tasting therefore seems to me to be perfectly suited to this friend of taste who is the philosopher.
The wines, according to their singularities, seem to open up or illuminate different philosophical perspectives for you. Some types of wine are Kantian, others Nietzschean?
Suppose we want to talk about corporate values. I could start by asking what a value is and use for that a champagne such as Bollinger Cuvée Special. What is a bottle of champagne? It is an assembly that responds to an intention. It is also an effervescence maintained by a muselet which allows the taste to be released at the chosen moment. But the same goes for entrepreneurship. It is a multitude of actions taken with an intention in view, with the aim of reaching the end at the appropriate time without being carried away by the effervescence of the project. The intention, that is to say the end, is essential. But then, what is an end? The end is a fruit. However, the fruit of the vine is always the same: this allows us to understand that the ultimate ends are not chosen, as explained to us by Aristotle. Only the means are subject to deliberation. That said, the Special Cuvée consists precisely in the flavor of the fruit in all its forms: fresh fruit, ripe fruit, stewed or grilled. An end can sometimes be taken as a means for another greater project, such as the grape that becomes champagne.
“Drinking well requires honest self-knowledge, because drunkenness can reveal to us many aspects that we hide from ourselves”
How to orient oneself in all these possible ends?
We need a criterion. And this is where the concept of value comes in. The blending of the Special Cuvée, to use this example, responds to an intention which, itself, was established on the basis of certain values. These values are expressed in this case in the five pillars of Bollinger which are: pinot noir, the vineyard, time, reserve wines in magnums and vinification in wood. Value organizes a hierarchy in the means, as we are so well reminded Nietzsche, which speaks of the human being as a creator of values. The values are selection criteria. They are principles of action. Thus the experience of this champagne in its taste, its history and its manufacture invites to reflect on the term of purpose and value. We can therefore translate Aristotle’s thought into a wine (Ethics at EudèmeBook II, 10 ; Ethics in NicomaqueBook III, 5) and Nietzsche (Genealogy of moralityBook II, §8 ; The Gay Knowledge, §344). Although this is an extremely reduced version and for information only! I dare not claim to be able to attribute such and such an author to such and such a region or grape variety in an absolute way, I simply take advantage of pleasant similarities to highlight such and such a concept or such a thinker with a wine or a vineyard. But from there to categorizing them entirely is another matter. Moreover, the spirit of a wine depends on the work of the winegrower: it is a voluntary activity of men and women who wish to transmit ideas, values and emotions through their wines. It is therefore up to them to attribute a philosophy to their wine and their work.
“Tasting is an activity requiring special attention, listening to oneself and to the world which places us in an attitude of humility and ignorance, an attitude dear to the philosopher”
Your approach is primarily oenological. To what extent does it give way to drunkenness, to excess compared to simple tasting?
My perspective seeks to integrate into the philosophical discourse both the science of wine and the experience of drinking, which includes the notion of drunkenness. That said, drunkenness as an excess should be banned from VinoPhilo’s experiences – in this, we will follow the example of the guests of the Banquet. Personally, I see my activity from the perspective of Aristotelian meditation (a happy medium between two excesses), thus making wine tasting a fight against alcoholism. Tasting is precisely the place of an education in our relationship to wine: we cannot appreciate this beverage if we are in excess (whether it is an excess of quantity of drink, or an exacerbation of our sensitive perceptions that makes us reach a state of inebriation). The friend of taste cannot be a drunkard. There is this beautiful phrase from Aristotle which tells us, in theEthics at Eudeme : “The best wine is not the one that pleases the man who has spoiled his tongue in drunkenness (since they are sometimes poured vinegar!); it is the one that pleases the intact palate » (Book VII, 2, 1236a). If the taste is subjective, we can conceive of an objective criticism of the excess of wine, which goes so far as to deprive us of its goodness. I could also have invoked well-known ethical arguments, but it seems to me that the argument of the pleasure of wine in itself is the most powerful. The lightness on ourselves that wine brings us, its ability to loosen language, and the perspective it brings are therefore quite welcome, provided that we remain in a meditation.
“The friend of taste cannot be a drunkard !”
Are there also, for you, philosophical lessons to be learned, upstream, of the manufacturing process? Craftsmanship wisdom? A patience of fermentation?
A wine is always a story, a terroir, a know-how. When we taste, we cannot ignore all the work that the vine requires, all the richness of its culture and its vinification. From the composition of the soil to the grape variety, from the weather conditions to the age of the vines, from the choice of vats to the dosage of sulphites, there is a whole art that transforms wine and shapes it. There is human choice and the rights of nature, there is harmony between tradition and innovation, between consumers and producers. From all this wealth, there is a philosophical lesson to be learned. We have here a great source of analogies and metaphors which can also help us to approach more the wisdom of the Ancients. All my conferences are prepared from three axes. First of all, the wine itself in its aromas, its nose, its colour. But in order to complete the speech, I have to talk about its history, its origin, its terroir. To these two parts of the study of wine, I always add a third study concerning the production process, the choices of vinification, the secrets of the blends… In a word, all the work that takes place in the cellar. VinoPhilo is a search for the philosophy of wine, being a philosophy as much of the vine as of the winegrower and of tasting.