Although this is predominantly a photobook, Emmanuel Mère expertly sets the scene with a ‘geographical and historical background’ which weaves important moments in history with geological information while painting a picture of how life in the Côte Chalonnaise passes by. The rest of the picture painting is left to photographer Jon Wyand.
The photography series actually starts with people — arguably the most essential aspect of ‘terroir’ — and opens with a rather joyful and romantic kiss between lovers, announcing the chapter ‘City of color, City of wine’. His portrait of the Chalonnaise is certainly colourful and shows the vibrant and noisy moments of festivals, alongside the solemn moments of religious contemplation, and all the life that happens in-between. For a ‘wine book’, its actually quite refreshing to anchor the region in its people, rather than people-less landscapes.
A breakdown of the different AOCs then follows, with Mère highlighting the important historical developments of the region and leaving us with a flavour of how each AOC tastes in the glass. Short but pleasurable to read descriptions give some context to each AOC.
Wyand’s photos from the Côte Chalonnaise are interspersed with the AOC regions, and share an insight into the different seasons. From the promise of spring and the cheer of summer to the patience and peaceful pause of winter. Autumn is obviously the chapter with the highest concentration of photos, and quite understandably as it is the moment in which all the year’s hard work comes together in the harvest — concentrated in two intense months of movement and emotion.
Wyand presents the human element as much more important than the changing colours of the leaves in the seasonality of the region, and there are many intimate shots (some more humourous than others) that make you feel like a voyeur in the region, peeping from behind the camera lens — seemingly unnoticed. There’s pride, there’s fatigue and there’s a whole lot of joy in these pages, it’s rather infectious. The book certainly does feel like a chance encounter within the Côte Chalonnaise. But, as with the beauty of a book, it is one of those encounters you can happen across again, and again.