Feminin vs masculin: the sensorial opposition between chambolle-musigny and gevrey-chambertin wines and the socioeconomical construction of a terroir/taste wine paradigm

At least since de XIXth century, wine writers oppose quite often the wines from Gevrey-Chambertin to the wines from Chambolle-Musigny claiming that the former are more “masculine” (full-bodied, powerful tannins, leathery, rustic…) and the later more “feminine” (delicate, elegant, silky, flowery…). It is generally accepted that these sensory differences are the consequence of terroir differences between these two appellations. Our study, combining sensory sciences, psychology and history, aimed to check whether the above mentioned lexical dichotomy was nowadays likely to be found in the taste of the wines of these two appellations. In order to answer these questions 4 wines from Chambolle-Musigny and 4 wines from Gevrey-Chambertin was submitted to two sensory tasks. A panel of oenophiles performed first a blind sensory profile using a number of attributes related to the masculine or feminine character of the tannins.

The results of the sensory profile showed that the samples were not segmented by appellation and that the masculine/feminine character was not correlated with the appellation either. The panelists were then asked to categorize them into two groups explicitly named “Chambolle-Musigny” and “Gevrey-Chambertin”. We hypothesized that the feminine/masculine character of the wines would help the tasters to correctly categorize the wines. The results showed that only one of the samples was correctly categorized. Three explanations are plausible: our tasters do not have a precise idea of what is the taste of a Chambolle or a Gevrey wine; most of our samples were not representative of their respective appellations; the dichotomy Chambolle/feminine vs Gevrey/masculine do not have a sensory reality nowadays despite the fact that our panelist declare in a short questionnaire that they believe in the masculine vs feminine lexical dichotomy. In order to better understand our results we conducted a historical study on the construction of Burgundy appellations and the mental representation of those appellations that wine consumers have during XIXth et XXth century.

This study showed that the evolution of wine production and trade norms during the XIXth resulted in a marketing and cultural creation of those two different sensory identities by wine prescribers (wine producers, wine writers, INAO). The subsequent birth and development of French appellations will promote and, in finally, anchor, the idea between the terroir and the taste of the wine, of which Gevrey and Chambolle became one of the most salient examples. 

 Authors: Jordi BALLESTER (1), Olivier JACQUET (2) 

(1) Centre des Sciences du Goût et de l´Alimentation, UMR6265 CNRS – Inra-UD, 9E Boulevard Jeanne d´Arc, 21000 Dijon, France, Chaire UNESCO « Culture et Traditions du Vin » de l’Université de Bourgogne.
(2) IUVV Jules Guyot, Université de Bourgogne, 1 rue Claude Ladrey, 21078 Dijon, Chaire UNESCO « Culture et Traditions du Vin » de l’Université de Bourgogne

Emails: jordi.ballester@u-bourgogne.fr and olivier.jacquet@u-bourgogne.fr 

Keywords: terroir, Gevrey-Chambertin, Chambolle-Musigny, sensory analysis, history masculine, feminine 

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