Transatlantic Forum: An American in Burgundy

May 14, 2024

On Tuesday, May 14th, the French-American Foundation—United States welcomed author and wine connoisseur Alex Gambal for a Transatlantic Forum event “An American in Burgundy” held at La Joie de Vivre Bookstore in downtown New York City. The event was generously hosted by Cyril Dewavrin, owner of La Joie-de-Vivre, who also kindly served as a moderator for the event.

After opening remarks from Foundation president Caroline Naralasetty, Cyril discussed his new bookstore, which has been over a year in the making. It features books in both English and French, and is excited to begin serving the community by making French literature more accessible to American audiences. Cyril then introduced Gambal and his most recent book, Climbing the Vines in Burgundy: How an American Came to Own a Legendary Vineyard in France.

Gambal recounted his journey from Washington, DC to Burgundy and how he came to be interested in the wine business. During a year off that he had taken from his business, Gambal and his wife traveled to France, where they met Becky Wasserman, a winemaker who was looking for stagiaires, or apprentices. Gambal decided to take on the task, and the rest is history. When asked about the main cultural differences and difficulties he faced as an American in France, he explained that integrating himself into the community – getting to know his neighbors, sending his children to a French school, and being willing to learn everything there was to know about the wine business – allowed for him to develop fruitful relationships with the people around him. “I became a local,” he stated. Gambal ended up staying in France for four years, during which he learned about the wine-making process, from farming grapes to selling the finished product, and got to work with some of the best wine-makers in the world. Gambal read an excerpt from his book, which is comprised of colorful anecdotes from his time as a winemaker in France and his journey from stagiaire to connoisseur. Throughout the evening, guests were able to taste some of Alex’s wines and ask him questions about his experience. Topics ranged from the current state of the wine industry to climate change, while touching on key differences between the wine industries in France and the United States.

Thank you, Alex and Cyril, for such a special and fascinating discussion. Special thanks to FAF Board Member Jim Finkel for providing us with the event’s wine and for facilitating the evening.