Despite a brief illness, Reba Wasserman-Hone, an American-born wine exporter who championed Burgundy’s wines and small artisanal producers throughout her time in the region, died on August 20 in Beaune, France, where she had built her home. She had reached the age of 84 when she passed away.
After relocating to Burgundy with their two young boys in 1968, Becky Wasserman-Hone and her artist husband, Bart Wasserman, decided to make a new life for themselves in the region. Wasserman-Hone would frequently point out how beautiful the light was, and how much her husband enjoyed drinking wine. A property in the little village of Bouilland, which has a population of around 150 people, that dates back to the 14th century, was purchased by the couple.
Wasserman-Hohn required labour and fasting while her marriage was in trouble. An acquaintance had a well-known cooperation company, and he was approached by a neighbour about assisting him in selling his oak barrels in the United States. Even though he’d never sold anything before, he set out on his own to hawk barrels from the back of a rented vehicle as he drove across California’s wine region.
Because of where she lived, when she travelled, she was often asked for her suggestions on lesser-known Burgundy wine producers, small-batch vigners – the people who brew and make wine on their old family farms – and she gladly provided them. In no time, she was out of the partnership industry and into the world of wine, first as a wine agent for Berkeley-based importer Kermit Lynch and later as an independent consultant.
According to Alice Feiring, the wine writer and journalist, Becky was “the godmother to generations of Burgundy farmers, exposing the lesser domaine wines of Burgundy to Americans and the rest of the world at a time when the only wines they were familiar with were the major producers.”
When she first started out in the wine business in the mid-1970s, she and the president of Hillebrand Beaune, a shipping firm, came up with an innovative solution: combining the wines of numerous producers into a conventional shipping container, which could hold about 1,200 cases of wine. As her son Peter described it, this resulted in an explosion of “small production exports,” which she referred to as “small production.”
Mrs. Wasserman-company Hohn’s slogan was “Non vendimus quod non bibimus” – “We will not sell what we will not drink.” Ms. Wasserman-Hohn was a successful businesswoman. To paraphrase what she said to Mr Dalton, “Wine is not meant to be debated. It should be drank and to provide pleasure, happiness, and a sense of well-being to those who drink it.”