A former pupil of Saint-Cyr (1933-1935) and the Saumur cavalry school (1935-1936), Colonel François Bonal was born in 1914, the son of Captain René Bonal (who died for his country in the same year) and the daughter of a military family. He left the army in 1967 with diplomas from the Ecole Supérieure de Guerre and the Norfolk academy (USA), and then until 1979 served as head of PR for the Winegrowers and Champagne Houses.
When he arrived in Champagne in 1967 following his military career, the young recruit knew nothing of the region or its wine. But François Bonal quickly learned all there was to be learned, to the point where he became inexhaustibly knowledgeable on the subject. With an unshakeable faith and a youthful ardour, he set out with sabre drawn to confront the non-believers who did not share his enthusiasm for Champagne wine. Every battle he fought won new converts.
As he pursued his mission across the lands of Champagne, the prophet François gathered behind him a multitude of men and women of all ages, from every country, every race and every creed, drawn by his expert and elegant tutelage to discover at first hand the wine of kings and the king of wines.
Taking up his pilgrim’s staff, he preached the Word far and wide, most especially in the universities and catering schools of Europe where he achieved terrific success among the young who were immediately enthused by his talent in the service of our great wines.
With this second career so well fulfilled, one might imagine that this ardent senior citizen would at last allow himself some time off. Quite the reverse: now aged 65 years plus, François Bonal threw himself into a third career as Champagne historian and writer, starting with a magisterial work that consumed four years of considerable labour. The huge Livre d’Or du Champagne is every bit an encyclopedia that remains to this day without equal. This is the book known simply as "the Bonal", much as the dictionary of a humble teacher in the French Third Republic came to be known as "the Larousse".
His other works include the Anthologie du Champagne, for which its author trawled the literature of France and beyond to assemble hundreds of references to the glory of Champagne.
But François Bonal did not always write about Champagne alone, as evidenced by his books in praise of the fairer sex, La Femme et le Champagne and Mademoislle de Navarre: la vie gallante d’une Champenoise du XVIIIe Siècle. In this second work he evokes the heroine’s refined tastes and sensitivity to the aesthetic charms of the Enlightenment, an Age dear to the heart of French writer and philosopher Voltaire who once said of Champagne:
The sparkling foam of this frosty wine
Is the brilliant image of our Frenchmen
His funeral oration was delivered in the church of Notre-Dame d’Epernay on 22 November 2003, by CIVC director Jean-Luc Barbier, speaking on behalf of all Champagne stakeholders, Growers and Houses alike.
The Champagne Houses owe a debt of gratitude to Colonel François Bonal for his gracious permission to present his works on the UMC website, making such changes as may be justified by the passage of time. The UMC will remain forever faithful to Colonel Bonal’s memory and objectives:
To make his encyclopedic knowledge of Champagne available to the widest possible audience.
Our congratulations and thanks to Colonel François Bonal!
|The writings of Colonel François Bonal||Publishers|
|1984||The encyclopedia (the "Bonal")||Grand-Pont|
|1990||The Anthologie du Champagne||Dominique Guéniot|
|1990||Les Vertus Thérapeutiques du Champagne||Artulen|
|1995||Dom Pérignon, Vérité et Légende||Dominique Guéniot|
|1995||Mademoiselle de Navarre, la Vie Galante d’une Champenoise du XVIIIème Siècle||Dominique Guéniot|
|1997||Les Stalles des Églises de Champagne||Dominique Guéniot|
|1998||Ay, Cité Champenoise, la Lettre et l’Image||Paysage|
|1999||Les Régiments de Champagne sous l’Ancien Régime||Dominique Guéniot|
|2000||La Cuisine au Champagne d’Hier à Aujourd’hui||Coq à l’âne|
|2001||La Femme et le Champagne||Dominique Guéniot|