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Book Reviews | 1 Wine Dude - Page 5

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Should America’s Native Grapes Be Saved? (The Wild Vine Giveaway!)

Vinted on October 7, 2010 binned in book reviews, giveaways

This week, we’re giving away a hardcover copy of Todd Kliman’s excellent The Wild Vine: A Forgotten Grape and the Untold Story of American Wine (of which I received more than one sample copy) to one lucky commenter (that could be YOU).

I should start by saying that The Wild Vine is everything that you’d want out of a good wine book; better stated, it’s everything that you’d want out of a good book, period.

There are compelling characters.  There is a stellar narrative voice.  There’s an underdog story (a few, actually, interwoven) that make you care.  There is conflict, perseverance, and in some ways, triumph.

I’m just not entirely convinced that the story needed to be told – at least, part of it, anyway.  I’m glad it was told – and in such gloriously talented fashion; I’m just not sure I “get” the importance of the tale, mostly because the heart of the story in The Wild Vine is the near total disappearance of one of America’s most seemingly promising, and at one time certainly most successful – native hybrids, the Norton.

The book takes us on tangents as wildly diverting as the un-pruned tendrils of a Norton vine: from the early 1800s near-suicidal despair of Dr. Daniel Norton (who by all reasonable accounts appears to be the originator of the Norton grape that bears his name) to the crowning of an American Norton as one of the world’s greatest wines in a late 1800s Austrian wine exhibition, to the near singly-handed modern resurgence of the Norton grape in its spiritual and genetic home in Virginia at the dedicated hands of Chrysalis Vineyards transsexual owner, Jenni McCloud.

As you have probably discerned, The Wild Vine is not without (major) drama.  And while some might bristle at Kliman’s extensive use of fictional historical narrative to get inside the heads of the book’s decidedly non-fictional characters, and others might give up on the extended storyline (Kliman literally waits until halfway through the book before posing the question of why the Norton practically went extinct), those who stick with The Wild Vine all the way through will be well-rewarded.

There’s just a part of me – the part that’s tasted some nasty versions of wine made from Norton grapes – that wonders if the grape should have been saved.

(for details on how to win a copy of the book, read on…)

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Biodynamic Wine, Mystified (Is BioDynamics A Bunch of Fertilizer?)

Vinted on August 26, 2010 binned in best of, book reviews, wine books

I have uncovered potentially serious evidence that could possibly refute the recent scientific evidence suggesting that drinking wine makes you smarter.

Specifically, I offer my recent experience reading Nicholas Joly’s essay-like treatise on the hot-potato topic of Biodynamic viticulture, Biodynamic Wine, Demystified. If this is the demystified version, I’d hate to see it mystified.

I received Biodynamic Wine, Demystified as a gift, of sorts, from the lovely (I know it doesn’t sound particularly manly, but he is a lovely guy) Mike Benziger after a recent visit to his family’s gorgeous biodynamically-farmed Sonoma wine estate.

Frequent 1WineDude.com readers will recall that some of Mike’s comments in my video interview with him caused a bit of a stir and sparked lively comments-section discussion on the topic of soil profiles and biodynamics generally. Those discussions mirrored, in a way, the current love/hate tête-à-tête – ok, and the occasional heated exchange of invective barbs – between biodynamics’ supporters and detractors.

Supports generally describe Biodynamics as having favorable impacts on the vineyard, its grapes, and the resulting wine. for example, Mike Benziger, from the comments to our interview, speaking about why Benziger employ soil analysis and biodynamic farming:

“Commercially farmed soils around the world have become biologically very similar. The use of commercial fertilizers and pesticides over the last 50+ years, combined with aggressive cultivation has homogenized much of the soil life in the topsoils worldwide. Artificial inputs reduce or terminate soil microbiology and thus eliminate points of differentiation from site to site… Vines that grow only in the topsoil that is healthy or not, usually only express the varietal character and don’t express the sense of place that is associated with soils. When commercial fertilizers are overused, there’s no impetus for roots to stretch down deep, because the snack bar is right on top in the topsoil. To express a more complete sense of place, vines need to have deep roots that feed deep down into the regolith and parent material.”

And the counterpoint, from the comments of that same post, from an anonymous commenter who claims to also be a winemaker:

“No doubt that BD has a tremendous feel-good quality that prompts a certain amount of rationalizing. The problem I have with BD is that it is not benign. It makes claims of superiority without real evidence and presents a defense of “there are some things that science just can’t reveal” as a blanket retort. It’s disingenuous and bad for society in general… There are lots of us that make rational decisions about how to do what we do in the vineyard or cellar. But BD says that it doesn’t matter. That all the science that has served us well in the past, in any aspect of life, is wrong. And that rationality is wrong because there’s a way of looking at the universe to reveal a truer truth. You and I cannot see it, but someone can – he’s a clairvoyant named Rudolf Steiner… The wine industry is enough of a dinosaur already, we certainly don’t need a fairy tale to impede real progress. BD exists only in microcosm. Excess wealth and labor usually do produce good results.”

After reading Biodynamic Wine, Demystified, I’m no closer to understanding which viewpoint is right than I was before I’d even heard of the book. Uh-oh…

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The Most Beautiful Wine Cellars In The World, Revisited (Now With Drool-Inducing Pics!)

Vinted on May 4, 2010 binned in book reviews

After my review last week of the newly-released book by Astrid Fobelets, Jurgen Lijcops, The Most Beautiful Wine Cellars In The World, I received requests (one in the comments, and a few more via email) for some pictures from that haughty tome.  After all, if you’re gonna drop upwards of $60 on a coffee table book, you want to know a bit about what you’re in for (well, a bit more than me telling you that it’s very pretty, anyway).

I’m happy to report that I received permission from the publisher, VdH Books, to share a few images with you, which I’ve watermarked and reduced in size from the hi-res to reduce the temptation of stealing them (not that any of you would do that, mind you, we’re just protecting the world from those thugs who might come and snatch them up after a Google image search…).

Anyway, five shots are included below, which are (in order of appearance): Château Neercanne (Netherlands), Radisson SAS Wine Tower (London),  Palais Coburg (Vienna), Weingut Brundlmayer (Austria) and the imposing Marques de Riscal (Spain).

Enjoy…

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The Most Beautiful Wine Cellars In The World

Vinted on April 29, 2010 binned in book reviews

In the music industry, we call it G.A.S.  As in, Gear Acquisition Syndrome – a desire to acquire more basses, guitars, whatever, usually brought on by exposure to an awesome instrument pick up made by an acquaintance.  In my “spare time” I run a social network for bass guitarists, so I have a lot of opportunity for G.A.S.-inducing exposure.  I mean, if you’re a bass player and you don’t instantly get G.A.S. looking at photos like this, then you probably don’t really have a pulse.

Envy or jealousy do not accurately describe G.A.S.; they have far too negative connotations, and G.A.S. isn’t negative – if anything, you’re happy for your friend who has picked up that awesome new instrument – it’s more like a form of addiction that plagues those who find themselves simultaneously straddling the roles of collector and experiencer.

Which is, of course, a scenario which wine lovers can easily appreciate, especially when visiting one of those enormous, kick-ass wine cellars full of potentially-amazing juice.

Which is why you probably shouldn’t even so much as look at the upcoming book The Most Beautiful Wine Cellars In The World by Astrid Fobelets, Jurgen Lijcops (about $60 from VdH Books, available in May 2010 – I received a preview copy).  It will very likely give you a serious case of wine G.A.S. …

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