Posts Filed Under wine books

Pocket Full Of Passion (October 2018 Wine Product Roundup)

Vinted on October 24, 2018 binned in wine books, wine products

It’s time once again for Ye Olde Wine Product Review Roundup, in which I turn my critical Sauron-like eye towards wine-related samples that are (usually) inedible. We’re back to hitting the books this month, because, well, I have a sh*t ton of wine book samples piling up at 1WD HQ. Like, seriously, I am tripping over some of them at this point…

Hugh Johnson 2019 Pocket Wine BookFirst up is the 2019 edition of the perennially (literally) fantastic Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book (Mitchell Beazley, 336 pages, $17). If it seems like I talk about this little marvel of a wine reference every single year, it’s because I do. Once again, Johnson’s cast of contributing characters packs an almost unbelievable amount of useful information on most of the wine world’s important releases/producers/vintages/regions into an equally nearly unbelievably small space. Yeah, it really needs to be an annually updated or subscription-style mobile app at this point, but still, there’s good reason this book sits atop the best seller lists for wine guides for those of us who still occasionally pick up these things made from dead trees. The rotating essay topic this year’s Pocket Wine is Natural/Organic/Biodynamic wines, and it’s well-written and interesting, bringing a refreshingly non-partisan analysis of those categories and making a good case that, when it comes to fine wine production, being sustainable is actually quite mainstream…

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In Search Of… The Not-So-perfect (April 2018 Wine Products Roundup)

Vinted on April 25, 2018 binned in wine books, wine products

It’s time here on 1WD for entry in the ongoing wine product sample roundup articles series, in which I try out samples sent to me that are not directly vinous / edible in nature. Once again, I’ve tried to whittle down the pile of wine-related tomes cluttering my office floor, but I also managed to have a sort of battle with (yet another) wine opener-type-thingy…

The Search for Good Wine

image: amazon.com

First, there’s the book: The Search for Good Wine: From the Founding Fathers to the Modern Table, by John Hailman (University Press of Mississippi, 301 pages, about $29). Hailman has been a wine competition judge, has authored a couple of other books, and had a nationally syndicated wine column; The Search for Good Wine pulls from the latter, which is the both the book’s strongest asset and (for me) its greatest source of consternation. This is a compendium of Hailman’s well-written, often witty, more often informative, and always accessible column essays, organized into four main categories (people, places, tips, and humor). They are good reads. The trouble is that (too) many of the essays employ relative references (mostly regarding time), yet lack details about when they were written and published. Not a big deal, until you hit the twentieth or so relative mention, at which point the editor in me (and maybe in you) will want to scream. Anyway, it’s solid work if you can get past that possibly-not-so-minor cavil.

Finally, we have my run-in with Vineyard Elite’s “The Perfect Wine Opener” (https://theperfectwineopener.com, $69.95). With such a haughty moniker, and a price to match, you’d think that this thing would work exceptionally well. And you’d be very, very wrong (based on my usage trials, anyway)…

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Through The Past, Scholarly (March 2018 Wine Product Reviews)

Vinted on March 14, 2018 binned in wine books, wine products

For the most recent batch of wine product sample roundup articles, I’ve been focusing on reducing the pile of wine book sample copies currently littering the floor of my home office. And so for March, I am slowly whittling away at said pile by offering up two more hardcover tomes for your vinous reading consideration. You still read books, right?

French Wine A History

image: amazon.com

Firstly, we have French Wine: A History by Rod Phillips (University of California Press, 319 pages, about $30). That’s an unassuming title for a book with such an ambitious scope. Actually, its scope is bordering on insanity. Beginning from roughly 2500 years ago, Ottawa-based historian Phillips carves up the topical elephant into almost-digestible-sized time period chunks: the period before 1000 CE, the Middle Ages, through to the Enlightenment, the onset of the World Wars, etc. I say “almost” digestible because even each of those chapters is sizeable in terms of the rich historical content and context of the topic (remember, wine involves chemistry, historical events, economics, farming….).

The ground zero / linchpin moment of French Wine if there is one, after which all is forever changed, seems to be the phylloxera epidemic of the late 1800s. Like the rootstocks of its precious vines, nothing in the French wine world was ever quite the same after the country’s vineyards were decimated by that little louse.

All of this is told in dense, matter-of-fact prose, but Phillips isn’t afraid to call out others’ opinions (even somewhat challenging the venerable Hugh Johnson at one point). It’s not a fast or particularly easy read, but ultimately a worthwhile one. And its conclusion is appropriately bittersweet: France is growing fewer grape vines, producing fewer bottles, and drinking less wine than in its historical apexes, and yet the standard-bearer wines (in terms of quality and prices) are still at the top of the global game; and while we may be seeing a dip overall, the country’s vinous development has been anything but uniform, as French Wine dutifully shows us…

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Wine And Place And Threats (February 2018 Wine Product Roundup)

Vinted on February 21, 2018 binned in wine books, wine products

For February’s wine product sample roundup (in which I cast a critical eye on wine-related stuff that isn’t actually wine), we once again hit the book shelves, with some mixed but ultimately geekily fascinating results…

Shadows in the VineyardFirst up is a long-overdue mention of Maximillian Potter’s account of the train-wreck-style-too-crazy-to-look-away story behind the 2010 threat to poison the vines of Burgundy’s La Romanée-Conti, which produce some of the most sought-after and expensive Pinot Noir wines on the planet (interestingly, the vintage under threat was the same one that I reviewed and – SPOILER ALERT! – everything turned out okay). The book is titled Shadows in the Vineyard: The True Story of the Plot to Poison the World’s Greatest Wine (Twelve Books, 289 pages, about $10), and if that subtitle sounds a bit fawning, it’s also an accurate indication of the book’s only real flaw.

Potter’s an accomplished and experienced former staff writer, and he knows both how to spin a yarn and how to meticulously research his topic, both of which come together masterfully in Shadows in the Vineyard. Be forewarned, however, that Potter also falls into the same trap that has snared countless others who’ve mentioned this fabled Burgundian top-tier producer, which is to mention so often that its wines must be the world’s best that your facial muscles might get a bit tired from all of the ensuing eye-rolling. I mean, we get it already. But in terms of entertaining wine-related reads, this is a top-notch tale…

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