Here’s another entry in the monthly series in which I review the samples that I cannot drink without being admitted to the hospital.
First up, we have a long-form Johnson. Hugh Johnson, that is, who I would posit is the world’s greatest living wine writer. Mitchell Beazley has put together the 256-page collection Hugh Johnson on Wine: Good Bits from 55 Years of Scribbling (about $20). And if this is what Johnson considers “scribbling,” then the state of wine writing today, in the wake of his assumed retirement from the genre, is somewhat sad indeed (except for the “somewhat” part, that is).
Hugh Johnson on Wine is a collection of Johnson’s wine essays stretching back to the 1960s; as such, it functions in part as a sort of retrospective on the development of the modern worldwide wine industry, as viewed through the lens of his wit and prose (he has few equals with respect to either). One of the most entertaining aspects of the book are the margin notes, which Johnson annotates in his typically dry, erudite fashion from the perspective of his current, older self. In other words, the book is a gem for lovers of wine, and appreciators of dry British wit.
Second, there’s the Wine Aerator Decanter Vacuum Preserver, Foil Cutter, & Accessories By Artick (about $21). I know what you’re thinking: the last thing that we need is another f*cking wine aerator!!! And you’re right. Having said that, I can actually recommend this little accessories collection, primarily because it is, actually, a collection of accessories.
Now, none of the items in this lineup are particularly excellent, and none of them are of the very highest quality levels (the filter for the top of the aerator in my sample was slightly damaged, though still safely usable). None of the Artick accessories in this package perform at the top tier, either. Having said that, all of them do work, and work pretty well. They’re also easy to clean, simple to use, and relatively easy to transport.
So, for the price of about one aerator, you’re getting a nice little group of ad-ons, making this a pretty good choice for folks who don’t yet have any of these types of gadgets, and don’t plan on giving them more than a medium-high level of use.
The modest country stylings at Vina von Siebenthal in Panquehue
Chile’s wine business is dominated by producers that could charitably be described as “corporate.” Its movements are almost exclusively set by a small number of very, very large production houses.
In that environment, 30 hectares of vineyards – which comprises the entire holdings of Viña von Siebenthal – is basically a rounding error.
I was first exposed to the benevolently pernicious undercurrent of Chile’s micro-production wine brands (and to von Siebenthal itself) when I first visited the country in 2011, and was able to spend some time tasting the wares the independent vintners of MOVI. So I was piqued (and thirsty) when I saw that von Siebenthal was on the list of producers I was to visit for my return media jaunt to Chile late last year.
The brand began as a passion project of its eponymous Swiss founder, über-wine-consumer Mauro von Siebenthal, who at the age of forty decided to retire from his “adult” carrier (in law) and give the wine business a go (hey, this sounds familiar, doesn’t it?). In 1998, he planted ten hectares in Panquehue in Chile’s Aconcagua Valley, building a modest winery building (which is easy to miss, as it looks exactly like a number of Chilean country houses in the area) two years later.
Mauro von Siebenthal has described his winemaking philosophy (assisted by Doña Paula and Santa Rita alumnus Stefano Gandolini) in similarly modest terms, as “interpreting each meter of land.” I loved that description, because it both betrays Swiss cultural fastidious while promising the potential for uniqueness across the portfolio. Fortunately, that’s precisely what you find – precision and uniqueness – when you taste through his wines…
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