Thursday, December 5, 2013

9 Great, Fun to Read Wine Books

I'm going to get in trouble for this post. I know a lot of writers who have written wine books, and none of them are on this list.

It's not the top 10 wine books of the year, or the most important wine books. It's just 9 wine books I really enjoyed reading. They'll make good gifts and if you haven't read them, it's about time.

There aren't any general guides to wine. After you know a certain amount about wine, those cease being fun to read. I might give them a favorable review, but I wouldn't dream about being on a long international flight with just that book to keep me company. I do feel that way about all of these books with one exception, which I'll note.

In alphabetical order:

The Billionaire's Vinegar

There's a fascinating cast of characters in this true story of wine counterfeiting. It's not just the forger Hardy Rodenstock; we also spend time with wine expert Michael Broadbent, who certified some of Rodenstock's fakes, and even meet critics like Jancis Robinson who praised them. Broadbent sued publisher Random House for defamation of character in Britain, which has very anti-author libel laws. Random House settled, paid damages, and removed the book from the UK market, but the book was not edited. Movie rights were optioned and Brad Pitt was originally lined up to star, but he walked away and it's still stuck in development. I wonder who he would have played: Rodenstock the counterfeiter? Bill Koch, who finances Tea Party causes when he's not paying to investigate wine fraud? I'd like to see Pitt play a bottle of wine.

The Botanist and the Vintner

A terrific true story of the fight in the 1870s to save wine grapes from the very real threat of being wiped off most of the planet by a new, deadly and apparently unstoppable biological threat. Just figuring out that the culprit was phylloxera was hard enough, because by the time a vine looked dead, the tiny insects had moved on. And then, with a huge cash prize from the French government on offer, scientists raced to figure out its 18-stage life cycle in order to find some way to kill it. You know what? They still haven't. British author Christy Campbell takes you back to those panicked times when people thought fine wine was disappearing forever.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Is Thanksgiving exclusively for American wines? A 50-50 divide, and I'm thankful for that

Last week I took a poll on this question: "Should Thanksgiving be celebrated with only American wines?"

I discovered what appears to be a 50-50 split on the topic.

Now granted, these are my readers, and not the general population of the US. The poll size is actually large enough to project; I've seen Presidential opinion surveys with fewer people polled.

My readership is, as a group, more passionate and knowledgeable about wine than the general US. I'm not sure which way a larger US poll would go. My guess is that it would tilt toward Yes, because my readers know and care more about wine origins, and while 70% of the wine sold in this country is American, I'll bet that percentage is lower for my readers (there's another poll for next year.) But I don't know.

I do know this -- there aren't many 50-50 divides on wine issues. We often have a passionate minority vs. a less interested majority: the 100-point scale, alcohol level, organic and natural wine issues come to mind.

But this is an issue where you don't need to know any science or background or even anything about wine. It's a simple question, and a Yes or No answer. You can fudge it by taking out the word "only," but in that case I think you'll get over 95% Yes answers.

So here's something to be thankful for: a new issue to argue about! About time too; aren't you tired of reading people bickering about the impact of social media on wine sales? Folks, you've got a year to prepare your arguments for the next round in this debate. Let's revisit this next November. In the meantime, hey, how 'bout that 100-point scale?

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