It sometimes happens that when I escape from the cave and find myself on the subway, in the world, and see a man or a woman reading, not a Kindle, not an Ipad but a book--ink on glorious paper-- I wrestle the urge to genuflect, wash their feet, kiss their pinkie.
A publisher should not go begging either. Not at all.
In this particular case, accolades should be dealt to University of California Press, who decided that Terry Theise's book, Reading Between the Wines was worthy of their effort.
Think of it; in today's give -them- the- points culture, UCP had the belief and the courage to publish a book that did not follow a straight line. As someone who can't find the straight path even if she had a magnifying glass or a seeing eye dog, this feels like a lifeline.
The book is meandering, heartfelt, cogent. Ideas froth over fancifully, artfully, unheard of in our climate of sucking up to celebrity or the deity of the next wine guide.
The volume could be called, Why Thought Matters, but Wine works just as well.
Now, it's questionable if the book would speak to a reader who doesn't already have a sense of themselves amongst the bottles, it seems to be a book for those of us who have been thinking and drinking for a long time. TT refigures familiar context with avuncular sanity. (The kind of well educated uncle, of course, one therapized and above argument.)
TT is a poet and his metaphor is wine. His language is often lyrical. Even when they're not, such as these Kant inspired lines from his chapter Pressing Hot Buttons, they resonate.
++If you like Twinkies, eat them. Don't apologize. Have all the fun a Twinkie delivers. But don't claim it's just as good a a home-baked brownie from natural fresh ingredients, or that anyone who believes otherwise is a food snob. It's only sugar and chemiclas, but I like it. I'm a sort of a cultured gu, and yet I can't abide opera, whereas I have a perverse tolerance for professional wrestling. Again. we're all admixtures of high and low tastes, and this is fine, as long as don't confuse them. ++
Most people were expecting TT to write of his producers with the same adagio quality that fuels his catalogues. Those people will be craving more of TT's stories, such as the one about his biological father or about the Stefan Justen's estate on the Mosel. It matters not, the book provides plenty of head nods, sure, it's preaching to the choir, but in great voice. Anyway, the choir needs some attention to, no?
Unbidden, Max Allen's lovely book, The future makers, Australian wines for the 21st century arrived in my mailbox.
This is an elegant attempt to bring Australia back to the people, to show the world that there are winemakers working their soil, nurturing, not denaturing, in the winery. Allen is determined (and successful) at showing another Australia. A passionate writer, he has convinced me there is hope beyond the big, brawny and manipulated.
Never having visited Australia (and having ignored it for a good two decades) I appreciated Andrew Jefford's take on Allen's book. He put it nicely into perspective.
++Max is sometimes criticised in Australia for being overly pro-biodynamic and pro-organic. He is partial, and makes no secret of it. There are, though, non-biodynamic and non-organic producers profiled in the book – as well as some of the weaker BD producers (which often equates with the most doctrinaire). Careful reading of the entries enables you to gauge the author’s pulses of enthusiasm. ++
In Max's words ;
++The Australian wine industry is not, en masse, embracing organics, ripping out its chardonnay to plant drought -tolerant alternative grape varieties or searchinf for a unique taste of place in its wild yeast-fermented pinot noir. There are still plenty of head-in -the-sand wineakers, still plenty of corporate wine business accountants, still plenty of profit-driven grape growers all clinging desperately to business as usual.++
He could be talking about any of the New World, no? In his way, he is challenging the huge industry of Australian wines and showing them what is beyond the mirror, should they choose to listen. How? He has filled the book with perfect, cogent snap shots of wine makers who, admittedly, are in synch with my own beliefs and tastes. Reading this book made me sense what could be Australia, gave me reliable reportage on the different regions (this book is a must for MW and MS students) and it was the perfect back up to my recent experience with Tom Shobbrook.
Kudos to his publisher, Hardie Grant. The book is beautifully shot and feels substantial and regal between my hands.
In writing my forthcoming book, I had to try to come to terms with America. Not easy for me at all. In doing so, I had to read about this countries wine beginnings. That led me to several older volumes which were terrific but Vineyards in the Sky, the Life of Legendary Vintner Martin Ray, was the stand out.
I have no idea what vintner means, do you? But I'll excuse it. Eleanor Ray, Martin's second wife wrote this book as if it were fiction with Barbara Mainacci. And while it reads in a bit of a fairy tale meets Margaret Mitchell, tomorrow at Tara kind of voice, it stayed with me, in a very visual and visceral way.
Ray was one of the founding, legendary winemakers of the United States who learned his craft and art from Paul Masson ( no wine before its time, thanks Orson Welles). He later bought that very vineyard.
Served up in the pages are the early days of Santa Cruz vines. Laid out in detail was the difficulty of resuscitating America after prohibition. I had always heard that Ray was eccentric, crazy even. Of course this was written by an adoring wife, but still the crusty and passionate character come through as well as his hatred of working with sulfur (he never did.) And the winemaker who was viewed as having a boulder on his shoulder, really pioneered the AVA system. He is the great unsung of America wine country. I always did love the underdog.
And, now it's time to reread Shadow on the Hudson for a good fiction fix. Boris Makaver, Anna and Hertz, here I come.