Ah, the bittersweet end of a vacation--looking forward to getting back into the swing of things at home and on the road, but also sad about having to leave the Dionysian fantasy world of escape. This year, we did a whole lot of nothing: morning jogs (well, for me, it’s about a quarter jogging and three-quarters huffing and puffing), big meals, lots of wine and lazy days reading by the pool.
It’s amazing what a luxury reading can be. On the road, I find I’m often so exhausted that every night ends with me falling asleep in my bunk with the same paragraph plunked over my face. At home, the kids’ schedules are often so rigorous that the same book sits bookmarked on the nightstand for weeks at a time. On vacation, I got lots of reading done, highlighted by a great new wine book by a fellow Canuck, Natalie MacLean.
Red, White and Drunk All Over was a breezy and fun read, but well researched and full of great storytelling. I also like the fact that MacLean is one of the few wine writers who’s not afraid to admit to the alcoholic pleasures of imbibing, as well as the more commonly described sensual joys. MacLean does a great job of moving through several topics to get to her core point. For instance, she starts one chapter as a simple profile of Georg Riedel and his company’s stemware, and weaves through her own experience of hosting a wine tasting before finally showing us why, at the end of it all, the joy of wine is the joy of sharing experiences and memories with friends and family. Along the way, we meet notorious characters like Lalou Bize-Leroy, Randall Grahm and Rémi Krug, but end up exploring bigger issues like wine’s attachment to place, memory and our personal image of our own lives. It’s one of my favorite wine books of the last several years, up there with Real Wine by Patrick Matthews and Making Sense of Wine by Matt Kramer, Wine Spectator contributing editor.
One of Red, White and Drunk All Over's most interesting chapters deals with the now-infamous war of words between Jancis Robinson and Robert Parker over the 2003 Château Pavie. Parker gave the wine a glowing 98-point review (Wine Spectator's James Suckling gave it a 96), while Jancis Robinson gave it a 12/20 on her website and compared it, disparagingly, to a late-harvest Zinfandel. Back and forth they went, debating not only the wine's merits, but whether the style was appropriate. Ultimately, it became a battle over the influence of critics on wine.
Well, surfing the aisles at Costco on vacation, I found the bottle in question, and figured it would be fun to give it a spin myself. Over dinner, we decanted the wine and give it a swirl, sniff and swish. The wine was simply delicious—big and rich, but not heavy, hot or anything like what I might have expected. To my palate, it tasted like one of the California cults, not a superjuicy fruit bomb, but rather a balanced, well made, warm-climate wine, as many of these big-ticket bottlings can be.
I turned to my friend Steven, with whom we were dining, and said, “I never would have picked this as a Bordeaux.” He told me he would have picked it as a Right Bank Bordeaux in a second. (Perhaps he’d cheated and read James Suckling’s tasting notes in advance!) I’d love to find a California wine with a similar blend (in this case, 70 percent Merlot, 20 percent Cabernet Franc and 10 percent Cabernet Sauvignon) to taste blind against the Pavie. Any suggestions?
We debated about the wine, never questioning its merits, as it’s good stuff that certainly tasted like the grapes from which it was made and not like a late-harvest Zin (which has its merits sometimes, too!). But did it speak of place? Is wine nearly as interesting when it tastes as though it could come from anywhere? Is this a valid criticism when it comes to scoring wines?
Of course we all have our own opinions on these things, but that, precisely, is what I love about wine: the ability it affords you to get in touch with your senses and learn to articulate them, as well as your own values and worldview. And to share it all with friends is what keeps me coming back time and time again. Now, if only I’d bought a case …
Delmonico Stkhse @ Venetian — Las Vegas, Nevada — January 12, 2007 1:21pm ET
Kirk R Grant — Ellsworth, ME — January 12, 2007 1:32pm ET
Allen Black — Ajax, Ontario — January 12, 2007 2:10pm ET
John B Vlahos — Cupertino Ca. — January 12, 2007 4:02pm ET
Steven Page — January 12, 2007 4:19pm ET
Guus Hateboer — Netherlands — January 12, 2007 4:23pm ET
Steven Page — January 12, 2007 4:24pm ET
Steven Page — January 12, 2007 4:29pm ET
Karl Mark — Geneva, IL. — January 12, 2007 8:15pm ET
Natalie Mac Lean — January 13, 2007 2:57pm ET
Andrew Bernardo — Halifax, Nova Scotia — January 14, 2007 11:48pm ET
Joel Rosenthal — January 15, 2007 10:29am ET
Greg — January 16, 2007 3:24am ET
Chris Haag — vancouver, bc — January 16, 2007 3:49pm ET
Natalie Mac Lean — January 17, 2007 4:11pm ET
Paul Manchester — Santa Cruz, CA — January 18, 2007 5:41pm ET
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