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Saturday, 9 May 2015

Clarke Traces Wine History Bottle by Bottle!

The British wine writer offers an off-kilter history of wine's development.

 
 
What do the Bordeaux first growths, Tokaji, Blue Nun and Montana Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc have in common? For British wine writer Oz Clarke, they all mark crucial steps in the development of wine.
Clarke's new book, The History of Wine in 100 Bottles From Bacchus to Bordeaux and Beyond, is an ambitious task, as the author himself acknowledges in the preface. "This isn't just a history of 100 bottles. And it's not just a history of wine." he writes. "This book is 100 stories with wine at their centre, embracing all the history and culture of which wine is a part."
It's a fascinating collection of stories, stretching from the distant past – evoked by the clay urns buried in the Georgian Republic and the nightspots of Roman Pompeii – to more recent phenomena such as White Zinfandel, Parker points, synthetic cork and screwcaps.
Along the way, Clarke introduces the stories behind some of the great vineyards. Burgundy's Clos de Vougeot is given as an example of the church keeping the flicker of civilization alive during the dark ages, while the meteoric rise of South Africa's Constantia region is well worth delving into.
Marketing takes something of a hammering, as he berates those who turn good wines into "discount fodder".
"I must be one of the few wine enthusiasts alive who has been thrilled by the quality of Blue Nun," he said. "But then, the Blue Nun I loved was from the 1921 vintage ... and I drank it when it was 70 years old – golden, honeyed, scented with autumn richness. By 1985, Blue Nun was selling 2 million cases a year worldwide ... and it wasn't the quality of the wine anymore, it was the marketing."
People feature prominently, too, including some surprising additions; Christopher Merret formulated a technique for making sparkling wine long before Dom Pérignon's star ascended and Rudy Kurniawan makes it into the book as well, evidence of the stain he has left on the wine scene.
But, primarily, it's about the wine and while some of the bottles – Gallo Hearty Burgundy and Retsina – might raise eyebrows, Mouton Rothschild, Dom Pérignon and Haut-Brion are reassuringly present. There's even a tasting note for the world's oldest wine, a 1540 German Steinwein, albeit one provided by another English wine writer, Hugh Johnson, who tasted the wine in 1961. Only one bottle of the wine remains, deep in the cellars of the Würzburg Burgspital.
"This brown, Madeira-like fluid still held the active principles of the life that had been conceived in the sun of that distant summer," Johnson wrote. "For perhaps two mouthfuls, we sipped a substance that had lived for over four centuries, before exposure to air killed it. It gave up the ghost and became vinegar in our glasses."
The book is available on Amazon. It costs about USD18

Source: http://www.wine-searcher.com/