- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
|Foreword to the 25th Edition||4|
|How to use this book||6|
|Wine & food||14|
|Wine & cheese||28|
|Food & finest wine||29|
|The 1999 vintage||31|
|Chateaux of Bordeaux||78|
|Sherry, Port & Madeira||172|
|Central & Southeast Europe||190|
|The Former Yugoslav States||197|
|Asia, North Africa & The Levant||206|
|England & Wales||209|
|The Pacific Northwest||232|
|East of the Rockies & Ontario||236|
|The Southwest & Rockies, Texas, etc||240|
|A little learning...||273|
|A few technical words||273|
|A few words about words||274|
|Wines for drinking in an ideal world||277|
|And the score is...||278|
|The right temperature||279|
|Quick reference vintage charts||280|
The wine world is becoming more and more competitive; the consequence of ever-increasing numbers of competant grape-growers; of aspiring winemakers and demanding drinkers. Don't think I'm complaining. The net result is better wine for all of us -- and logically, one fine day, the disappearance of bad wine from earth. One fine day.
Competition is healthy and productive, but there is a catch. I am getting a clearer and clearer picture of the wine world gradually dividing between the hemispheres. Not north and south, but east and west, with the Atlantic as the dividing line.
The wines that score highest with most American judges (and score is the operative word) are the darkest, richest, strongest, most fruity, most oaky, and usually most alcoholic. They are the wines that win blind tasting competitions, by simply smothering more moderate and subtle entries. They are Formula One wines, as it were, unbeatable on a race-track, but entirely out of place where wine belongs: on the table with food.
Europeans are impressed, too, by their scale and concentration. It is, after all, the definition of a great European vintage that its wines excel in ripeness and savour the flavour the more dilute productions of lesser years. You can see the trend in the boutique (these days 'garage') wines of St-Emilion and Pomerol, outdoing the classic first-growths in dense concentration and instant tactile appeal -- and overwhelming them in rarity and price. Similar things are going on in Tuscany with certain 'Super-Tuscans', with Duero and Douro table wines, in Catalonia with Priorato and in South Australia with monster Shiraz. Turning up the volume is not such a hard trick. But before long, like night-club music, it deadens the senses. Worse, it can make you forget what wine is for: to refresh your palate as you eat.
There is judgement, and there is appreciation. I have been to tastings of rare old wines, each an individual with the patina of age, a marvellous proof that great wine can grow in complexity and subtle beauty for a hundred years. Three or four noble vintages are poured and some figure of authority says 'The 1870 is clearly the best'. 'You're quite right,' say the other pampered tasters. 'What a nose, what body, what a finish.'And they almost forget the other wines, the unfortunates which don't happen to be'best' that day. Savoured singly, each of these historic bottles would make a day memorable, linger in the mind's eye, be the stuff of legend. But they were eclipsed. Who remembers the horses that came second or third?
Far more important for all of us, though, are the everyday tastings by merchants -- and more importantly journalists -- who 'score' wines, instead of analyzing and appreciating them for what they are. The wine world is much more rewarding (and holds so many more possibilities) for those who taste with an open mind, rather than dismissing less obvious wines, or wines that express something they don't understand.
This is my plea for appreciation. If we could put behind us the racing mentality which must always have a winner, we would enjoy so many bottles so much more. My mentor, André Simon, had this definition of a connoisseur: 'someone who knows good from bad wine, and is able to appreciate the different merits of different wines'. Love them for themselves, that is; don't give them marks out of a hundred.
Laying aside the broader issues, though, this microencyclopedia looks closely at the present position in this fast-changing world. Even readers who bought the last edition (others, I'm afraid, only come back to the well at intervals of two or three) will find thousands of changes of detail, emphasis and evaluation.
This is intended to be a practical guide; theory has little place here. in essence, it compresses all the useful information you can't possibly carry in your head -- and neither can 1. My information is gleaned, as ever, from many sources, from tastings, visits and neverending correspondence. Revision is a continuing process. Before you read this I will have a much scribbled-on proof for next year's edition.
The book is designed to take the panic out of buying. You are faced with a daunting restaurant wine list, or mind-numbing shelves of bottles in a store. Your mind goes blank; out comes your little book. You can start with what you propose to eat, by turning to the wines for food section on pages 14-30, or where you are by turning up a national section, or a grape variety you like. Just establish which country a wine comes from, then look up the principal words on the label in that country's section. You should find enough, information to guide your choice -- and often a great deal more: the cross-references are there to help you delve further. Even after 24 editions I find I can browse for hours...
A declaration of interest
Readers should know that I have interests in the Royal Tokáji Wine Company in Hungary and Château Latour in Bordeaux. (it's hard not to be interested in many friends' vineyards, too.)