The Vineyard at the End of the World: Maverick Winemakers and the Rebirth of Malbec

The Vineyard at the End of the World: Maverick Winemakers and the Rebirth of Malbec

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by Ian Mount
     
 

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For generations, Argentine wine was famously bad—­oxidized, unpalatable, and often mixed with a low-class French grape called Malbec. But then in 2001, a Cabernet Sauvignon / Malbec blend beat all contenders in a blind taste test featuring Napa and Bordeaux’s finest. Today, Argentina and its signature wine are on the tip of every smart

Overview

For generations, Argentine wine was famously bad—­oxidized, unpalatable, and often mixed with a low-class French grape called Malbec. But then in 2001, a Cabernet Sauvignon / Malbec blend beat all contenders in a blind taste test featuring Napa and Bordeaux’s finest. Today, Argentina and its signature wine are on the tip of every smart traveler’s tongue. How did this happen?

The Vineyard at the End of the World tells the fascinating, four-hundred-year history of how a wine mecca arose in the high Andean desert. Profiling the outlandish figures who fueled the Malbec revolution—including celebrity enologist Michel Rolland, acclaimed American winemaker Paul Hobbs, and the Mondavi-esque Catena family—Ian Mount describes in colorful detail the nefarious scams, brilliant business innovations, and backroom politics that put Malbec on the map.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Argentina’s winemaking history gets its comprehensive due in a chronicle from Mount, a freelance wine writer who lives in Argentina. He highlights the Mendoza region; its champion grape, Huarpe; and most-lauded winemakers, and sets the story in the agriculturally difficult landscape, the indigenous Incas and their irrigation system, and the Spanish, who brought the grapes and wine. Eventually, inventive winemakers recognized enormous potential but often encountered problems in distribution. Encouraged by mavericks like Mondavi, and learning from the industry revolution in California in the, Mendoza’s winemakers seized the moment just as they had improved the quality of their wines. In time, the once-maligned Malbec grape, which so flourished there that Robert Parker repeatedly forecast its and the region’s success. Mount’s impressive history, while repetitive at times, provides ample regional and global color in a lively addition to wine literature. (Jan.)
Library Journal
Adding to the growing body of work on wine history, wine journalist Mount traces the history of Argentinian wine from its beginning in the 1700s to the present day. To accomplish this monumental task in a digestible narrative, he focuses on one figure and one region but explains in the epilog that many other people and areas were also important. The result is an artfully written story of how a poorly developed wine culture grew into one of the best wine regions in the world. Mount brings to light a lesser-known wine region and explains how cultural contact beginning with Spanish explorers contributed to its current wine-producing status. The work is obviously well researched; the author includes notes and a bibliography, but citations are not included throughout the chapters. VERDICT This engaging, important, and accessible book fills a gap in the literature of wine culture and history.—Lisa Ennis, Univ. of Alabama Lib., Tuscaloosa
Kirkus Reviews
Oenophile journalist Mount debuts with a knowledgeable history of the upscale makeover of Argentine wines. Although wine grapes have been planted in Argentina since the 16th century, the beverage produced for centuries was generally cheap, low-quality plonk that only the natives would drink. By the time bodegueros (wine-makers) like Nicolás Catena began trying to upgrade their product in the 1980s, they were also hampered by outdated equipment and methods and unhygienic conditions. Catena and his peers learned from upstart California vintners, who took on the French and won a paradigm-changing 1976 taste test, that it was possible to create high-quality wines outside France. But at first they worked with Chardonnay and Cabernet grapes, wanting to improve Argentina's image with the type of wines everyone considered the best. The humble Malbec grape, almost extinct in its native France but doing well for centuries in Argentina's warmer, sunnier climate, was disdained as coarse and heavy. Yet once Argentina's bodegueros had modernized their facilities and methods to gain a foothold in the international market for fine wines, it was Malbec that gave put them over the top with "a world-class wine--wine that had a sense of place, of terroir." In Mount's savvy recounting, Malbec and the U.S. fine-wine market grew up together; the wine's fruity quality suited American consumers, who were also attracted by its high value-for-money ratio. But many of the American winemakers who rushed into Argentina in the '90s, thinking they could duplicate the locals' success, came to grief over their inability to deal with local business practices, most spectacularly California's Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates. Mount skillfully interweaves multiple story lines and personalities, including foreign consultants like Frenchman Michel Rolland and American Paul Hobbs. Snappily if not elegantly written, this well-informed chronicle captures the distinctive nature of winemaking in a country challenged by an unforgiving climate and political and economic instability.
Mark Jenkins
[Mount]'s written a book for people who are as interested in Argentina’s culture and history as its wine. That may disappoint Bacchus' most zealous acolytes, but the casual drinker should find the result lively and well-balanced.
—The Washington Post
Wine Spectator
“[Vineyard at the End of the World]… excels at telling the personal stories of struggling and speculation.”
Boston Globe
Gracefully interweaves history and geography with the harder sciences of agriculture, geography, and chemistry to tell a fascinating story.— Katie Tuttle
Wall Street Journal "On Wine" Blog
A definite must-read for Malbec drinkers everywhere, and Argentine wine fans.— Lettie Teague
Lettie Teague - Wall Street Journal "On Wine" Blog
“A definite must-read for Malbec drinkers everywhere, and Argentine wine fans.”
Benjamin Wallace
“The rise of Argentine wine and the improbable triumph of the humble Malbec—the Seabiscuit of grapes—is one of the great untold stories of globalization. As Ian Mount shows with great energy and feeling, the tale is as much about people and their dreams and obsessions as it is about the delicious drink that motivates them.”
Vivienne Sosnowski
“Ian Mount takes wine lovers on an intoxicating adventure. Anyone intrigued by how Argentina has amazed the wine world will love this gripping tale of invention, breakthrough and revelation. I enjoyed this wide-ranging book tremendously.”
Tilar Mazzeo
“The Vineyard at the End of the World is a fascinating account of wine-world alchemy: what happens when the old world and the new world meet on the Argentinean frontier. This book will convince you—as if there were ever any doubt—that, for international wine lovers, the golden age is now.”
George Taber
“Ian Mount has found an important void in the current library of wine books: Mendoza and Malbec. The history is fascinating.”
Katie Tuttle - Boston Globe
“Gracefully interweaves history and geography with the harder sciences of agriculture, geography, and chemistry to tell a fascinating story.”
Boston Globe - Katie Tuttle
“Gracefully interweaves history and geography with the harder sciences of agriculture, geography, and chemistry to tell a fascinating story.”
Wall Street Journal "On Wine" Blog - Lettie Teague
“A definite must-read for Malbec drinkers everywhere, and Argentine wine fans.”
Lettie Teague - Wall Street Journal "On Wine" Blog
“A definite must-read for Malbec drinkers everywhere, and Argentine wine fans.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393080193
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
01/16/2012
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
352
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.30(d)

Meet the Author

Ian Mount has written about wine for the Wall Street Journal, Food & Wine, and other publications. He lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

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Vineyard at the End of the World: Maverick Winemakers and the Rebirth of Malbec 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
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