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Tasting Pleasure: Confessions of a Wine Lover

Tasting Pleasure: Confessions of a Wine Lover

3.5 2
by Jancis Robinson

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Even the French admit that Jancis Robinson is the "undisputed mistress of the kingdom of wine" (Le Figaro). Internationally renowned for her work in both television and print, she is the editor of the bestselling Oxford Companion to Wine and has won more than two dozen major awards around the world. Tasting Pleasure is her compelling


Even the French admit that Jancis Robinson is the "undisputed mistress of the kingdom of wine" (Le Figaro). Internationally renowned for her work in both television and print, she is the editor of the bestselling Oxford Companion to Wine and has won more than two dozen major awards around the world. Tasting Pleasure is her compelling account of a passion that began while studying at Oxford University.Writing with Julia Child's authority, Elizabeth David's intelligence, and M.F.K. Fisher's verve, Robinson takes us on a journey through the world's finest cellars, most beautiful vineyards, and best restaurants. As she explores the universe of the grape--from Bordeaux to Australia and South Africa to California--we meet scores of colorful, wine-loving characters, including Philippe de Rothschild, Julian Barnes, Francis Ford Coppola, and Julio Gallo.There are many books about producing and rating wine; this one is about enjoying it. Witty, revealing, and knowledgeable, in Tasting Pleasure Jancis Robinson has distilled twenty years in the wine world into a hugely entertaining read.

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review

It was with some trepidation that I sat in the lobby of a New York hotel waiting to interview Jancis Robinson, one of the world's preeminent wine authorities. Her tome, THE OXFORD COMPANION TO WINE, is considered by many to be the most important wine book of recent history. Frank Prial, of The New York Times, has called it "easily the most complete compendium of wine knowledge assembled in modern times." I, the wine illiterate, was trying to memorize all of the telling tidbits about wine that I could pull from my addled brain that would guarantee Robinson's confidence and grant me a rewarding interview. The only bit of truth that I could honestly utter was that I had sat up most of the night, with enthusiasm, reading her just-released memoir, TASTING PLEASURE: CONFESSIONS OF A WINE LOVER.

Just as my nerves were fraying, in flew an absolutely stunning blonde with a stylish bob, dressed in a leather suit complete with miniskirt and chicly downtown eyeglasses, toting tons of shopping bags — none from any of New York's wine or food emporiums. Though I had imagined my interviewee as a dour, middle-aged English woman, I somehow knew that this attractive woman was she. "Have you had lunch? I'm starving! Let's hustle to the dining room and chat," was my introduction to this international authority on wine.

"You must be wondering about all of the bags," said Jancis as we sat down in a comfortable banquette. In explanation, she immediately pulled three sheets of paper from her commodious purse, each containing a list written in what appeared to be a differentchild'shandwriting. "Although everyone thinks that I am in the States promoting my book, I am actually working as personal shopper for my three children." She giggled, clearly having a wonderful time playing the indulgent mom.

We quickly ordered a light vegetarian lunch. And, as though times had not changed one bit, one of the world's leading wine authorities, who just happened to be a woman, had to practically beg to see a wine list. The waiter was willing to pour us each a glass of wine but seemed to find it difficult to believe that we would actually know how to select from a list and then know what to do with an entire bottle. Jancis quietly but firmly insisted and promptly ordered a half bottle of a "jaunty" California red. We raised a toast to our children and began to chat as comfortably as if we were dear friends.

My intimidation melted away. Not only is Jancis Robinson an expert on the wines of the world, she is an expert at making you feel that your point of view is just as valid as those of the most skilled authorities. She inquired of my opinion as though it would merit consideration. I almost immediately felt as though I did have something to say about wine — but I was smart enough to keep it to myself!

I did have the courage to ask if she could give her definition of the difference between Old World and New World wines. "This difference is less and less marked. But, stereotypically, the wines of France are reticent, last longer, are made for food, and aren't usually ready to drink when first bottled, while the wines of the New World are right up-front, often don't last terribly well, and in fact, are often best as they are bottled. They also tend to be technically perfect." Since I clearly remember the inexpensive California jug wines of my youth and have drunk more than my share of now-expensive American wines, I inquired with a bit of hesitation about the extremely high prices of many wines, both Old and New World. Jancis replied, "The international wine press presents a very accessible scoreboard to the consumer. Wine is a finite commodity, while the number of avid consumers increases almost daily. The demanded quantity just cannot keep pace with the interest. Therefore producers can charge almost whatever they like. With California wines, there is also the human factor of pride in product that can add to the price — a bit of 'I can charge as much as I like for doing the best that I can.' And then there is the Asian influence. Asian consumers seem to be willing to spend whatever it takes to get the wines they want." She added, "If you really love wine and can't afford to spend a great deal of money, there are still many terrific wines for $10 to I think that the best-valued red wine in the world is from Chile, and Argentina is right behind." Her opinion was offered with a light hand and an easy grace, in a far more relaxed manner than I would have imagined from one whose opinion can send the price of a specific wine soaring.

Reading TASTING PLEASURE was almost as much fun as lunching with Jancis Robinson. Even in her writing, she does not seem to take herself or her expertise too seriously. She is comfortable with what she does, and it is very clear that she loves tasting, drinking, talking, and writing about wine. Yet, I never felt as though I was being lectured, nor never once did I feel that I did not measure up to her standards. As I read the book, I felt as though she had invited me along on a very amusing journey, sharing anecdotes about her experiences and poking fun at herself along the way. In the end, Jancis Robinson didn't make me feel stupid at all — she simply made me want to learn more about wine.

—Judith Choate

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Although she is not as well known here as abroadreaders may remember her PBS-TV Wine Course of 1996, howeverand her book is perhaps a bit too British with such discussions as wine sales at the Sainsbury grocery chain, Robinson's memoir will nevertheless delight and inform oenologists and those who enjoy armchair travel. This Master of Wine, a distinction she earned in 1984, virtually stumbled into her mtier after she graduated from Oxford in 1970 with a job at a wine and spirits magazine. Robinson is a jaunty writer who imparts her expertise with ease. Here she tours the vineyards of France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Australia and California (where, with a touch of show-biz pizzazz, she visits Francis Ford Coppola's Napa Valley wine estate), and along the way explains the qualities that distinguish the finest wines, introduces winemakers and gossips about major figures in the trade. Robinson also writes a bit about her domestic life with her husband, former London restaurateur Nick Lander, and their three children. The information shared in Robinson's book verifies why this columnist for the Wine Spectator and editor of the Oxford Companion to Wine has become such a popular and respected connoisseur. (Oct.)
Kirkus Reviews
In case you were interested, here's everything you could ever possibly want to know about Robinson's (Oxford Companion to Wine) career trajectory.

Robinson, who has been a fixture in the wine writing establishment for 25 years, teeters precariously, wanting her readers to know that she is both a wine connoisseur—exquisitively sensitive to the historical, geographical, and sociological contexts of wine—and a populist rabble-rouser, bucking received opinion as she champions the wine-drinking pleasures open to Everyman. She quaffs Grands Echezeaux, La Tache, Romanee-Conti, 1847 Yquems, and 1787 Branne Moutons, has "swashbuckling" Harold Evans as her editor at London's Sunday Times, and hobnobs with Hugh Johnson and Edmund Penning-Rowsell, But she also starts up the Drinker's Digest, an opinionated and iconoclastic newsletter dedicated to the principle of the best wine for the best price. Readers will learn the holdings in her cellar, her peregrinations through the wine-trade publications, the many personalities she meets, the astonishing meals she enjoys, and will share her each and every momentous occasion ("I shall never forget my first formal wine tasting"; "My most embarrassing trial by tasting took place. . . . ", etc.). She gets serious now and then—discussing the pros and cons of blind tastings, detailing how Robert M. Parker Jr. has gained his mind-boggling sway over the wine world—but for the most part, this reads like a gossip column that can't turn a decent sentence ("The others are that there are anyway enough people who love Tertre, for it is probably the only Saint-Emilion other than the top-ranking Ausone and Cheval Blanc").

Despite its moments, this autobiography is clunky, desperately self-promoting, and, at best, premature.

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.74(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Jancis Robinson, winner of Julia Child and James Beard awards, writes about wine for The Financial Times and The Wine Spectator. Among her nine wine books are the bestselling Oxford Companion to Wine (editor) and Jancis Robinson?s Wine Course, the basis of a five-hour 1996 PBS-TV series. She lives in London.

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Tasting Pleasure: Confessions of a Wine Lover 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Tasting Pleasure was similar to an interesting conversation with someone I like. The narrative is fun and down to earth. Ms. Robinson seems like she still can't believe her luck falling into an occupation she enjoys so much. Her wine knowledge and experience is immense, but not intimidating at all. A highly recommended selection.