Battle for Wine and Love: or How I Saved the World from Parkerization (Anglais) Relié – 19 mai 2008
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"I want my wines to tell a good story. I want them natural and most of all, like my dear friends, I want them to speak the truth even if we argue,” says Alice Feiring. Join her as she sets off on her one-woman crusade against the tyranny of homogenization, wine consultants, and, of course, the 100-point scoring system of a certain all-powerful wine writer. Traveling through the ancient vineyards of the Loire and Champagne, to Piedmont and Spain, she goes in search of authentic barolo, the last old-style rioja, and the tastiest new terroir-driven champagnes. She reveals just what goes into the average bottle—the reverse osmosis, the yeasts and enzymes, the sawdust and oak chips—and why she doesn’t find much to drink in California. And she introduces rebel winemakers who are embracing old-fashioned techniques and making wines with individuality and soul.
No matter what your palate, travel the wine world with Feiring and you’ll have to ask yourself: What do i really want in my glass?
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However, I did agree in principle with what she was saying, that too often these days wines are manipulated into something that tries to please the consumer and they are losing their individuality. So I bought the book. Amazon's price makes it too attractive to pass up.
Pros: Ms. Feiring writes very well. She takes the reader around the globe in her adventures as we meet various winemakers on both sides of the fence, as she advances her argument against over-manipulation. I think most readers would be pretty surprised to find out what goes on in a lot of wineries in order to achieve the sort of wine they want to sell. It's a topic that does need to be more publicized.
Cons: Ms. Feiring sounds like she's taken out a contract on Robert Parker. She is so anti-Parker that it threatens the credibility of the book. She also tries to paint everything in black and white, as in small, family, old-fashioned winemakers = good guys and big, corporate, technology-utilizing winemakers = bad and evil guys. It's the same as people who automatically slam big corporations simply because they are big. She also tries to combine her romantic life with her discussion of the wines and I felt this added nothing to the book. In fact, I got tired of hearing about "Owl Man" and the others and was thinking, who cares?
If you can get past the chip (or boulder) that the author seems to have on her shoulder, this book is well worth reading. It will influence the way you perceive the next glass of wine you drink, as well as all the rest of them.
While I agree with the points she hoped to convey, I cannot agree with her logic. Her writing grossly simplified the issues: science is bad, biodynamic is good; big corporation is bad, small producer is good. I have had many of the wines mentioned in the book, and I agree that they are unique and good. However, not all of them are from small producers, and certainly not all of them are made in the absence of technology.
Mr. Robert Parker is without question the most influential wine critic today, and perhaps with his enormous influence should also come the responsibility to preserve the regional diversity of wines. Mr. Parker is a big boy, and he certainly doesn't need me to defend him, but he has become the whipboy for everything that is wrong in the wine world. Consumers, producers as well, should realize that Mr. Parker's view represent one man's palate (or a few in the case of the Wine Advocate), and even he says in his publications that the final judge should be our own palates. My point is that Mr. Parker alone cannot be blamed for everything one does not like in the wine world, and blaming him is simply avoiding the bigger issues; in my opinion, all these issues are just the natural progression of wine becoming an international business. Instead of singling out Mr. Parker, Ms. Feiring could do the wine-drinking public a big favor by encouraging everyone to trust their own palate and explore different wine styles.
Perhaps the single biggest reason I am so negative toward this book is that Ms. Feiring seems to judge the quality of wines by their producers (whether they practice biodynamics) rather than by what's in the bottles. Throughout this book, I get a feeling that she has already made up her mind before she brought the glass to her mouth. While that's perfectly fine in the privacy of her own mind, she needs to be more objective considering the audience this book will reach. I agree that wines should not be manipulated and should reflect their regional diversities, but the reason should be more than "because I say so!"
While I have been harsh and negative about this book, I do want to point out that many of the wines mentioned and likened by the author are truly excellent! For instance, of the Spanish wines I have tried, many were refined and many were rustic, but none was as profound as Lopez de Heredia; give it a try and you will know what I mean.
Ms. Feiring spoke from her heart, and there is nothing wrong with that. I just hope that, in addition to her passion, she could have presented her arguments in a more constructive and objective way.
I wanted so much to be enthralled with this book, as others here have said. Alice Feiring has her head in the right place where wine is concerned. She's got a great blog. She knows what she's talking about. When I heard her book was coming out, it was a must have volume for me and I "pre-ordered" it. To be frank, the title was off-putting. It seemed like a marketer's strange marriage of "chick lit" (oh God, forgive me, Alice) and wine geek ((and I mean that in a good way), but I figured I could get past that, no problemo.
So then I sat down to read the book cover to cover, in a few ferry crossings between The Rock and Seattle -- and I did so with great expectations (little g, little e, not with the Dickens novel in my other hand). Here's the Plus and the Minus:
Plus: The book stakes out a strong and well reasoned argument for terroir, traditional (and by that I mean organic, possibly even biodynamic, non-interventionist, not careless and just plain bad) viticulture and winemaking. Alice plainly knows her stuff. And yes, she has the "cojones" to call a spade a shovel. Heck, anyone who will cross swords on the dais with the likes of Clark Smith certainly knows how to hold her own in an argument.
While it isn't exactly new news, as tens of thousands of us by now probably feel the same way and may have said it often enough, it's gratifying to see someone pronounce Robert Parker, the Wine Spectator, Michel Rolland and others of that ilk something of a public menace -- and get published.
Minus: There's too much chatty, "personal backstory" stuff clouding the picture, for my personal taste anyway. Some may find Mr. Bow Tie, Owl Man, Honey Sugar and all the rest entertaining. To me, it's just in the way at best; unnerving, awkward and genuinely distracting at worst. When I got to the part about winemaker so and so's "deep, sexy voice" and his "tussle of brown curls and fleshy, sensuous earlobes," and read about the various exploits of "Skinny," I began to wonder whether I could finish the book.
The book definitely is worth finishing. But I do wish it stuck to what I hoped to find, and did in large part -- well-crafted and opinionated writing about wine. Maybe this really needed to be two books - one about wine, the other about, well, the other stuff. "Sex and the Single Wine Writer," perhaps?
Let's be clear. Alice is the real deal and she's a valuable advocate for real wine. As I said at the outset, this is a book I'd like to be able to give an unqualified five stars. I just can't, given the distractions that to me detract from the seriousness of the message.
Were I Robert Parker, I would give it an 88. OK, maybe a 90. Who the hell knows. That's what's wrong with the whole Parker School of wine criticism in the first place. But I imagine he might call it a fruity, quirky, wild cherry and chocolate laden hedonistic fruit bomb, with overtones of creosote and a whiff of pheromones; drink 2008 to 2010.
As it is, I give it four stars.
I jumped into this book with enthusiasm but I found myself getting more depressed as the pages flipped on. About half way though, I found the author didn't have anything positive to say about the present wine world. Her basic stance in the book was this: 'I started drinking as a novice, I discovered AUTHENTIC wine, AUTHENTIC wine is disappearing, I bemoan anything new and you the reader, who or may not have had AUTHENTIC wine like me is being cheated by winemakers who use science to help prepare their wines."
I decided to put the book down during the chapter on Piedmont when the author, Feiring was on a mission to find the winemaker who made the wine that first initiated her into the world of the fermented grape. Like a true journalist, she couldn't let go of this dream despite the winemaker's dying wish to be left alone. Besides having a convoluted narrative at this point with all the other egocentric overtones inherent in this book, I found her lack of respect for the dying and her willingness to share such an uncouth journey disheartening. I don't know if she met the Italian winemaker or gave up... because I gave up.
Alice Feiring is a harsh, centre-stage author in her approach which makes it difficult to sympathize with her plight (I still don't know if the subtitle is meant as a joke or this is how she views herself). She rarely offers an objective or unbiased observation and like the film Mondovino presents a black and white picture of the wine world. The black cowboys being the corporate winemakers using reverse osmosis and the various yeasts strains to make their wine and the white, all the quirky and incredibly charming backwood winemakers who still hold true to the land.
It feels like a Saturday morning cartoon.
Also, nicknaming her friends and former lovers such as "Owl Man" I found difficult. She patronizes the reader by continually reminding us modern wine is not up to the standards of the 1970s. Thankfully I only took this book out at the library. I wouldn't have spent the cash to be insulted which I felt after certain point (I was born in the late 1970s and only came to wine after 2005 so basically Alice is telling me I've never had AUTHENTIC wine because I never had the chance.)
I agree that science has had a hand in helping winemakers craft their vintages but we live in a time where more and more people have access to wine and can enjoy it. What's wrong with that? There are different wine styles out there, granted and the modern is the most popular. But to stay we are all being hoodwinked and Feiring is our wine savior, I'll pass. By manipulating emotions, drawing one-dimensional perspectives on a fascinating and historic industry, one can say this author has only draw a self-satisfied self-portrait as opposed to an invaluable read which I'm sure this book could have been in the hands of someone more capable and less prone to centre-stage theatrics.