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The Juice: Vinous Veritas [Anglais] [Broché]

Jay McInerney

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Description de l'ouvrage

9 avril 2013 Vintage

A generous new collection by the acclaimed novelist who, according to Salon, is also "the best wine writer in America."

For more than a decade, Jay McInerney's vinous essays have been praised by restaurateurs ("educational and delicious at the same time" —Mario Batali), by esteemed critics ("brilliant, witty, comical, and often shamelessly candid and provocative" —Robert Parker), and by the media ("McInerney's wine judgments are sound, his anecdotes witty, and his literary references impeccable" —The New York Times). Here, in pieces originally published in House & Garden and The Wall Street Journal, McInerney provides a master class in the almost infinite varieties of wine and the people and places that produce it, with the trademark style and expertise that prompted the James Beard Foundation to grant him the M.F.K. Fisher Award for Distinguished Writing in 2006.


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Introduction

It all began with Hemingway, as so many things do. Specifically with The Sun Also Rises, or, as the Brits call it, Fiesta. The latter title being apposite, because part of what I carried away from that book in my youth was the sense that drinking wine was cool and sophisticated. And let’s face it, this is one of the reasons we read books, especially in our youth, particularly books by Hemingway and Kerouac and Lawrence Durrell: to find out how to live and how to pose and where to travel and what to eat and drink and smoke along the way. Everybody in Hemingway’s first novel is drinking wine. Not long after my vicarious adventures in Pam- plona, this sense of wine as an appurtenance of the well-lived life was reinforced by Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, with Charles Ryder and Sebastian Flyte picturesquely draining the cel- lar at that estate over the course of a summer. I was so fixated on the wine and the scenery that I don’t think I bothered to grasp the nature of their friendship. Not very Hemingwayesque, but again, for some reason I remember the wine . . .

The fact that wine had no place on my parents’ suburban dining table seemed to confirm its consumption as a mark of sophistication. They and their friends drank cocktails—martinis, Manhattans, old-fashioneds, and stingers. And when they drank enough of them, they behaved badly, especially when they were in their stingers period, though this didn’t strike me as romantic or chic. Much later I realized they were acting like the people in John Cheever’s stories, once I finally got around to reading them; in fact it took me years to appreciate his writing, in part because his characters resembled my parents and their friends.

Hemingway was a great fan of Spanish rosado, which might be why, on my very first date, at the age of sixteen, I ordered a bottle of Mateus rosé, the spritzy Portuguese pink that came in a Buddha-shaped bottle. Never have I felt quite so worldly as I did that night at the Log Cabin Restaurant in Lenox, Massachusetts, as I sniffed the cork and nodded to the waiter. Many of my college romances were initiated over a bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the only red wine whose name I could remember, but while lurching toward adulthood, I preferred quicker fixes, partly in the semicon- scious belief, suggested by so much of my reading, that the road of excess would lead to the palace of wisdom, that the pursuit of an artistic career as a writer required a strictly Dionysian regi- men. Manhattan in the early eighties was a congenial venue for this aesthetic program, especially if your role models included Baudelaire, Dylan Thomas, Keith Richards, and Tom Verlaine. I worked at menial editorial jobs and, briefly, as a fact-checker for The New Yorker as I did my best to infiltrate the downtown night- club scene, which I imagined to be the contemporary equivalent of Isherwood’s Berlin or Lautrec’s Montmartre.

Not long after I was fired by The New Yorker, I was awakened at the crack of 2:00 p.m. by a call from my best friend, who informed me that Raymond Carver was en route to my apartment. You could have knocked me over with a rolled-up twenty-dollar bill, several of which were lying on my bedside table. Jesus Christ! Raymond Carver on my doorstep? Granted, there was some context here: my best friend, Gary Fisketjon, a junior editor at Random House, had reviewed a chapbook by Carver for The Village Voice and, through his legendary champion Gordon Lish, had gotten to know him. (He would later become Carver’s editor, as well as my own.) Some years before, when we were at Williams College, I lent Gary a book called Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?, and since then we’d both been passionate Carver fans. Now Gary was returning the favor with interest. They’d had lunch together, and Carver had nothing to do until his reading at Columbia that evening, so Gary volunteered my services as a tour guide for the afternoon, assuming that I would be thrilled. Which I was, despite an apocalyptic headache. The buzzer rang, an indistinct mumble came through the intercom—and then the doorway was filled by this hulking, slouching bear whom I ushered in to a tiny Greenwich Village apartment that showed all the signs of an arduous, recently terminated binge. We never got around to touring the city and instead talked for four or five hours, mostly about writing, until it was well past time to get Carver to his reading. At some point he said, almost apologetically, “I don’t know, the life you’re living here doesn’t seem exactly conducive to writing.” While it didn’t take a master storyteller to make this observation, from him it sounded like an epiphany. Carver knew whereof he spoke, a devotee of Alcoholics Anonymous who credited that organization with saving his life. Six months later I moved to Syracuse to study with Ray and clean up my act.

Having heard nutritionists distinguish between good fats and bad fats, I would propose a similar dichotomy for intoxicants. Certainly this was the opinion of Thomas Jefferson, the nation’s first wine geek. “No nation is drunken where wine is cheap,” he declared, “and none sober where the dearness of wine substitutes ardent spirits as the common beverage. It is, in truth, the only antidote to the bane of whiskey.” Or vodka, I might add. One can’t help but wonder how different Russia’s history might have been if the country was warm enough for viticulture. “Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world,” Hemingway wrote in Death in the Afternoon, “and one of the natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing.” Not his greatest prose, perhaps, and like so many encomiums to wine—the earnest Jefferson’s springs to mind—it leaves out the buzz factor. (They don’t, for example, call them winos for nothing.)Still, it impressed me at the time, especially since I’d discovered that the bane of whiskey and the road of excess hadn’t led me to any palaces at all.

But Syracuse was leading me in far more rewarding directions, in large part thanks to Ray and Tobias Wolff demonstrating how to advance from apprenticeship into actual writing. To supplement my fellowship—tuition plus four grand a year—I worked as a clerk in the Westcott Cordial Shop, whose Princeton-educated proprietor had an extensive wine library and high hopes for the scabrous neighborhood’s eventual gentrification. Here I could oscillate between the stories of Isaac Babel and Hugh Johnson’s World Atlas of Wine, dip into the stock after finishing my shift, and gradually refine my rudimentary palate.

This is also where I got the call, some two years on, that my novel had been bought by Random House, and a subsequent one from a guy who kept calling me “babe” and wanted to fly me out to Hollywood to meet with his fellow executives at Paramount. “We’ll put you up at the Chateau Marmont,” he said. “Is that good?” I asked. “It’s better than good,” he assured me. “John Belushi died there.” Clearly he’d read Bright Lights, Big City, or at least the cov- erage of the book, and formed an opinion of my bad habits.

A decade later, I was able to merge these double-barreled habits of wine and writing. My friend Dominique Browning, in charge of resurrecting Condé Nast’s House & Garden, knew of my devel- oping vinous passion, invited me to do a monthly column, and proceeded to send me pretty much any place in the world where I thought there was a good wine story—a master-class education I am profoundly grateful for, and one that would be hard to imagine in this era of editorial budget slashing and what’s beginning to look like the mass extinction of general-interest publications. Indeed, somewhat ahead of the curve, House & Garden was shut down in 2007. Sad as I was about its demise and my friend’s misfortune, I reasoned that it had been a hell of a good run. I’d never intended to write about wine for more than a year or two, and it was time to turn all my energies back to fiction. And so I did until, a couple of years later, The Wall Street Journal came calling. A few of the following essays, much revised here, date back to Dominique’s magazine, and most from my current gig. One of them, a review of Robert Mondavi’s autobiography published in The New Yorker, seemed very much worth reprinting here in the wake of his passing. The world of wine would likely look—and taste—very different if not for Mondavi, whom I was fortunate enough to spend time with on several occasions.


Heraclitus tells us you can never step into the same river twice, “for other waters are ever flowing on to you.” And likewise, it seems to me, you can never really drink the same wine twice. The appreciation of wine, for all that we might try to quantify it, is in the end a subjective experience. More than a poem or a painting or a concerto, which is problematic enough for the aesthetician, the 1982 La Mission, say, or the 1999 Beaucastel is a moving target. Good wine continues to grow and develop in the glass and in the bottle, to change from one day to the next in response to baro- metric pressures and other variables; moreover, any given wine— from the same maker, the same vintage, even the same barrel—is subject to our own quirks of receptivity, to the place and the com- pany in which we drink it, to the knowledge we bring with us, and to the food with which we pair it. Even so, in order to develop our appreciation, we agree to a fictional objectivity and attempt to iso- late wine from these contextual variables...

Revue de presse

“It is a pleasure to see the wine world through a novelist’s playful eyes, and to feel the infectious joy he finds in great wines, places and personalities from around the world.”
—Eric Asimov, The New York Times
 
“As bracing as high-acid Riesling . . . McInerney the novelist, with his eye for detail and smart aleck wit, is never far from the page, [and] he's able to get inside each destination and suss out what makes it interesting.”
The Washington Post Book World
 
“[McInerney] provides some of the finest writing on the subject of wine. . . . Brilliant, witty, comical, and often shamelessly provocative.”
—Robert M. Parker, Jr.
 
“McInerney has become the best wine writer in America.”
Salon.com
 
“To the fruity, buttery world of wine writing, there’s nothing else like it.”
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
 
“We’re fortunate that Jay McInerney has chosen to shower his immense gifts on a new source of pleasure: the grape. . . . He’s a wry companion who is clearly at home with and enjoying the subject.”
—Danny Meyer

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Amazon.com: 4.2 étoiles sur 5  11 commentaires
8 internautes sur 9 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Scattershot snapshots from the world of wine 26 juin 2012
Par R. M. Peterson - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
When Jay McInerney first started writing a column on wine for "House & Garden" (he now writes one for the "Wall Street Journal"), I thought it a rather shallow marketing ploy. What could Mr. Bright Lights know about the sophisticated subtleties of wine? But the occasional columns I read proved McInerney to be knowledgeable and his writing was fresh and enjoyable. So I bought and then read and enjoyed his two previous collections of wine columns: "A Hedonist in the Cellar" (2007) and "Bacchus and Me" (2002). Both helped keep me in touch with the world of wine. THE JUICE is more of the same -- about fifty pieces, averaging around five pages each, on assorted wine topics: from specific wine varietals (e.g., viognier), to important figures of the wine trade from history and the present (e.g., Frank Schoonmaker and Becky Wasserman), to specific wine regions (e.g., Santa Rita Hills and Cornas), to viticultural philosophies (e.g., biodynamics), to specific wines (e.g., Ch. Latour), to the broader world of gastronomy (e.g., Ferran Adrià and El Bulli).

THE JUICE is not a "from A to Z" wine encyclopedia. It is inherently scattershot in what it has to tell about the world of wine. Yet both the neophyte and the connoisseur could learn a fair amount from browsing through the book. McInerney emphasizes more the sensory aspects of drinking various and sundry wines than he does the science (or art) of making them - that is, he concentrates more on the product than he does the production. What distinguishes the book is McInerney's accessible style - relaxed, hip, never stuffy (though occasionally pretentious), and often witty. Here is an example from the piece on traditional Spanish Riojas:

"Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against fruit. But I sometimes get tired of all this super-extracted, alcoholic grape juice that seems as if it ought to be served on toast rather than in a glass and that tastes as if it doesn't come from anywhere in particular. These are wines that somehow remind me of a blind date I had in 2005 with a woman exactly half my age. Our conversation had lots of italics and exclamation marks and very few parentheticals or semicolons."

Now for the negatives. First, most of the pieces are from the same mold. That is not an issue when one reads a column weekly or monthly as published in a periodical, but when they are read in succession as collected in a book the formula becomes conspicuous and the style monotonous.

My second criticism may be idiosyncratic, and it may be related to my passage into the autumn of my life, but I feel uncomfortable with the sybaritic excess and the vulgarity of the rich that characterizes so much of the book. In virtually every piece, McInerney remarks on how the wine figure of the moment made his/her millions and on his/her wardrobe ("Signature sunglasses planted in his curly, dark mane, he's wearing a natty blue Kiton windowpane sport jacket over an open white shirt showing plenty of chest hair * * *"). Two of the pieces report on New York City wine orgies where everyone drinks tens of thousands of dollars worth of rare wine and there are comments such as "Tighter than a fourteen-year-old virgin" (said of a 44-year-old champagne) and "Stinky as the crack of a ninety-year-old nun" (said of a 45-year-old red Burgundy). Nor do I quite understand two people, one of whom is the author, comforting themselves on the evening of 9/11 in an apartment with a view of the smoking ruins by drinking the "best stuff we had handy, a bottle of 1982 Lynch Bages [and] a bottle of 1990 Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle." And I find it sad that anyone can think of dining at El Bulli (named four times the World's Best Restaurant) as "checking off a prominent entry on your list of Things to Do Before You Die."

Ultimately, then, I found THE JUICE to be too much a book on a lifestyle that ninety-nine percent of the people of this world can neither afford nor even aspire to. Perhaps that's my problem.
5 internautes sur 5 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Great read for both the experienced wino or a wine novice 31 mai 2012
Par J Ryan - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
Juice provides the reader with numerous tales of the author's quest for fine wines. The prose is well-written; it is clear that the author is a talented writer. Additionally, the tales that he tells are both entertaining and informative. I picked up this book not knowing much about the beverage, and even less so about the art of making it. Reading this book will make you thirsty for a glass of wine, and will leave you wanting to begin your own wine journey. I would recommend it for anyone interested in wine both as a beverage and an art.
3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Quick read of short stories about wine 12 août 2013
Par J. Osgood - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
A decent read for the wine lover. The book is comprised of short, well written stories on different wine regions, personalities and producers. It kept my attention and was also entertaining. I didn't learn much new from the book though. Lots of talk of the big well known wines - Burgundy and Bordeaux although I give the author credit for also covering less well known regions including New Zealand and South Africa.

Jay McInerney seems like an interesting guy to drink with. He must be since his friends open super expensive 'juice' for him on a regular basis according to the book. If you are a wine lover, this is worth a look.
2 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 A Fun Read 2 décembre 2012
Par Chase Bailey - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
The book is a collection of essays about wine, wine makers, the society of wine. It's a fun read, but if you want to learn anything about wine - this is not the book for you.
1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Enchanting 14 novembre 2013
Par Gary M. Miller - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
A wonderful collection of essays on wineries great and small. I enjoy savoring a chapter - over a glass of wine - on a late Saturday afternoon.
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