Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Wine Book Club #4: Tasting Pleasure

"Food and my relationship to it, is the real basis of my love of wine." (p.18)

Ok, I am a bit late on this book review but at least I finished the book and I did want to post my thoughts about it.

Farley of Wine Outlook chose the fourth book for Wine Book Club. She selected Tasting Pleasure: Confessions of a Wine Lover by Jancis Robinson. I have previously read several of Robinson's other books but not this one so I looked forward to reading it. As this book was published in 1999, I was also curious whether it was outdated or not.

"It dawned on me that for millions of people, those living in countries like Italy, France, Spain, Portugal and Argentina where wine is made in huge quantites and sold at very low prices, wine was not something obfuscated by mystique and fraught with social symbolism but just an everyday, commonplace drink." (p.20-21)

The book is primarily a memoir of Robinson's experiences with wine and within the wine industry. She was there before wine really exploded in popularity and has met and dealt with many famous people within the wine world. The "denseness" of the book impressed me by which I mean that Robinson has packed every page of this book with plentiful information. She talks about so many different things and her passion for wine is evident on every page.

Though the book is not a difficult read, it also is not a light read. You do need to pay careful attention as you might miss something through a quick skim. But try reading maybe a chapter at a time, at a leisurely pace, and savor Robinson's prose.

"What I want most from a wine for drinking (as opposed to one for tasting) is that it is appetizing and goes well with food." (p.232)

It is interesting for those in the U.S. to read Robinson's more European outlook on wine, how food and wine are two halves of the same coin. As the initial quote I posted says, without food Robinson would not have had her passion for wine. I think Americans would benefit if we began more often to treat wine as an accompaniement for food.

Robinson also does an excellent job of separating her role as a wine writer and critic from her personal life with wine. She indicates the differences between how she treats wine in those different roles, which sometimes we may not always consider. As a blogger, do you treat a wine differently that you will review than if it is a wine you will just drink for pleasure?

As a wine writer, my favorite chapter of Robinson's book may be her "On Writing About Wine." This chapter also deals with Robert Parker and she has admiration for him. Robinson also compares and contrasts American from British wine writers. For one, British wine writers are less worried about fact checking their Americans. The audience may also differ, British audiences seemingly being less concerned reading about wine and more just seeking cheap recommendations.

"And much of the thrill of wine in general is discovering bottles that cost a fraction of the universally acclaimed greats but which give every bit as much pleasure." (p.276)

What makes this book most compelling is that Robinson has her own unique voice which draws in the reader into her world, immersing them in her passion for wine. You cannot help but be fascinated by her anecdotes of famous wine personalities. You feel as if you are receiving a history lesson of the modern wine industry, though it is not some dry recitation.

I do recommend you check out this book and thanks to Farley for choosing it.

(All quotes in this post are from Tasting Pleasure: Confessions of a Wine Lover by Jancis Robinson.)

Addendum: Farley has now posted the round-up for Wine Book Club #4 over at Wine Outlook so please check out her post and see what some other bloggers felt about this book.

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