Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Wine Book Club #5: Wine Politics

The Presidential elections near and political issues have been at the top of the news for many months. Health care, taxes, the stock market, the price of oil, climate change and much more. Yet the politics behind the wine industry has received scant attention. Until now.

Today is the 5th edition of Wine Book Club, the Back to School/Politics edition. Dr. Debs of Good Wine Under $20 chose the book for our review: Wine Politics: How Governments, Environmentalists, Mobsters, and Critics Influence the Wine We Drink by Tyler Colman (University of California Press, $27.50). You may better recognize Colman as Dr. Vino, a well known wine blogger, though he is also a wine writer and educator. If you are not reading his blog, you should definitely do so.

This is a short book, only 148 pages, not counting notes, bibliography and the index. The book concentrates on the interplay of business and government in the wine industry. Its primary focus is a comparison between the Bordeaux region of France and the Napa region of California, though it also covers issues of importance for wine regions all over the world. The genesis for this book originated in Colman's PhD dissertation and thus it presents more of an academic feel to it. As such, it may not be as accessible to the casual wine lover.

Yet those who are more passionate about wine, who enjoy learning about more than grape varieties and wine regions, will hopefully gravitate towards this book. This is a very well written and professional book, presenting an intriguing overview of wine politics. It covers many relevant topics of current interest, including globalization, wine critics, the three tier system, appellation reforms, natural wine making, and much more. In the more controversial areas, Colman provides a measured and neutral stance, presenting arguments for both sides.

Due to the book's short size, you receive more of an overview on the various topics, any of which could fill their own book. So, you don't receive as much information about some of the topics as you might like. You will at least understand the main points and can then do additional research for more details. After reading this book, you will realize the complexities of the wine industry, how obtaining the wine you would like is not as easy as you might prefer.

Though there are many new wine titles being published all the time, books like this are a rarity. Far too many wine buying guides and introductory wine texts are crowding the book store shelves. I hope to see far more of these types of books get published. If you love wine, if you want to learn more than the usual, then check out Wine Politics.

"Discovering an enjoyable wine from another corner of the world may be exciting, but actually tasting it remains another challenge altogether--often a political one." (Wine Politics, p.148)


Anonymous said...

My initial question is, what did you take away from the book? I'm eager to read it, but I'm curious what surprised you, what you didn't agree with and what you didn't know prior to this book that will stick with you?

Anonymous said...

Rich, I need to get in on this group. What's the next book to read?

Richard Auffrey said...

Hi Gabriella:
All excellent questions so thanks for your comment.

What I most got out of the book is probably additional details behind matters I already understood to one degree or another. As well as just intriguing facts, some not as practical, but fascinating none the less.

For example, I learned about the origin of the term "chateau" used on some French wine labels. It is an interesting historical fact and the book has a number of others as well.

What might have been most surprising to me was the section on the French appellation system, and the intricacies of its development, changes and potential reform. I really knew little about that prior to this book.

There is little to disagree with in the book, mainly because Colman rarely seems to choose sides. He mainly lays out the facts for both sides and lets the reader decide which is the more persuasive side.

Richard Auffrey said...

Hi Dale:
I don't believe the next book has been announced yet, but should be soon once the wrap-up for this book is done. We get 2 months to read and review the book so the next review probably won't be due until the end of December.

Dr. Debs said...

Thanks for the review. I liked it too, and didn't think it would be inaccessible. You are probably right, though, that the brief overview of subjects may be more appropriate for an audience of well-informed wine lovers and politicos.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for taking the time to read the book as well as the kind words, Richard! Glad you liked it. I will be sure to include your posting in a roundup post I do on my site.

Pity MA has tough wine laws!



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