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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Book Review: Art and Science of Wine (Halliday & Johnson)

THE ART AND SCIENCE OF WINE (Firefly Books, 2007, 240 pages, ISBN
978-1-55407-247-7, $29.95 paper covers) was originally published in
1992; it has been revised and updated to a 2007 copyright date. James
Halliday is Oz's answer to Hugh Johnson; Hugh Johnson is the main guru
of wine writing in the UK. Between them they have been responsible for
about 100 books on wine, and they have judged several thousand wines.
To summarize the book, I'll take this quote from the Library of
Congress: "An overview of the subtle artistry and sophisticated science
of the winemaking process from the vineyard to the bottle. Explores
factors affecting the growing and harvesting of grapes, describes the
various kinds of wines, and discusses the chemistry and analysis of
wine". The book is divided into three parts. One deals with the
vineyards (vines, terroir, microclimates, grape varieties, pestilence,
irrigation, mechanization), another with the winery (regional
characteristics, oaking, styles of wines from light to full and
fortifieds), and the third part deals with the bottle (analysis of
wine, aging, faults, manipulation). A basic glossary and index
concludes the book. The essential differences between New and Old world
winemaking styles are explored: the Old world is limited by laws and
traditions, while the New world winemakers can do virtually anything
they want. Names and reputations are based solely on the selection
process of choosing what goes into the bottle.
Audience and level of use: an extremely useful book for the beginning
wine student, and an aide memoire for the experienced hand.
Some interesting or unusual facts: the book has been completely re-
written to take into account New world production methods, using screw
caps, the art of terroir, and changes in pruning and irrigation
The downside to this book: there should have been material about
chemical additives. We all know that most New world and many Old world
producers goose up their wines' body, flavour, smoothness, and ageing
by adding such things as Tanin Plus, glycerine, and the like - all of
which is supposedly harmless to our bodies, but none of it recognized
or sanctioned by any wine regulating body. I'm just waiting for the day
when an expose happens. The 2003 vintage in Europe was such a stunner
in sculpting basic New world-style wines (and gaining that audience in
the New world) that it would hard to go back to normal wines in a
normal year. I taste thousands of wines a year, and already I can taste
atypical tones in some 2004 and 2005 European wines, tones which remind
me of the 2003 vintage and of the New world style.
The upside to this book: more than 200 colour photos and illustrations,
coupled with occasional anecdotes. A good basic oversized paperback
book, well-worth the money (Amazon.Ca offers it for $18.87)
Quality/Price Rating: 95.

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