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Friday, September 12, 2008

BOOK REVIEW: THE BATTLE FOR WINE AND LOVE, or how I saved the world from Parkerization

THE BATTLE FOR WINE AND LOVE, or how I saved the world from
Parkerization (Harcourt, 2008, 271 pages, ISBN 978-0-15-101286-2, $23
US hard covers) is by wine writer and bloggist Alice Feiring (In Vino Veritas). It is an
exceptional book, and while I may take "exception" with some of what
she says or does, it is one of the most interesting reads this year,
even this decade…It is mostly a memoir, chronicling her journey through
the world of wine. She begins with a 1967 Barolo that turned her
around, and later in life she went to Italy to find out more about that
particular bottle. She discovers that Robert Parker Junior, by becoming
an icon bigger than himself, has created a lust for the jammy fruit
bombs with vanilla-cream overtones – a lust shared by both producer and
consumer. Just about any Australian-Chilean-Argentine-American wine can
be "Parkerized" (definition: created so as to elicit 90 points or more
from Robert Parker Junior). And we all know this. Where it gets sticky
is when unscrupulous European producers (some large, some small, and
who see their sales decline because North Americans are drinking
Parkerized wines) decide to change their style and depart from terroir
wines to global jammy wines. Feiring hates the style; she loves Euro
wines because of their character, earthiness, edge, and their food
friendly palate. She visits numerous American wine merchants, and
travels to Italy, Spain, Champagne, and Burgundy, detailing all the
lies and deceptions of the trade fairs. Some names are mentioned. She
believes in authentic wines: sustainable viticulture, hand picking, no
added yeasts or enzymes, no added flavours from oak or chemicals, and
no processes that alter alcohol and aging levels. Unfortunately, as she
notes, too many large (and medium) producers are jumping on the
sustainable, natural, and biodynamic bandwagon. And they have NOT been
certified. She certainly stomps on them. But as one winemaker in Italy
says, "Here is the crime: industry pretends to be artisan and trusting
people believe them. This is the crime." Other chapters deal with UC at
Davis and phone interviews with "Bob".
Audience and level of use: wine consumers and wine writers everywhere.
Some interesting or unusual facts: "From about the late 1980s onward,
the Parker palate has largely dictated how wine is made worldwide." and   
"A business [Enologix] was actually thriving by helping wineries shape
and coerce a wine into a fat, oaky, thick, dense wine that Parker would
give big point to."
The downside to this book: there is no discussion on bottle sizes. Her
story about Krug changing its taste profile did not consider that her
"good" sample of the new formula was from a half-bottle which had aged
faster because of its size.
The upside to this book: hey, there is an index! And informative…
Quality/Price Rating: 95 (sorry, Alice, I use Parker numbers for

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