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Monday, March 8, 2010

DRINK BOOK OF THE MONTH: South-West France; the wines...

1. SOUTH-WEST FRANCE; the wines and winemakers (University of California Pr., 2009, 376 pages, ISBN 978-0-520-25941-6, $45US hard covers) is by wine and food writer Paul Strang who specializes in south-west France. The book is based on earlier works stretching back to 1994, but has been entirely recast because of the newer technology and emerging markets. South-west France includes a range of locations, such as Gaillac, Cahors, Fronton, Bergerac, Monbazillac, Duras, Buzet, Gascony, Madiran, and Jurancon. And some that never seem to turn up in Canada, such as Irouleguy, Rosette, Marcillac, and Estaing. Overall, those areas closer to Bordeaux using the same grapes as Bordeaux tend to taste like regular Bordeaux (he addresses the problems of Bordeaux satellites); those areas further away are their own creatures, featuring obscure grapes such as Camaralet (Jurancon), Arrufiac (St. Mont), Segalin (Glanes) and Ondenc (Gaillac). The total area covered here is from Bordeaux south to the Pyrenees, east to the Massif Central, and covering the river valleys of the Lot and the Dordogne. Most of the wines have higher acid, and are ideal accompaniments to the rich and fatty foods of the region. Strang opens with a history of the region, showing connections to Anglo roots. His arrangement is by sub-region, with larger chapters on Cahors, Gaillac, the Dordogne, Gascony, Madiran, and the Pyrenees. Under each, there is identification of cantons and more local history, followed by listings of recommended independent growers (with full directory-type data plus a critique and rating of the wines) and some simple directory listings for "other good growers". His appendices are extremely useful: a table of grape varieties employed in the region, wine and food pairings (a chart), an English glossary of French terms, and a bibliography of both English and French titles. The latter shows a pathetic amount of older books about the region in both languages.

Audience and level of use: readers of wine materials, lovers of wines of South-West France, wine schools, hospitality schools.

Some interesting or unusual facts: "It is refreshing to know that other [grape] varieties, grown only in the South-West, produce wines which are like no other. The South-West is the opposite pole from globalization, which may explain why the big players in the wine business…have been reluctant to come to grips with it."

The downside to this book: while the layout is good (especially because of the leading), the book is larger than it should be. Such similar guides are normally smaller, and lower in price.

The upside to this book: some really new and fresh material about the region.

Quality/Price Rating: 90.



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