Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Best Wine Writing in Years: David Darlington's An Ideal Wine

Back in 1992, Berkeley resident and member of the Young Gentlemen's Drinking Club David Darlington, wrote the spellbinding and poetically titled book Angels' Visits: An Inquiry into the Mystery of Zinfandel. The book catapulted to become an instant classic. It is still in print today under the more direct title Zin: An Inquiry into the Mystery of Zinfandel.

So close to 20 years have passed during which time Darlington's book writing has moved on to penning titles about his passions for places and their inhabitants, including condors, Area 51, and the Mojave.

Thank goodness, his book writing has come back around to wine - An Ideal Wine is a more than worthy successor to the zinfandel book. I'd venture to say Darlington is among our top chroniclers of wine in the U.S. (the others being Charles Sullivan for his histories and James Conaway for the first two books of his Napa trilogy). There are plenty of wine writers, but few who can really tell the story of the industry and its wines.

An Ideal Wine is an ideal book for these times. It poses two proponents who's approaches to winemaking mirror our fledgling wine industry's stumbling and bumbling (the natural progression of gaining knowledge) towards both a commercial and aesthetic idea of success. There are the terroirists, so to speak, personified in this insightful volume by Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon fame (with a supporting role played by French wine importer Kermit Lynch) and the alchemists - shall we call them - who wish to achieve perfect wine scores by whatever chemical means necessary and who think their means justify their ends - i.e. to outsell competitors in the global wine market by means of gaming the known phenolic parameters that lead to top Wine Spectator and Wine Advocate scores.

In a way, these two poles represent more than just the conflicted longings of consumers and our wine industry - they represent our conflicted view of all agriculture.

We don't want to be vulnerable to the vagaries of climate change, depleted water supplies and natural limits; and yet we don't relish hydroponically grown vegetables, even if organically grown.

Darlington's commanding knowledge of wine lets him consolidate and proffer more insight in a single paragraph than most writers do in a whole chapter or even an entire book.

I'll be writing more about the book soon, but first you really should get a copy. And then come to hear Darlington at Moe's Books in Berkeley on Wednesday, July 13- details here. He will also be in Capitola and SF.

July 11 (Capitola Book Cafe)
July 13 (Moe's in Berkeley)
July 20 (Books Inc. Chestnut Steet in San Francisco)

Here is one review I thought stood out from the pack: link. Wonderful pull quotes from the book abound.

No comments:

Post a Comment