You know you're a wine "geek" if your idea of a good book for summer reading is not a light, frothy mystery but something that really sinks its teeth into a serious wine-related topic.
Happily, we've got a fine candidate to hold us through the dog days of August here, whether you're reading on a sunny beach or seeking cool comfort in a chilly wine cellar. "Wine, The 8,000-Year-Old Story of the Wine Trade," by Thomas Pellechia, takes a detailed but fascinating and highly readable look at the history of wine - from ancient times to the present - from the perspective of the wine trade, a point of view that portrays wine in an entirely different light than the usual consumer view.
Pellechia, a frequent participant in our WineLovers Discussion Groups, is ideally suited to this task. He's a skillful writer and experienced wine educator who boasts experience in the wine trade as both a wine maker and wine merchant. In 244 erudite but easily digestible pages, he takes us from the dawn of wine (and civilization) in the ancient Near East, through Egypt, classical Greece and Rome, through the Dark Ages and the Renaissance and on into modern times, all from the perspective of the wine trade as a business and economic force.
At the end, he takes a peek into the crystal ball and offers a few cogent thoughts about why the modern wine industry is at a point of change, and what the future might hold.
It was my pleasure to be invited to write one of Pellechia's back-jacket blurbs, which allowed me an early look at his manuscript. The published book bears out what I wrote then: "Pellechia's experience uniquely qualifies him to outline the history of the wine trade, a business that may just be the real 'world's oldest profession.'"
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Now, for today's tasting, let's open a wine made from the Gamay grape, the featured variety in this month's "Wine Focus" topic on our WineLovers Discussion Group. Brouilly is one of the dozen or so villages within the Beaujolais region that are entitled to bear the name of the village on the label in preference to the more generic "Beaujolais," and Chateau de la Chaize is a long-term performer. This vintage, a return to more traditional form after the powerful and overripe 2003s, shows the good, refined berry fruit that typifies Gamay, along with pleasant toasty-earthy minerality that's a hallmark of Brouilly.
Chateau de la Chaize 2004 Brouilly ($15.59)
This Gamay from Brouilly, one of the named Beaujolais "Cru" villages, comes in a squat, rather medieval looking bottle. Light strawberry aromas add a distinct whiff of toasted white bread. Fruit is more forward on the palate, juicy red berries and a squirt of lemon, and the toasty aromas segue into a plesant earthy minerality to add flavor interest. U.S. importer: Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines, NYC. (Aug. 6, 2006)
FOOD MATCH: An offbeat match, curried summer squash soup, is just okay at first, palatable but not compelling, but the combination suddenly draws a gasp of pleasure when a sip of wine taken after a swallow of soup bursts on the palate like a perfect ripe strawberry.
VALUE: Shop around, as the local retail price I paid is very close to the high end of its range; it's available at some vendors for $10, at which price it's a much better buy.
WHEN TO DRINK: Even with the village Crus, there's never any harm in drinking Beaujolais young and fresh; if you want to try cellaring it, I wouldn't hold it much past five years post-vintage.
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MoCool XVI: Sweet, Sixteen and Bubbly
A quick reminder that Saturday, Aug. 26 is the sixteenth annual MoCool (MoTown Cooperative OffLine) gathering.
Saluting the event's 16-year history, this year's topic is "Sweet, Sixteen and Bubbly," a three-way focus that encourages participants to bring their choice of sweet wines, sparkling wines or 16-year-old wines from the 1990 vintage to share.
MoCool is a non-profit, non-commercial venture, organized since 1992 by a volunteer group of 'net-wired wine lovers in the Ann Arbor and Detroit area of southern Michigan. The goal is a non-snobby, cooperative, affordable weekend for cyberwine fans to get together and enjoy wine, food, and each other's company. Participants bring wines to share, and are asked to contribute $45 per person to cover the actual costs of venue and food.
The primary event is a Saturday afternoon and evening picnic at a rural location near Ann Arbor. I'll be there as usual, and I hope to have the happy occasion to meet quite a few of you.
There's still time to join in. For more information, and to get on the MoCool E-mail list, visit the MoCool Home Page
This week on WineLoversPage.com
Some highlights of recent articles on WineLoversPage.com that I hope you'll enjoy:
Hot topics in our WineLovers Discussion Groups
Open Mike: 2001 Vacqueyras
Poll: Worst wine trend?
Last Week's Wine Advisor Index
The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:
Bargain Burgundy (Aug. 4, 2006)
Gamay conditioning (Aug. 2, 2006)
Short and sweet (July 31, 2006)
Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:
Wine Advisor FoodLetter: The mighty tomato (Aug. 3, 2006)
Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:
To subscribe or unsubscribe from The 30 Second Wine Advisor, change your E-mail address, or for any other administrative matters, please use the individualized hotlink found at the end of your E-mail edition. If this is not practical, contact me by E-mail at email@example.com, including the exact E-mail address that you used when you subscribed, so I can find your record.
We do not use our E-mail list for any other purpose and will never give or sell your name or E-mail address to anyone. I welcome feedback, suggestions, and ideas for future columns. To contact me, please send E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
All the wine-tasting reports posted here are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores and accept no samples, gifts or other gratuities from the wine industry.
Monday, Aug. 7, 2006