30 Second Wine Advisor: Remembering Frank Prial

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Hugh Johnson's 2013 Pocket Wine Book

Every year about this time I mark the season by treating myself to the newest edition of Hugh Johnson's Pocket Wine Book. The 2013 edition is out now, and it continues the tradition as a slim volume you can carry into wine shop or restaurant and use to get information and ratings of many thousands of world wines.
Click now to buy it from Amazon.com for $10.87, 32 percent off the $15.99 list price.

Remembering Frank Prial

I was saddened to read of the death at 82 - not so old by today's standards - of Frank J. Prial, who served as wine critic of The New York Times starting in 1972, at the birth of modern wine journalism, continuing with a break or two for 30 years or so before retiring in 2002.

I've felt a particular affection for Prial, perhaps because he came up through the ranks as a general news reporter before adding wine writing to his portfolio. I would more or less follow this path myself, on a much less imposing level, a decade later when I added wine writing to my duties as news reporter at The Louisville Times starting in the early '80s. In those days, and later, I looked up to Prial - along with British scribe Hugh Johnson and Bon Appetit's Hank Rubin - as models for my own approach to wine journalism; and that affection continued even after Robert M. Parker Jr. and the slick-paper incarnation of Wine Spectator came along later and brought a different approach to wine reporting.

Eric Asimov, who now sits at Prial's wine desk at The Times and who also does wine writing the journalist's way, wrote this obituary in Wednesday's newspaper.

For a little sample of Frank's style, here's an article he wrote in 2008, telling of a memorable meal at Taillevent in Paris on the occasion of the death of Jean-Claude Vrinat, the famed restaurant's owner and director. I share it not because it's head-and-shoulders above the rest of his writing but because it's the kind of wine reporting that Frank did routinely.

Rest in peace, Frank Prial. May choirs of angels bearing crystal stemware filled with fine and rare Burgundy and Bordeaux sing you to your rest.

Today's Tasting Report

Gérard Bertrand 2010 Corbières ($10.99)

Gerard Bertrand

A typical Languedoc and Provence blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre in undisclosed proportions, it's a very dark blackish-purple color with a garnet edge. On the nose it's raspberry cordial and a whiff of blackberries and black plums. Mouth-filling, juicy black fruit flavors are shaped by fresh, tart acidity and soft but perceptible tannins. Black plums and tart berries linger in a long finish. Nicely balanced and food-friendly at 13.5% alcohol, it upholds the reputation of Languedoc reds as a very good value at an affordable price. U.S. importer: Wine West LLC, Sausalito, Calif. (Sept. 30, 2012)

FOOD MATCH: While this style dry red will always do favors to a chunk of rare red meat, it was just as fine with an autumn harvest dinner of roasted autumn vegetables, pumpkin, fennel, potato, onion and tomato, roasted until caramelized and tender with olive oil and fresh herbs. It was all good, very, very good, but the caramelized fennel in particular made a remarkable pairing with the wine.

WHEN TO DRINK: Entirely drinkable now, but it should hold up well and perhaps evolve a bit over three or four more years under good cellar conditions.

VALUE: As noted, a very good dry, red, Euro-style table wine at a very good price.

Corbières = "Cor-b'yare"

The Gérard Bertrand home page offers links to information in French, English and Spanish. Click the Union Jack to reach the English-language section.

Find vendors and compare prices for Gérard Bertrand Corbières on Wine-Searcher.com.

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