Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch

Hey, if there’s only one book you can afford to read on the wine business, wine trade, wine making, wine traditions, commercial versus natural wines, and some of the greatest vintners on this earth, read Kermit Lynch’s 30-year-old travelogue on selecting his French wine portfolio.

First published in 1988, this is a story of candor, love of the vine, and decades-long incessant battle for the true and sincere fermented juice that brings together the sense of the place it was born in and the passion that old rustic village men put into it on their slopes and in their damp cellars.

Lynch, a renown US wine importer, discusses his views on the natural wines well before Marcel Lapierre and his buddies made it into a huge trend. He meets and talks to people like Aubert de Villaine, Henri Jayer, Hubert de Montille, François Raveneau, Aimé Guibert and the Peyraud family of Domaine Tempier. Hell, he even talks to Jules Chauvet before Jules Chauvet changed the mentality of the ravaged Beaujolais region and sowed the seeds of the natural wine movement.

He praises wines of elegance, finesse, nuance, balance, light alcohol, no filtration, low or no sulfur at all, over soul-less broad-shouldered bold oaky wines of 15% and above still in favor with the world press. Yet, in his epilogue to the 25th anniversary edition, published in 2013, he spares no harsh words towards badly made ultra purist natural wines, as you cannot sell defects for effects just for the sake of it being natural and raw.

A true visionary before his time.

Naked Wine: Letting grapes do what comes naturally by Alice Feiring

Both energetic and erratic story by a prominent New York natural wine freak / journalist Alice Feiring was a quick read.

Flipping between her own winemaking experience with Sagrantino in Napa (good lord!), the story and ideology behind natural wines and key figures in the movement, and her own incessant tours of the Old World vignerons most of the folks probably never heard of, it’s a frank, non-linear story of passion, a labyrinth of cul-de-sac’s, and an ode to stomping and adding no sulfur.


Biodynamic Wine, Demystified by Nicolas Joly

A visionary and a keen defender of nature’s purity, Nicolas Joly’s second book on biodynamic wine (no, I haven’t read his first Wine from Sky to Earth) is aimed at true believers, but not only at them. Published in 2008, before RAW movement struck both minds and senses of somms and wine drinkers alike, gaining more popularity by the day due to constant efforts of jolly natural winemakers and able journalists (see earlier review of Isabelle Legeron’s Natural Wine), Joly, who has been making biodynamic wines since the 80s, it not earlier, is a revered patriarch of the movement.

While I am but a mere aspiring wine enthusiast and a hardcore materialistic atheist at the same time, this book on earth energies transmitted from the soil, dynamised with herbs and dung fertilizers, moon phases and star constellations left me thinking and rather perplexed.

On one hand, it would require a force unknown to me to make yours truly believe in the macrocosmic forces and their direct impact on wine the way Monsieur Joly preaches it, yet a shadow of doubt polluted my soul.

On top of that, some parts of this book, written in plain understandable language and offering a rather gloomy perspective of our own way too materialistic world, I think have a proper merit of being taught in school. Like Chapter 2: Errors in Agriculture, which paints a horrible picture of how conventional commercial winemakers approach their terroirs and their vines.

All in all, one thing remains an unquestionable truth – Joly’s very own unique and exceptional white wines from the Loire valley speak louder than any words and any inappropriate funny jokes on lunatics who bury cow horns at the solstice.

Natural Wine: An Introduction to Organic and Biodynamic Wines Made Naturally by Isabelle Legeron

A short yet quite comprehensive and colorful New Testament of real authentic and natural wine by Isabelle Legeron, MW – truly, one of the leading voices on the subject worldwide.

In bare 200 pages Ms. Legeron explains the idea, the practice and, in a way, relatively recently coinoted and already almost religious following of RAW, affiliation to which yours truly hereby discloses without slightest degree of shame or timidity.

You find it all here – agriculture approach (just let it grow, don't mess it up), vinification (just let it ferment, don't mess it up), wild yeasts and sulfites, classification (none, really), interviews with top world producers, and Isabelle's own recommendations of her favorite cuvees and vintners.

A brilliant read. Upon getting though with it, I'm increasing my stock of raw wines at home.

А для тех, кто хочет на русском – Владимир Басов и RAW выпускают российский перевод в январе. Ждите во всех неглавных магазинах страны – или не ждите, я куплю коробку на подарки.

The 24-hour Wine Expert by Jancis Robinson

I somehow placed it in my amazon shopping cart, and then my wife bought it by accident – just clicked proceed to checkout, paid and got it delivered to our apartment together with all of her stuff – so I decided, now that I own it, hell, why not give it a shot.

Good, light-hearted and very instructive reading for novel wine enthusiasts, much much better than the widely available Wine Folly book by Madeline Puckette, which some mistakenly buy and believe to be a good reference guide. Less colorful charts and hellava more sense here.

Jancis Robinson, a revered wine expert and a very harsh wine critic, explains it all in short, punchy, and self-explanatory language. The bare minimum of what everyone should know about wine, its production, bottling, how to taste it, common grape varieties, major wine regions, stemware, corkscrews, Coravin, decanting, aging, useful lingo, shop and restaurant tips, all in a hundred tiny A5-like pages.

Not a bad book to recommend if you're interested in the subject, yet feel intimidated by all those long words on expensive Burgundy bottles. On the other hand, if you can name the 30+ Côte d'Or Grand Crus by heart and even name the lieux-dits they're comprised of, well, you can safely skip it.


The King of Oil: The Secret Lives of Marc Rich by Daniel Ammann

Quite an interesting story about the rise and a near fall of Marc Rich, the financier commodity trader and founder of Glencore-Xtrata who lived and died in exile, fugutive from “justice” in the United States.

Mr. Ammann makes a very brazen comparison between Rich and Ayn Rand's very own Hank Rearden, a prominent industrialist in the perennial Atlas Shrugged who obstructed prohibitive and burdensome government regulation and then went in exile. Well, Rich might have been no less defiant in his actions, but definitely much more cautious in trying to make sure he's not breaking the law. And which law apllies internationally. Well, Rudy Giuliani thought differently, and made a career out of it.

The more details I read about this case, the less I like it. Rich has been clearly singled out, mistreated by the NY state prosecutors, who abused their powers in forcing him to plea guilty over a supposed tax evasion – which I'm 100 per cent certain had 155 various tax opinions by the most reputable accounting and law firms that Marc Rich + Co. ain't breaking the law. I see quite some relsemblaces between this case and the unfair treatment of our very own Mr. Khodorkovsky, who as well was singled out, mistreated, tried and jailed by the state on the back of tax evasion charges. Different reasons, but in quite similar fashion, it looks like. Saddens me.

In general, it's a good tale of putting together one of the largest and quite successful trading operations in modern history, a child who now tries to purge its founding father's name from history books. Oh well.

If he was indeed innocent, as he claims, I interject, why was he branded the greatest tax fraudster and an enemy of the state? Rich tilts his head to one side, and the red birthmark on his left cheek seems to glow brighter than usual. “I believe it was a combination of political problems and that a scapegoat was needed at the time,” Rich says. “I was an easy target, one individual, very successful, making a lot of money, and Jewish. I stood outside of the establishment.”

“I was singled out by individuals. Individuals with a clear personal interest in self-promotion,” Rich believes. “Mr. Giuliani escalated the case because he saw a chance to achieve more publicity for himself,” he maintains. “Personal interests and feelings on their side got into the way of a fair solution.”


Barolo by Matthew Gavin Frank

Man, I don't get it.

Seems like a great book, and on a most intriguing and lovely topic – yet somehow, Matthew Gavin Frank's gastronomic adventures in Barolo, stories of illegal grape picking for the venerable Luciano Sandrone, standing a shift as apprentice chef at Locanda I Cannubi, walking the same hills that I like so much – all of it made me sleepy every frigging time after just a few para's. Spent months plowing through those barely 200+ pages.

Yet, to make sure – if you're somehow into Barolo, Monforte d'Alba, Serralunga, Castiglione Falleto, la Morra, Verdunho, all this special Piemontese wine, air and culinary delights, read the book.