ISSUE 62 2018 ISSN 1743-503X
THE WORLD OF
Founder Laurence Orbach Editorial Adviser Hugh Johnson OBE Contributing Editor Andrew Jefford
Editor Neil Beckett neil.beckett@worldoffi newine.com
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Neil Beckett A
t a time of year when many of us drink a little more than usual, it may be illuminating to reflect, as Stuart Walton does brilliantly here, on those who decide, for various reasons, not to drink at all: “People who are always sober may well be subject to the vicissitudes of their own neurochemistry, but they do not by and large directly intervene in it as users of intoxicants do. They thereby deprive themselves of one way of maintaining shifting perspectives on life and a full grasp of the complexity of consciousness. This last point is what makes it so often disquieting to find ourselves in the hands of political leaders who are totally abstinent” (pp.136–43).
Climate change has allowed greater consistency and higher quality in English sparkling wine, well served by two new books, even if, as they also show, English viticulture goes back much further than many of us realized, and even if it remains a risky undertaking (pp.60–61). A large 2015 Burgundy tasting suggests that producers there are learning from their experience of warmer vintages, while Blaufränkisch from Spitzerberg, Tawny, white, and Vintage Port, and Australian fortifieds all prove that elegant, exciting wines can come from warmer vineyards (pp.146–53, 24–28, 90–94, 210–17).
Crucial as climate and weather will always be for wine, the ability to make distinctive, enjoyable wines from great terroirs, even when the conditions are far from conducive, is demonstrated by a fascinating tasting of Château Latour throughout the 20th century—without its most legendary vintages (pp.82–4).
It is clear from Kathleen Burk’s magisterial survey of wine in diplomacy —from renaissance royal courts, to the embassies of today—how different history might have been if more political leaders over the years had been teetotal (pp.112– 21). Of all the wines involved in diplomatic negotiations, machinations, and rituals, few can have been more prevalent than Champagne. But the restaurants whose wine lists, and sommeliers whose talents, are celebrated here (pp.36–38, 40–1), are far more likely than any ambassador or head of state to make the most of the ever-widening spectrum of styles now available: no-dosage, mono-cépage, mon0-cru, those involving oak in one way or another, or perpetual reserves or soleras, or as in the case of AR Lenoble’s new Mag 14 range—reserve wines stored in magnums to lend freshness rather than richness to ever earlier, riper vintages (pp.69, 68, 64–66, 122–27, 166–71, 70, 76). “[I]f we fall in love not with perfection but with imperfection, then purity is only part of the destiny of wine. A wine that speaks of place, but in the gravelly, mortal tones of Humphrey Bogart, perhaps?”
It is also additional compelling evidence in support of the modified concept of purity in wine proposed by Harry Eyres—“an impure, fallible purity”—after he rightly highlights the inadequacies of “moral” and “scientific” notions: “[I]f it is true that we fall in love not with perfection but with imperfection, or even as Blake had it that ‘Eternity is in love with the productions of time,’ then purity is only part of the destiny of wine. A wine that speaks of place, but in the gravelly, mortal tones of Humphrey Bogart, perhaps?” (p.16).
Whatever you may be drinking over the holiday season, we hope you find joy in it and those with whom you share it.
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