By Michael Eigen
I hosted a group of parents from St. Ignatius school a few weeks ago for a wine tasting. I had a great time and they were receptive and fun. During the course of the evening, as I regaled them with wine facts we started to talk about books. Books can’t replace tasting, but they can certainly put things in context.
Two of my favorite wine books (I actually won’t qualify them as “wine” books, they are historical) are The Judgement of Paris and Wine & War.
Wine and War is a fascinating dissection of the French wine industry under the Nazi (and by extension Vichy) regime. It is so informative and puts the experience of life under wartime into a unique perspective by looking at it from a very specific circumstance. The Germans had high regard for the French wine industry and that’s why it still exists today.
Spoiler alert: The Allies win in the end!!
A question was then raised about the famous tasting in Paris in 1976 where the American upstarts beat the storied French wines. One of the attendees had seen a movie about the event (nominally). The movie is called Bottle Shock and it is a highly fictionalized version of the events. While entertaining, you will be better served by reading the book written by the only journalist that bothered to attend the tasting, which took place in a conference room in a Parisian Marriott hotel. That is far from the film’s glamorous depiction of a ruined chateau outside Paris, but hey, that’s Hollywood.
What makes the book so great, aside from the vivid first hand account of the tasting, are the backstories that he tells about the fledgling winemakers who all ended up in Napa, but in very different ways. The story of Mike Grgich (Grgich Hills) alone is worth reading this book.
These are just two of a surprising number of excellent books on or about the wine industry. I’ll recommend more after I give you some time to read these.
Suggested wine for reading: Any Good One!