To read the only other Amazon review of this book, one might surmise it is a glossy coffee table book and a rather neutral description of Bordeaux for the novice. It is anything but. For those seeking a more conventional, encyclopedic volume to serve as a reference, there is Brook's big and glossy "The Complete Bordeaux," which I can highly recommend, along with Clive Coates' "Grands Vins" and its later revised edition, "The Wines of Bordeaux."
"People, Power and Politics" is a different animal, a "tell all" volume in which Brook paints a less than flattering picture of the Bordeaux trade in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. He draws back the curtain on the system of negociants, courtiers, importers, media mavens, banks, insurance companies and other moneyed interests that control the commerce in classified growth and 'cult' Bordeaux. He decries the frenetic 'en primeur' campaigns that have come to define the top tier Bordeaux market.
Brook also presents a scathing critique of modern Bordeaux, the wine. Overcropping. Slathering with new oak, overuse of concentrators, micro-oxygenation, the trend towards "ripeness is all," the Parker driven fruit bomb viticulture and vinification that now seem to define the successful estates. At the same time he describes the economic successes of Bordeaux over the past couple of decades, Brook describes a growing disillusionment, among wine professionals and serious amateurs, with the homogeneity and "internationalization" of Bordeaux reds, noting that many tasters admit they can no longer tell St. Julien from Pauillac from Margaux from St. Estephe. It all converges on a single, anonymous, over the top Californicated style.
Many of us who have been at the wine thing for twenty or thirty years or more cut our teeth on the Bordeaux of the 50s, 60s and 70s, only to find that by the mid 80s even the best wines went soft and grew dull -- more consistent, more friendly, but dull. Is it global warming, marketing savvy, Parker's silly 'scoring system,' or just changing tastes? Whatever it is, many of us now think of the region as "Bore d'eaux." While we may be tempted by the en primeur media campaigns to lay down lots of the "top rated" wines from the highly touted vintages, we drink them less and less and flip them at a profit more and more, as the wines simultaneously become far less interesting and far more ridiculously expensive and actively traded in secondary markets. When your not very interesting bottles of Lafite can be sold in Hong Kong for a few grand a pop, why drink them, when you can keep yourself in terroir driven, top quality reds from the Loire, the Rhone and Burgundy for months and months for the price of one or two bottles of that "98 pointer" Rothschild stuff?
Brook's book has a measured and thoughtful tone, but it does not sugar coat the message or shy away from asking these hard questions. As the cover blurb says, this is a "no holds barred exploration of Bordeaux." It ain't your father's Oldsmobile.