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- Published on Amazon.com
In Search of Bacchus: Wanderings in the Wonderful World of Wine Tourism, by Geroge M. Taber, 294 pages, hardcover $30.00.
Geroge Taber's name is already familiar to wine lovers - he was the only journalist present (and he has photos to prove it) at the famed 1976 Paris tasting in which two American wines, Chateau Montelena Chardonnay and Stag's Leap Cabernet Sauvignon in California, won out over the French wines in a blind tasting by French judges that put American wines on the world map. If you've seen the recent movie Bottle Shock, you should know it's very, very loosely based on Geroge's Paris Tasting book. And George is nothing like the sleepy, out of touch journalist depicted in the movie. He's smart, engaging and very well- informed.
George has written two previous books about wine, The Judgement of Paris (about the 1976 tasting) and To Cork or Not to Cork: Tradition, Science, and the Battle for the Wine Bottle (in which he somehow managed to make wine bottle stoppers a fascinating and informative read). In search of Bacchus has a selection from To Cork or Not to Cork at the end, if you're interested.
Now retired from his work as a writer and editor for Time Magazine, Geroge has followed up with a third book, In Search of Bacchus: Wanderings in the Wonderful World of Wine Tourism. His new work is every bit as well-written, readable and engaging as the two previous ones, and now he takes us on a tour of the world's major wine regions, some famous and some not so.
The book begins with a bit of tourism history, focusing on three early wine tourists: the british philosopher John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, spendthrift and wine lover, and the author Robert Louis Stevenson (who knew?), showing that wine tourism has been around for quite a while (Pompeii had its wine bars too). There's nothing like drinking a wine at the source - in the vineyard and winery in which it came into being, and George does just that. He made a six month journey through the wine world (I wish I had his job), and introduces the reader to Napa Valley, Stellenbosch in South Africa, Mendoza in Argentina, Colchagua Valley in Chile, Margaret River in Australia, Central Otago in New Zealand, the Rioja region in Spain, Portugal's Duoro Valley, Bordeaux and Burgundy, the Rheingau and Middle Mosel in Germany, and a final chapter on Kakheti, Goergia (of the former Soviet Union).
If you're thinking "Great, but can you actually find any of the wines he writes about?" the answer is yes. I saw many familiar labels on my way through the book: Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc, Beaulieu Vineyards, Francis Ford Coppola, Goats Do Roam, Casa Lapostelle, Banfi, J.J. Prum Riesling, and others. George also provedes a listing of the wines at the end of the book, with prices (many of them eminently affordable during recession times). It would be great fun to sample while reading.
George's account is readable, engaging and informative; I would consider it a must-have for anyone considering a wine trip. He makes the important point that while California wine country is loaded with tourists (it's second only to Disney World in that respect, with millions of visitors a year), visits to many of the other regions often include a visit with the winemaker and a less hectic time. Of course, one wine book can't cover every wine tourist spot on the planet; that leaves plenty of room for a sequel.
And if all this weren't enough, George's account of his first bungy jump from a bridge in New Zealand is worth the price of the book.
Here's a look at one of the wines George mentions: 2005 Bored Doe, The Goats Do Roam Wine Company,South Africa, $12.99. This red is a Bordeaux blend of the grapes Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. Classic dark fruit from the two Cabernet grapes, earthiness on the nose, deep purple in the glass, it's beginning to develop with flavors of blackcurrant, plum (that's the Merlot talking), hints of perfume from the Petit Verdot, a background of ripe dark fruit on a dry palate with good acidity, well-integrated tannin, balanced alcohol and a pleasing finish. Well worth the price. If you're counting your wine pennies these days, this is a good place to drop a few. Pair with red meats, stews, grilled meat, hard cheeses. 88 pts.