Savoured, sipped and slurped this volume - and shouted at my friends over the phone about the happiness it gave me. I even wrote emails about it in the hillbilly language of the internet, "all-caps". A little doubtful at the start, once Ian Mount got into the meat of it, reading Vineyard at the End of the World was the kind of blissful relief one feels when a serious and mysterious discomfort is revealed to be simply something very uncomfortable one has found one is sitting on, perhaps an upturned garden rake or something of the kind. A special kind of pleasure.
Why the sense of relief? This book by Mount speaks a lot of rude and impolite truths, for example unapologetically documenting the nasty pesticide-adulterated diesel fuel that was and often still is low-end Argentinian wine, the truckloads of arrogance husbanded by the old regime of bodegueros, or the tatty mess that is the state of commercial contracts as interpreted on this side of the Southern Cone of South America.
I traveled and enjoyed some of the same regions of Argentina as Mount and visited some of the same places (it seems we share some of nearly the same photos), and although my exposure to the reality of the wine scene is flyspeck on Ian Mount's in-depth research, I had felt rather guilty holding onto my pointedly critical observations of the country, and its winemaking. Until Ian's book, that is - metaphorically, I could finally shout 'what's this bloody garden rake doing under my cushion!'
Even more fascinating are the detailed accounts of how foreign consultants and Argentinian can-do winemakers turned the whole thing upside down. I adore Argentinian wine and buy it eagerly now, even if the infuriating stuff at the bottom end is still best used in an Otto-cycle engine. Mount provides loads of logical detail - e.g. what is the effect on primary flavours, as the vineyards descend in altitude from 10,000 feet (the highest anywhere) down to the eastern lowlands? (short answer: violets, black cherries, blackberry, plum, red cherries, strawberry). What are the tradeoffs as hang time in the intense UV irradiation increases, and acid levels drop off? How has the road-runner/coyote Argentinian economy affected the earnest efforts of the wine revolutionaries? Why did we all have to wait until nowadays to delight in the Malbec varietal?
I could go on, but why bother - snort and savour this one for yourself. You can see from the other reviews here that I'm not alone in singing the praises of this book. Long story short - I appreciated more than anything else the truth-telling Mount did, boldly giving us the negatives along with the plusses, rather than just being polite to his hosts with some nauseating Pangloss. Particularly happy-making was the description of that universally lauded Garden of Eden, the beloved of dreamy upscale tourist brochures, the city of Mendoza - as "butt-ugly". Thank you, Ian Mount. My only resentful misgiving about this book is that he hasn't written three more just like it. If you love wine, travel, winemaking, adventure, and/or staining your teeth purple, this thing is 98 Parker points out of 100.