Too many wine books set out to educate; too few are actually a 'good read'. It's understandable¾ after all, wine is a ferociously complicated subject. And one of the most complicated aspects is how the stuff is actually made. This is why a book like this is so welcome, because it's about making wine, it's genuinely a good read, and along the way you learn quite a bit.
The concept? Wine writer Simon Woods, accompanied by photographer Jason Lowe, set out to track the course of the vintage at two locations -- Louis Jadot in Burgundy and Domaine de La Baume in the Languedoc. The book that resulted is a mixture of narrative and photography, beautifully laid out and produced in a very elegant format. The photography is quite striking. Lowe has taken some risks and deviated from the standard wine book fare of vineyard shots and bunches of ripe grapes, preferring to catalogue a much more nuts and bolts montage of winemaking imagery. Most of the time this works brilliantly, although a couple of the compositions look a bit dodgy to my admittedly untrained eye.
It's a story told very much in the third person: Woods is strictly an observer and doesn't involve himself at all. But he's consistent, and the text is pretty polished. When he strays onto areas of controversy -- and there are lots of these in winemaking -- a tactful line is taken, and where opinions are expressed they are well judged and balanced.
Overall, I found this a great read, giving some real insight into the process of growing grapes and making wine. Criticisms? Well, I would have liked more substance -- possibly covering more (or different) producers, and scratching a bit deeper below the surface. The book is over remarkably quickly and ends a bit abruptly, leaving me wanting more. But this aside, kudos to the author, photographer and publishers for taking a bit of a risk, and in the process producing a well conceived, good looking and interesting book.