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jamie@wineanorak.com (London, UK)

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The Wines of the South of France: From Banyuls to Bellet
The Wines of the South of France: From Banyuls to Bellet
by Rosemary George
Edition: Paperback

39 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must-have guide to the wines of the south of France, 27 Sept. 2001
Few would disagree with the assertion that the South of France is one of the most happening places on the wine map. It's also one of the fastest-changing, so this book is a much-needed navigational aid for fans of this dynamic region. It's a substantial, bulky work of more than 500 pages, dealing comprehensively with the wines of the Roussillon, Languedoc, Provence and Corsica. Logically laid out, the different sub regions and communes are covered chapter by chapter, with the key producers in each profiled in detail. George has clearly done a tremendous amount of research (which must have been great fun), and the coverage is pretty comprehensive. It's not just about wine: there's plenty of historical and cultural context, too, and the text paints a vivid picture of the country and people behind the wines. There's a lot of discussion about the dynamic state of flux in region is in, with ambitious young producers replacing complacent vignerons, and moribund cooperatives being revitalized. Throughout, there's a great sense of optimism and hope, only partially dampened by the unwieldy officialdom of the INAO.
Overall, it's a superb work. However, I have a few slight frustrations (and bear in mind that these are just minor criticisms of an otherwise fantastic book). First, the format. It's a lengthy book, with the text broken up only by the odd black-and-white map. You get the feeling that a creative editor with more of a budget could have really done something spectacular with George's research and writing. As it is, the book isn't quite sure of what it's trying to be. Is it a reference work, or is it trying to tell a story? As a reference work its failing is that it's not laid out in an accessible enough format. You need to dig through the text pretty hard to find what you are looking for. And the producer profiles are just a little too short on detail; the tasting notes rather too sketchy. And as a 'reading' book, the huge scope of the work and relentless detail means it's not an easy book to read cover-to-cover, despite George's fluent writing style. And I suspect it's too much to ask for some photographs...? I would also have liked to see more strongly expressed opinions -- more infectious enthusiasm and passion. George rarely lets on that she's excited by the wines that she tastes, and hides what you'd suspect is genuine enthusiasm behind somewhat neutral, dispassionate prose. Despite these frustrations (which I guess are mainly with the Faber format, but credit to them -- who else would have commissioned this?) this book really is an essential purchase for anyone the slightest bit serious about southern French wines, and you really ought to invest in a copy.


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