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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Like an excellent management consultancy report on Bordeaux, 3 Feb. 2010
A Kid's Review
This review is from: What Price Bordeaux? (Hardcover)
There are a lot of books about wine and there are almost as many books about wine in Bordeaux. So what's different about this one?
The great thing about this book is that Lewin isn't just giving his view like Stephen Spurrier, or sounding off like Malcolm Gluck: he's put in some serious research to uncover as close to the truth as possible. For example, loads of people know that the only major change to the 1855 classification was the promotion of Mouton Rothschild to 1st Growth in 1973. But Lewin isn't just satisfied with noting that. He has researched the original documents, assessed the legal status of a change (how can one change a 'commercial' judgement based on merchants' prices for a 19th century exhibition?), discovered which meetings did or did not happen (there is a myth of a public "discours" and yet that seems to have been a bit of spin, masking backroom lobbying). He's even tracked the pricing of Mouton from 1820 to the present day to assess the validity of the change.
Furthermore, with shrewd judgement he notes how revealing it is that there is so little actual evidence about this change: Bordeaux is embarrassed by the fact that in fact its dealings and ways are distinctly murky, even in this celebrated event.
Similarly, he notes the distinctly light touch the authorities have shown with regard to demonstrable fraud, and even goes into the existential arguments of the few who actually got caught: "yes, we adulterated the wine, but then the consumers never complained: we sold it as Bordeaux, they purchased it believing it was Bordeaux, after they had drunk it, they still believed it was Bordeaux: what's wrong with calling it Bordeaux?"
Or again, he actually goes as far as one can into assessing exactly how close the terroir of a given chateau in 1855 relates to the terroir of the same chateau in 2009. And again, he goes into the more existential questions: if the land owned by the chateau is over 50% different from what it was when the 1855 classification took place, in what sense is it still the same wine? And again, he notes the difficulty with uncovering the evidence. The chateaux just don't want this stuff to come out: they have too much credibility to lose.
But those are just three of the topics he covers: this is an overall guide to Bordeaux from first plantings under the Romans, through the 19th century, even upto the heady en primeur frenzies of the 21st century. If he has a bias, it's towards a commercial analysis: e.g. he has an in-depth look at the crash of 1974, as well as analysing, for example what affects price more: Parker's scores, or other critics' scores, or one's place in the classe hierarchy.
Perhaps the best chapters are those assessing the 1855 classification, and fraud in the 20th century, but he uncovers a number of fascinating facts in almost every area: e.g. the way Merlot has gradually seeped ever further into the Medoc, from 25% in classed growths in the 1970s to 30% today, the parallel between prices of 1st growths and post-impressionist paintings...
His tone is measured, neither reverential nor peevish, and he's clearly a taster himself: he has his own views on the infamous 2003 Pavie that so divided J.Robinson and R.Parker.
Clearly, this is not a book for those who are looking for an introduction to wine, nor is it a book for those seeking a memoir of happy memories of bottles drunk in enchanting places. It's not a beautiful book in that sense.
Rather, it's a book that tries to distil the facts from the myths, and to go as far as one can into uncovering Bordeaux reality. It's what McKinsey would have written had they been asked to give their view on the Bordeaux wine industry.
In a world of myth, where top crus are commanding ever more glamour, and wine investment funds are flooding into the market, promising wonderful rates of return, his judicious approach is all the more welcome.
This is clearly a specialist book, but it achieves what it sets out to do, in spades.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unique overview of the Bordeaux Wine Industry, 7 Sept. 2010
J. Suyderhoud (ouderkerk aan den ijssel, Netherlands) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: What Price Bordeaux? (Hardcover)
Master of Wine and Scientist Benjamin Lewin has made a thorough study of the Bordeaux Wine Industry based on a wealth of collected information. Topics include terroir, typicité, classification, pricing, organization, selling tactics and methods, wine critics, scandals and frauds, vinification methods and assemblages, garage and second wines, global warming and much more. You have to read this book to be up to date on the background and present status of the Bordeaux wines. It is really a no nonsense page turner.
There is only one weak aspect, Lewin is neither a marketing expert nor a management consultant, so he gives no clear advise what to do with this information. However every person can set his own strategy, based on his own knowledge and this book. The outcome will of course be very different, depending on your capacity and interests. As a longtime buyer and consumer of these wines I have done so. If you are an investor or any other player in this market, your strategy will certainly be different.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars tax responsibilities, 8 Dec. 2012
Prof Herman Waldmann (West Palm Beach, FL, US) - See all my reviews
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I really enjoyed this book but I hate the way Amazon reduces its UK taxes-I can say more in due course, once Amazon do the right thing.
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What Price Bordeaux?
What Price Bordeaux? by Benjamin Lewin (Hardcover - 1 Sept. 2009)
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