Customer Review

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gripping read - well researched and full of interest, 27 Nov 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Real Wine: The Rediscovery of Natural Winemaking (Hardcover)
Patrick Matthews ploughs a different furrow to other wine writers. He's a thinker -- and a bit philosophically inclined. While most wine books aim to simplify the complicated subject of wine for the general reader, Matthews isn't happy to take this well trodden path. Instead, he takes a complex subject and makes it even more complicated. He established his reputation as someone prepared to grapple with the thorny issues surrounding wine in his previous book, The wild bunch: great wines from small producers, and Real wine follows in a similar vein. However, while The wild bunch was an impressive book, Real wine is even better. It's a brilliantly conceived book that makes gripping reading for anyone intrigued by the deeper issues of wine and its production.
In essence, this book addresses the question of how to go about making a 'real wine'. This provides a thread of continuity that ties together each of the chapters. These embrace some of the most contentious yet vital issues surrounding wine today, including site selection, planting the vines, organic and biodynamic viticulture, choice of grape variety, wine making techniques, what constitutes a wine fault, and making money. Finally, there's a fun but rather quirky appendix aimed at helping interested readers to actually make 'real wines' themselves.
At the heart of this book is the tension between the old and new world approaches to making wine. On the one hand there are the traditional vignerons; on the other the new world technology-driven winemakers. But Matthews skilfully avoids the usual generalizations and clichés surrounding the old world/new world debate by focusing mainly on California, where winemakers reflect both traditions, and there is currently a swing back to 'natural winemaking'. It's a good read, and pretty well researched. Matthews gives the impression of going in open-minded, and even where he has chosen to take a stance, he avoids being preachy.
A lot of credit has to go to publishers Mitchell Beazley, first of all for being brave enough to publish something so far off the beaten track, and secondly for the attractive and innovative design: the book has been produced in a squat, almost square format, rather reminiscent of a religious publication (perhaps a prayerbook?), which is appropriate for such a philosophical book. All in all, it's a compulsory purchase for any thinking wine lover or wine professional.
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