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on 10 January 2011
I hadn't read Matt Kramer before but he's obviously been going for ages, commenting on wine from across the Atlantic since the 1980s.
He's got a lovely tone that both is enthralled to wine, but also sceptical about the world that surrounds it. He's no wine snob, nor is he someone who'll denigrate wine wisdom in a superficial call to populism. Crucially, he can also write with a brilliant turn of phrase. For example, the true Burgundy lover, when hunting down some obscure vineyard's finest vintage "needs the tracking instincts of a Sioux Indian".
He himself seems inclinded to Burgundy and Piedmont and so the world's love affair with Bordeaux is something which he looks at with bemusement. And it's instructive to read an article from 2001 laughing at people eagerly buying Chateau Latour en primeur when they have to shell out $300 a bottle to do so; nowadays, that would be regarded as a bargain. One decade's absurd luxury is another decade's reasonable cost.
Overall, this is extremely enjoyable and entertaining material to keep by the loo. Some pieces are just witty; others have moments of profundity, and it really shows a mind who is eager to talk about the soul of wine, who'll enjoy a minor bottle authentic to terroir ahead of a major bottle that's been over-extracted in the cellar. His predictions aren't all correct: syrah is yet to be the 'next big thing', as he forecast in 2003; nor has the Bordeaux wine bubble burst. Yet you still feel he knows his stuff.
One excerpt about terroir, or "somewhereness", from his book on Burgundy is absolutely outstanding.
And in a sense you feel the wine world is turning in Kramer's direction, towards a humility before the terroir, that it may have been losing in the early 2000s.
A great collection of mainly short pieces about all areas of wine.
Buy it if you like reading about wine, or it would be a great gift for a vinophile you are fond of.
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