by Ron Washam

Better Off Dead—New Wine Books!

Lately, my mailbox has been filling up with new books about wine and the wine business. It’s a seemingly inexhaustible subject, and the flurry of new books represents a wide range of subject matter. Nearly all of these new books are indispensable for the passionate wine enthusiast. Rather than review each book separately, I’ve assembled these brief critical overviews of all of them. 

WINE GRAPES   Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding, Jose SomebodyorOther

An impressive piece of wine science that unlocks many of the secrets of grape variety ancestry through genetic analysis. A massive tome, it’s seven pounds of DNA—like a party at Silvio Berlusconi’s house. There are many surprising facts in the book. For example, it turns out that Syrah and Shiraz are the same grape, only Shiraz is its Hip-Hop name. Fershizzle. Also, Tribidrag is the original name of both Zinfandel and Sir Elton John, both of which rely on high alcohol. A great book, extremely useful, especially for flattening out old curled up documents.

AMERICAN WINE   Jancis Robinson, Karen Youknowwhoimean

Did you know that all 50 states in America have wineries? If you answered, as most people do, “So what?,” this book will convince you that you’re absolutely correct in that assessment. They make tacos in all 50 states too, and nobody’s writing a book about that. Many states, due to climactic conditions, make wine from hybrid grape varieties. Grapes like Chardonelle, which is an interesting mix of Chardonnay and Elle MacPherson (lots of spice, but kind of flat), and Vidal Blanc, which is what Gore was firing most of his life. Jancis takes us to each state and lists their finest producers. We’re not sure who that Karen chick is. We think she drove most of the time.

AMERICAN TACOS   Jancis Robinson, Paula Deen

OK, I was wrong.

FIFTY SHADES OF GREY RIESLING   Jancis Robinson, E.L. James, Karl Wente

A lonely, repressed wine writer falls for a mysterious and charismatic winemaker who seduces her into playing his submissive. She surrenders her will and submits to his gentle bladder press. Prolonged skin contact leads her to bitterness, with a slightly orange tint. Then it’s his weekly batonnage of her, followed by a careful racking that stretches her sensuality, separating her from her gross lees. She surrenders control, and an “authentic” woman is born. Based on a true story.

WINE ON EARTH   Jancis Robinson, Sir David Attenborough

BBC film crews spent seven years traveling the globe documenting man’s insatiable need to get righteously pissed. Often risking their lives, though, honestly, I’m not sure I would have missed any of them, these brave crews captured such wine world oddities as Patagonian Penguin wine (Chilean Carmenere aged in penguin–some new, some three-year-old), Siberian ice wine (which Russian dissidents have nicknamed “Putinsicles”), barrels of wine in an ice cave in Greenland still going through malolactic fermentation thirty years after harvest (you can still buy futures), African wine made from grapes harvested by baboons, who also write the marketing materials, and Gravner. Sir David Attenborough appears to be a pseudonym for Jose SomebodyorOther.

WHERE TO LOVE WINE   Jancis Robinson, Eric Iforgethisname–hisunclewassomebody

Oh, that Jancis, she’s stepped out from behind that MW curtain to write a passionate plea to wine lovers to ignore all the wine babble, all the geek speak, all the confusing advice that surrounds wine, and just drink. Drink at home, drink at work, drink in the car, drink in the shower, drink in church, drink during sex, drink during sex in church, but drink responsibly. Eric writes for some newspaper, rather wishy-washy stuff, he’s lucky Jancis let him write this book with her name on it.

THE 2013 WINE LOVER’S BIBLE, KORAN, TORAH, BOOK OF MORMON, BAGHAVAD-GITA, and KAMA SUTRA   Jancis Robinson, Joseph Smith, God, et. al.

Top billing for Jancis Robinson on this mystical and all-knowing wine reference book. In it, you’ll find comprehensive reviews of every wine released in the past year, as well as several new sexual positions invented at VinItaly. Plus, genealogy trees for every important winemaker (no surprise, they’re all descended from apes!), and detailed instruction for how to carry out jihad against World of Fine Wine, those blaspheming dogs of Western wine worship, may they rot in the Hell of their own making.

NATURAL WINE LOVER’S GUIDE TO WINE COUNTRY ROAD KILL   Jancis Robinson, and the staff of Carrion Monthly (formerly The Wine Advocate)

Scientists are just now beginning to understand the role of road kill as it affects terroir. In this authoritatively researched book, we learn that road kill differs according to winegrowing region, and that the dead stuff often contributes to the region’s terroir. Thus, winemaking flaw, or dead skunk in the middle of the road? Brettanomyces, or the horse that forgot to look both ways before crossing N74? The book also questions why “natural” winemakers remove dead things from their property, arguing that they might be better served leaving the dead bicyclist in that ditch next to the Syrah. In Biodynamics, after all, the vultures need to eat too.

A LIFE UNCORKED   Jancis Robinson, Hugh Johnson

The greatest living wine writer shares her memories of Hugh Johnson’s life, told by Hugh Johnson. In sparkling prose, Jancis relates a life well-lived, a life that celebrates wine, the history of wine, the love of wine, and then finds time to talk about Hugh. From best-selling author to avid gardener, the inspiring story of how she so quickly eclipsed the old bastard.

THE STORY OF CIVILIZATION   Jancis Robinson, Will and Ariel StartswithaD

This eleven-volume set, written by Jancis Robinson and a couple of old people, covers, well, the story of civilization. And what is civilization if not wine, and only wine. There’s no fucking civilization without wine. Jancis sets us straight. The old people? Never heard of them, but I think they’re dead, and good riddance. Lot of nerve trying to follow Jancis. Or pretend they know about wine, or civilization, or writing books. Compete with Jancis? Better off dead.

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