Thursday, November 5, 2015

Book Review: hungry for wine

In the concluding chapter of her book hungry for wine (Provisions Press, 2015), author Cathy Huyghe struggles with the question as to whether she had lost the simple pleasure of wine. If the persistent act of drinking wine “in context” had caused a disassociation from the pure pleasure of drinking and enjoying wine just because it was there. And that self-reflection on the author’s part got me thinking that I had fallen victim to the same malady; except the object, in my case, was books – and reading.


I read extensively – primarily non-fiction – for what I can learn, what I can extract for use in my blog, or as a subject for a book review; all sources of content for my blog. And it was with this mindset that I approached Cathy’s book as I settled back into my extra-leg-room seat on an early morning Jetblue flight  from Orlando to New York’s La Guardia Airport.

With my academic approach to reading and writing, this book did not fare well in my reading of the early chapters. I fretted about the lack of continuity between chapters, the internet/newspaper-sized paragraphs (and the associated plentitude of white space on the pages), and a perceived preference for observation over analysis. It was not until page 56, and the story of winemaking in Santorini, that it hit me like a ton of bricks. It had been slowly building in my subconscious and then parted the curtains and begun to impose itself upon my consciousness. First, gentle probing. Then the bricks.

I was reading the book “wrong.” Put another way, I was reading the wrong book. I was not reading the book in front of me, instead I was reading at a framework and seeking to hang this book up on that skeleton. And it was not working. Because it shouldn’t.  As I allowed this book to occupy its own space, it grew on me. In the chapter on Greece – my Road to Damascus experience – Cathy provided phenomenal insights and raised pertinent questions as to the future impact on the Greek wine industry of the return of the “educated ones” to the land, a direct result of the jobs crisis currently gripping the nation (This was especially pertinent to me as I had seen it first hand in a recent visit to North Greece as part of DWCC Pre-Conference Press Trip.).
As I continued reading, my initial concern about continuity waned as it became clear that each chapter was a standalone story with its own context. And these stories were insightful, thoughtful, and thought-provoking. Cathy has a knack for putting the right words together in the right order and at the right time to convey a fulsome story to her audience. And I love her tasting notes. They are unpretentious, original, and contextual, each one different from the other. There are hints of literature within some of these notes. For example, I have never seen a Parker note that read thusly:
This wine gets to me, maybe because Friuli gets to me. I feel it when I stand at the low wall of the Abbey of Rosazzo, near to where Terre Alte's vineyards are located, looking out to the hills in front of me. My eyes scan the landscape, and I feel like I am returning. I sense that I know the curve of the road there, the rise of the hill over here, and the rush of the waterfall as an echo of what's come before.
In architecture and methodology the book is somewhat reminiscent of George Taber’s In Search Of Bacchus with tasting notes at the end of each chapter (In Cathy’s case) subbing for the end-of-chapter unique experience in Taber’s book. Taber also focused on identifying wine regions from a tourism perspective while Cathy speaks more about the experiences of the people operating in the wine business in those regions.

As stated in the About the Author section of the book (as well as in the Introduction) it is revealed that Cathy is a wine columnist at and Food52 and has written for a number of periodicals and television enterprises to include Decanter, the BBC, and WGBH. That pedigree is on full display in the way that the 12 stories which form the heart of the book are crafted and relayed.

This is a book worth your time. You will come away from it with an enhanced perspective of how that wine got into your glass. Reading this book, and especially the author’s struggle with getting back to enjoying wine for what it is, brought me back to a place of reading for the pleasure of reading and enjoying the storytellers tale. As Susan Hoffman (@winefamilies) would say, “Get this book.”

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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