Desert Island Wine

Desert Island Wine

To really achieve maximum entertainment value from Desert Island Wine, the new book of essays and short pieces from Miles Lambert-Gócs, it really helps to have read the Oxford Companion to Wine cover to cover, to have a degree in philosophy, to know and converse with the pagan deities of antiquity on a first name basis, to curl up in bed with books on wine science, history, geography and the wine business (the way that other people curl up with other people), to taste hundreds of wines a year, to read about thousands, and, in short, to absorb greedily every snippet of wine knowledge from whatever source derived. Fortunately, I qualify on all these accounts.

Yes, give me a few thousand words on the subject of filtration. That is not a sarcastic statement; I really soak these things up. Very thought provoking. For that matter, I found the chapter on our craving for acidic tastes enlightening, even mouth-watering.

Of course, there are lighter areas. The interview with Dionysius begins the book, and immediately puts the name of wine guru Robert Parker, Jr, into play; later the point-awarding Parkerian wine guru Amphorothiras gets the full grilling by Socrates in a verisimilar Platonic dialogue. This is great stuff; I give both these sections a 92.

Lambert-Gócs lives in Virginia and gives an exegesis of the state's wine scene for which I was not prepared, but I can still relate to the warm tone of his “Report to Tom,” that's Virginian Jefferson, this country's first great wine aficionado, champion, guru, or bore (depending on your outlook). The tone is quite familiar, which is amusing until one begins to consider that we have probably heard too much about Jefferson and wine (not from this author, but in general). I am sure other founding fathers—the name of the bon vivant John Hancock comes quickly to mind—had excellent cellars and free-flowing quills.

Subject to the proviso that the reader be extremely well-read in all subjects relating to the liberal arts, there is something for everyone here. The writer claims to have dug up first drafts of famous literary works—Moby Dick for starters—with the aim of restoring expurgated drink-related sections; he gives up further snippets from William Dean Howells, Edna Ferber, and even Goethe. I am waiting to see what he can do with, say, an F. Scott Fitzgerald or a John O'Hara.

This is the kind of book you “discover” and love on a rainy day at a beach resort, if you don't generally read these kinds of books. Of course I make a steady diet out of just this sort of volume. I hate the term “wine geek,” since there is little on earth more sophisticated than wine, but suffice it to say that the “serious” wine buff will be enlightened, amused, and thoroughly simulated by Desert Island Wine. One should hope that this book comes to show both dog ears and wine stains.

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food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award


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