Novelist, screenwriter, and wine connoisseur McInerney (Bright, Precious Days, 2016, etc.) lovingly curates a collection of pieces about the making, selling, and drinking of fine wine.
In interviews, the author often admits that he feels barely ahead of readers when it comes to wine, despite having written about the stuff for venues like the Wall Street Journey, Vanity Fair, and Town & Country for more than 20 years now. Nonetheless, McInerney displays a keen, well-trained literary eye. In this anthology, he selects mostly traditional selections, with a few surprises. The book opens with “Taste,” a 1951 short story by Roald Dahl about a bet to guess the identity and origin of a glass of wine. In “A Stunning Upset,” then Time reporter George Taber chronicles the now-famous “Judgment of Paris,” in which Jim Barrett’s California-based Chateau Montelena beat highly touted French wines in an infamous 1976 contest. At the time, Barrett said, “not bad for a bunch of kids from the sticks….I guess it’s time to be humble and pleased, but I’m not stunned. We’ve known for a long time that we could put our white Burgundy against anybody’s in the world and not take a backseat.” There are wine experts in New York Times wine critic Eric Asimov’s “The Importance of Being Humble” and winemaker Kermit Lynch’s tribute to “Northern Rhône,” but there are also iconoclasts like the late Jim Harrison, who writes, “such bottles truly resonate in the memory, growing even more overwhelming as they distance themselves from the years.” Bill Buford, another larger-than-life character, witnesses a culture clash in “Burgundy on the Hudson.” Other fictions sweeten the collection with rich, sensuous writing that evokes the multifarious senses that wine awakens: selections from Rex Pickett’s Sideways (2004) and Stephanie Danler’s Sweetbitter (2016). The collection also includes pieces from A.J. Liebling, Maximillian Potter, and M.F.K. Fisher.
For wine enthusiasts and newcomers alike, a sharp gathering of writing about wine’s multidimensional, occasionally subversive pleasures.