THE HEARTBREAK GRAPE by Marq de Villiers


A Journey in Search of the Perfect Pinot Noir
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 From Canadian publisher de Villiers (Down the Volga, 1992, etc.): a fruity, complex story of a California winemaker--a tale much like crushed raspberries on a summer's day, with a heartbreaking, underlying silkiness and a faint hint of fresh farm butter. De Villiers tracked down master vintner Josh Jensen at the Calera winery in California after he had unexpectedly been served an incredible domestic but Burgundian pinot noir--``like rubies under fire''--at a small dinner party. De Villiers dipped his nose into the glass, inhaled slowly, and took a small sip: ``It was rich and complex, with a maddening hint of chocolate and violets. I groped for descriptives, as wine people do, without much luck.'' Hooked, utterly! Not much later, de Villiers was interviewing Jensen, the maverick winemaker who produced this pinot noir under conditions that the California wine establishment declared entirely inhospitable to his project. De Villiers tells of the winery and its workers; of the place in Burgundy where the vines of ``the heartbreak grape'' came from (it's called heartbreak ``because of its fickle nature and of its tendency to veer wildly from thin plonk to vins de garde); about the hilltop wilderness that Jensen turned into vineyards; planting the first vines; how the vines are managed with tender loving care; the importance of limestone; Jensen's stubborn desire to make the best pinot noir in America; the fight for water against the draught; the crucial, anxiety- ridden decision about the best time to pick the grapes; the business risks, fermentation; and bottling, racking, hyping, and pricing. Great wit about the poetics of sensation: not to be gulped but sipped, and for the full body let it breathe by your bed as the bouquet rises ``to the vaults in the brain where nostalgic memories are stored.''

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-06-258523-1
Page count: 256pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1993


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