THE WINEMASTERS by Nicholas Faith


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Bordeaux, winemaker to the world, has peered through rosÉ-colored glasses for 700 years. For most of us, 1945 means the end of World War II, but for the Bordelais ""another 1945"" means nothing more and nothing less than a vintage comparable to the superb one of that year. In his chronicle of this insulated and obsessed city in southwest France, Nicholas Faith proffers us flagons of facts and jereboams of data. For those only mildly interested, it will be a tiring jaunt. Faith guides us through the 2,000 chateaux which dot the Bordelais slopes; leads us into the vineyards to inspect the soil, vines, and the phylloxera and mushroom fungi which plague the grapes; introduces us to the Rothschilds and Cruses and other ""aristocrats of the cork""; lets us sample ""mawkish"" wines, ""pretentious"" wines, and ""foxy"" wines; lectures us on the oenological thoughts of Stendhal, Walpole, Jefferson, and Locke; dispatches us on a trip with the typical grape from vine to American restaurant or English parlor; and fills us to the brim with 700 years of wine history, from the Hundred Years War to the ""Winegate"" controversy of 1973 and the recent incursions of mutinational corporations into the sunny Bordelais slopes. Heady stuff. Sometimes the book reads like a balance sheet; Faith cites so many quantities (francs per cask, cases per tonneau, hectoliters per acre, percentage of evaporation per bottle per storage year) that one wishes, to use a term of art, he had been more discriminating. But this is a good, if daunting, history of a singular city. Oenophiles will down it in one large and thirsty gulp; the less fanatic in selected sips.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1978
Publisher: Harper & Row