A Napa Valley Cabernet, a French Burgundy, an Orvieto Classico shared among friends in the Umbrian hills—every wine has a story, and Gerald Asher tells it best. Asher, longtime wine editor of Gourmet magazine, has an unsurpassed knowledge of vineyards, wineries, and wines. He also has the refreshing ability to write about wine informatively and entertainingly, without technical jargon. Now in paperback, Asher's delightful Vineyard Tales evaluates wines from around the world—from secret sun-drenched vineyards on Crete to the celebrated Champagne houses of France—setting each wine in the context of a region's history and culture. In addition, Asher offers an expert's advice on decanting, tasting, and serving wine. Connoisseurs looking for greater insight, novices seeking an introduction, or readers who simply want to enjoy armchair travel to the world's finest vineyards, will find Vineyard Tales irresistible—and discover that along the way they have also learned a great deal about wine.
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Raymond Chandler bristled at being called "one of the greatest mystery writers of all time"; he considered himself a good writer who just happened to write mysteries. Wine writing has its own system of pigeonholes--a grape ghetto, if you will--in which the reader is secondary and the tasting note is king. Happily, Vineyard Tales proves one thing: Gerald Asher is an excellent writer who just happens to write about wine--as well as the people and the land that shape it. In 29 essays, most of which have appeared in slightly altered form on the pages of Gourmet magazine, to which he contributes regularly as the wine editor, Asher demonstrates his gifts as researcher, historian, phrase turner, and storyteller. Like a master winemaker, Asher skillfully blends tannic opinion (anyone on the quixotic quest for the perfect food/wine pairing should find his piece "Wine and Food" the final word on the subject) with floral grace notes (his "Orvieto: Fair Lily of Umbria" is layered with romance worthy of subtitling on Bravo Network). He merges structure and backbone (he's the history teacher you wish you had, dropping tidbits like: in 1869, 42 percent of U.S. wine came from Missouri; in 18th century England, London merchants openly added Syrah to their Bordeaux--"Hermitaged" wines fetching a premium) with style and length on the finish (the punch line of "Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon" is pure O. Henry, while "Letter from Burgundy" contains observations such as, "Difficult wines improve with the years about as often as difficult people do").
As with any case lot, the occasional corkiness wafts off Vineyard Tales: no essays are dated, so references to "recent" vintages confuse, while accounts of Asher barrel-tasting vintages of wines now long gone lend a musty air to otherwise fresh writing. And if he can't completely shake the wine writer's tendency to "bottle drop" (in Asher's case, an 1899 Haut-Brion), he never abandons his audience. As Asher writes in his introduction, "In every glass of wine, I have found, is a story. In these pages I will tell you some of my favorites." Lovers of wine--or good writing that just happens to be about it--won't be disappointed. --Tony MasonAbout the Author:
Gerald Asher has been wine editor of Gourmet magazine for nearly thirty years. Born in the United Kingdom, he now divides his time between San Francisco and Paris.
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Book Description Chronicle Books, 2000. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110811829529