Winter reading: Sediment — a wine book for the rest of us

51Bgtb7y7gL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Despite having made my profession as a writer of various persuasions for most of the past decade, my reading list has been shamefully thin on the ground. Finding time to read seems to be more difficult and less appealing than ever, particularly when the other option is to vegetate on the sofa while watching reruns on Netflix.

This time six years ago I somehow managed to devote a worrying amount of time to reading Robert Parker’s Bordeaux cover to cover. That tome, all 1,200 or so pages of it, took a year to read at a pace that was, to be honest, as good as a few pages here and there until I’d had enough of Parker’s constant use of the phrases ‘blockbuster’ and ‘sleeper of the vintage’. Informative as it was, it was also an excellent sleep aid.

Since then I have somehow managed to read several other dry books on wine, but as the years have passed by, my ability to complete them — or even make it more than a few pages in — has diminished. I never did managed to read the entirely of the World Atlas of Wine, informative and valuable as it may be. But I do like to refer to the maps on occasion.

No matter what I read, a book needs to give me a reason to keep reading it. If it fails to grab my attention, to entertain me, to pull me into its narrative and hold me there until the final page, I can put it down and quickly forget about it. Some books I read quickly; other books will remain in limbo for several years as I dip in and out of their pages when I can be bothered to think of them. This is why I never did finish the Mayor of Casterbridge. I read Far From the Madding Crowd many years ago when I still had the patience, whereas the Mayor of Casterbridge tested my patience one too many times.

Wine books are no different from any other. They either pull me in or they push me away. I sincerely doubt I would have the patience to read another of Parker’s imposing reference books, for example. But give me something with a story to tell, a dash of wit and humour, and we’re in business.

This is the case for the only wine book I have managed to read in its entirety in the past year was Sediment: Two Gentlemen and Their Mid-Life Terroirs.

As I have also written for 12×75.com, this is a wine book that raises topics and views that are seldom seen among the wine press. It speaks to several audiences at once, from the everyday wine drinker who simply wants to know whether or not they should attempt to drink wine out of a box, to the sophisticated collector who has a sense of humour. While the book is based largely on posts that have appeared in the blog, the adaptation works because few of us have probably read all of their previous posts. There are times when a compendium is a good thing.

I devoured this book in a couple short sittings. In other words, on the seats of two discount airlines in early December. What would normally have been an uncomfortable hour and a half being flogged duty-free products and scratch cards by bedraggled flight attendants, I simply zoned them out and buried my head into the world of CJ and PK.

Sediment explores with humour and humility the minefield that is buying and drinking (and less frequently investing in) wine, whether it is bought in bulk from a co-operative in the south of France, a Germany discount retailer on the UK high street or from a merchant in St James’s Street in London.

Sediment: Two Gentlemen And Their Mid-Life Terroirs
By Charles Jennings and Paul Keers
John Blake Publishing
£12.99

By The Bottle – Fresh, free and interactive

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I don’t normally use this space to promote any specific product or company other than the wines I think are either good or bad, but today I’m going do a little bit of cheerleading.

This week we launched the new interactive magazine By The Bottle on the iPad. By we I mean me, Vim from 12×75 and everyone who contributed to the magazine, ranging from our great designer, those who wrote articles for us, gave us advice and feedback, attended one of the #7WordWineReview dinners or simply supported us on Twitter.

Some of you might wonder what this is all about. In a recent post on the Talking New Media blog, Douglas Hebbard reviewed the magazine and described it as being a bit of a mystery.

That is understandable. Anyone who searches for the magazine online will find we don’t have a dedicated website at the moment. That is still in the works. But those who follow me and Vim (@12×75) on Twitter will know this is no mystery.

Hebbard also pointed out that I made a rather embarrassing spelling mistake that made my heart sink – sadly, typos happen.

By The Bottle is a completely independent magazine written by wine lovers for wine lovers. I come from a pure journalism background, but our writers come from all walks of life and professions. Yet we all share one interest: wine.

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We have advertisements in the magazine for the simple fact we’re giving it away free and it has to pay for itself. We hope more advertisers will come on board once they see what we’re offering and the audience we reach.

Ultimately, our objective was to create something that was unique in the wine market.

We knew we couldn’t replicate the Decanters and Wine Spectators of the world. They are specialist at wine news and reviews, so beating them at their game would have been extremely difficult. And we didn’t want to do that anyway.

Instead, we felt there was something missing in the wine magazine market. We wanted to produce something that was fun, informative, diverse and eye-catching. Our writers are not all experts in wine, but they all have an interest in it.

We wanted to write about everything related to wine, but we also had a desire to make the topic as accessible as possible, so the articles are often lighthearted and easy to read. In addition, we felt it was important to look beyond wine, which is why we have articles about fashion, food, leisure and anything else our readers might appreciate.

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That’s why our first edition includes a how-to article on poker, a recipe for muffins and an article dedicated to power suits.

But we never forgot to have fun, either. Rather than review cars in the usual fashion, our writer, Steph Knipe, imagined the best three cars for driving to France to buy wine. She wouldn’t have concluded the Mini was the best car if humour and fun were not front of mind when she wrote it.

Our aim is to publish many more issues of By The Bottle in the future and make it available across all devices, not just the iPad, as soon as possible. So if you don’t have an iPad but some other device instead, rest assured you’ll be able to read our magazine soon. Remember, it’s completely free.

I’ll make sure to keep the typos to a minimum next time.

Waitrose assures us bottles on shelves not affected by suspected fraud at Labouré-Roi

By now we have all become familiar with the suspected wine fraud that is the case of Labouré-Roi selling bottles of wine that were passed off for something they were not.

Indeed, the situation has become such a concern for producers in the region that the Burgundy Wine Board has joined the investigation as a civil party to gain access to the fraud office’s files in the matter. This is so it can do an analysis of its own and determine how much the debacle has damaged its members’ reputations.

This past weekend while I was browsing the wine section in Waitrose, it wasn’t long before I stumbled across a bottle of Labouré-Roi, on this occasion a Cote de Beaune-Villages 2007.

Knowing the Labouré-Roi affair covered all levels of wine, ranging from village wines all the way up to Grand Cru betwen 2005 and 2009, as reported on Decanter.com, the alarm bells started ringing in my head.

While I was tempted to buy this bottle just to see what it might be like and maybe even try to find a way to determine if it was one of those affected by the alleged fraud, the truth is I really didn’t want to touch it with a barge pole.

However, via direct message on Twitter Waitrose told me their wines go through a rigorous quality control process and none of the wines they are selling have been affected by the timeline of the fraud, so shoppers should feel confident when making decisions.

Burgundy Wine Board joins investigation in order to see Laboure Roi files

Following the news directors of Burgundy negociant Laboure Roi were accused of  fraud, the Burgundy Wine Board (BIVB) has filed a civil claim that will allow it to see the National Fraud Office’s files in the investigation.

BIVB has filed what is known as a “se porter partie civile” (if my interpretation of the French term is wrong, please do correct me) in order to become a plaintiff (or a civil party) in the case. This will enable the organisation to gain access to case files at the National Fraud Office (DGCCRF) and presumably the French national police.

The organisation, which said its mission is to promote and enhance the image of Burgudy wines aorund the world, said it filed the claim because it intended to assess the severity of the charges against Laboure Roi and how this would affect the industry’s reputation.

While my grasp of the French language is limited, I understand the Burgundy Wine Board is in a position to take action if Labour Roi has damaged the region’s image in the world.

Michel Baldassini, deputy chairman of BIVB, said that because more than half of the region’s wines are shipped to 150 countries around the world, any suspicion of cheating that could taint the reputation of Burgundy wines would not be tolerated.

Once the facts are analysed, BIVB will take necessary steps to ensure this situation is avoided in the future, the document said.

Pierre-Henry Gagey, chairman of BIVB, said the case should not affect the vast majority of producers in Burdundy who are careful to respect the foundations of the AOC.

You can read the full text of the release here (in French).

Big thanks to Sara Benwell and Giselle Daverat for their assistance in translating the document for me.