Book Review: The Must-Have Wine Book of the Year
A finance executive for 25 years, Allen Meadows elected to retire in 1999 to author a book on the subject of Burgundy and its wines, his long-time passion and obsession. Although he was distracted by the enormity and great success of his wine website, www.burghound.com, now a highly respected and critically acclaimed quarterly publication on wine with subscribers in more than 50 countries, he has finally managed to produce a visionary book .
Meadows spends more than four months a year in Burgundy, visiting over 300 domaines, building a searchable database of more than 50,000 tasting notes and recommended drinking windows. He is arguably the busiest, hardest working palate and wine writer on this planet - perhaps after Jancis Robinson MW.
Author Matt Kramer, who hails Meadows as the world's foremost expert on Burgundy wines, comments: “The Burghound Phenomenon. Burgundy lends itself to obsessives, what with its hundreds of growers, thousands of named vineyards and maddening variations in vintages. The world's foremost Burgundy expert - who, thankfully, is also in possession of an acute palate – is Los Angeles-based Allen Meadows…No Burgundy lover leaves home for the retail shop without a copy.”
Although this book is the perfect Christmas present for Burgundy and pinot noir lovers, or all wine enthusiasts for that matter, it is imperative reading for anyone wanting to better understand the deep complexities of Burgundy and more specifically, the pinnacle of the region and the pinot noir grape, the appellation Vosne-Romanée - as Meadow's puts it more evocatively, 'The Pearl of the Cote'.
We were only just discussing the mysteries of Burgundy the other day at a most enjoyable Maison Louis Latour lunch and how the consumer grapples with the myriad intricacies with the region and its wines. Some comments were made to the effect that for the consumer to better understand Burgundy, the subject needs to be demystified and the approach to it more user-friendly.
Actually, I don't agree with this at all. In reality you could not get an easier base level of wine to come to terms with than Burgundy, with only two personable grapes – chardonnay and pinot noir – to contend with. The genesis of the wines is intrinsically linked to their geography with an unmistakable 'sense of place'.
However, the beauty is that you can take your level of interest to a limitless extreme in discovering the idiosyncrasies of the pinot noir grape and the myriad of complexities in the mosaic of different soils, vineyard aspects and orientation, micro-climates and man's influence in the vineyard – essentially what the French call terroir, to the winemaking itself, all translated through the wines' scents, flavors, textures and nuances.
Essentially, Burgundy can be a simple pleasure or as complex as you want it to be, but please, don't try to dumb it down, you will strip all the pleasure out of wine!
As with the infectious nature of pinot noir, once you pick up this book, you will find it hard to put down. Even as I write this review, I admit I have not read all of it, and when I do finish it, I will probably read it again and again.
You could say it is a reference book, indeed the ultimate reference on Vosne-Romanée and its producers. However, as thoroughly exhaustive as it is, it is written in a way that one does not tire of - as one can with such comprehensive works. There is a seamless flow between a progressive and logical journey through Burgundies' history and evolution from 'The Monks, the Dukes, Pinot Noir and the Idea of Terroir', to a tour through the villages and appellations, reaching a crescendo with 'An Historic Tasting – The Genius Revealed', an account of an unparalleled tasting in April 2007, of 74 vintages of Romanée-Conti spanning three centuries.
The fascinating and profound, all-encompassing account of this extraordinary event and tasting notes are reason enough to buy the book alone, with each chapter covering the village appellations with detailed and exacting notes on top producers, the trajectory of their wines and an extensive tasting notes on multiple vintages – like as far back as 1870!
The book is beautifully crafted and presented with alluring, impressionistic photographs that make you reach for a bottle of Burgundy and the phone to call your travel agent at the same time. There are state-of-the-art vineyard maps and legends along with painstaking records of grower vineyard holdings that will be the benchmark reference.
Above all, it is written with extraordinary passion and precision in wine prose that is unparalleled, both on the subject of Burgundy and in individualistic style and authority.
Released in July 2010, it is Meadows' first published book, all 350-pages of it, although many of us are already well-acquainted with Meadows as under his nom de plume Burghound, or www.Burghound.com, and his extensive quarterly review, devoted to the coverage of the wines of Burgundy, US pinot noir and chardonnay and a bi-annual coverage of Champagne.
Self-published, 'The Pearl of the Cote' is only available through http://www.burghoundbooks.com/ Meadows is personally autographing books up until 31st December, so another reason to order now. My copies arrived within four days of ordering, which is pretty impressive from the US to Singapore, so there is certainly ample time for Christmas orders, assuming there are copies available as I know the first print run is almost sold out.
Burghound in Asia - Having first met Allen Meadows in Hong Kong at the inaugural Acker, Merrall & Condit wine auction in 2008, my continued correspondence and a persuasive dialogue on the bourgeoning Asia wine market and the insatiable thirst for wine knowledge, I am delighted that Meadows has agreed to travel to Singapore to spread his passion for pinot noir and chardonnay and to expound on his new book, We are indeed privileged to have him emcee the event. Details are at www.burghoundinasia.com