I think seeing an actual book arrive, neatly nestled in its crisp brown paper parcel, has to be one of the most exciting moments for any editor. Rip open the packaging and there it is: no longer a flat but compliantly shimmying image on the screen of my Mac, but a real, weighty, page-turning, honest-to-goodness book.
In Vino Veritas turned up on time on the 25th of November at our master-class and mini preview event at 67 Pall Mall. We were worried. We hadn’t booked the full on party, invited the contributors, gathered in the champagne, as ‘Brexit’ (or not, as it turned out) yet again appeared to be landing slap in the middle of our printing schedule, and we weren’t sure if those precious first copies would arrive from Europe or not. We couldn’t launch them if they weren’t there…
But all was well: the first 60 copies arrived for all to see. Steven Spurrier, Martin Preston and Peter Vinding-Diers gave them the rousing welcome they deserved. After which, the master-class attendees rushed to the back of the room to buy their copies – it was only with a bit of luck that I managed to squirrel away my own.
Seeing a book that I’ve been working on for many months is a real joy. But this one has been more of a delight to put together than many. Choosing from a treasure-trove of authors writing on wine during the last three centuries brought to light some bizarre, fascinating and even (as Martin Preston phrased it) downright bonkers view-points on everything from gout-inducing champagne (not true!), to ‘barbaric Auslese’ (possibly true), ‘fluting’ Bordeaux (the author preferred burgundy’s recorder rendition) and a gutsy Italian red that stings like a ‘Bea’ (certainly true).
1833, 1879, 1920. 1935, 1945, 1951 and 1980 all turned out all to be fine vintages for wine writing – as, more recently, did 1986, 2000 and 2009. But we couldn’t leave out today’s opinionated scribes, and Jane MacQuitty, Justin Howard-Sneyd MW, Fiona Morrison MW, Dirk Niepoort and Hugh Johnson made their feelings known on decanting, English fizz, new-season Le Pin, Douro table wines and the 19th century’s most intrepid wine-traveller, in 2019.
For me, first prize for IVV’s most thought-provoking wine words is shared between Elin McCoy who asks the question ‘Is Wine Art?’ (2019) and Randall Grahm for his study of grape cousins Syrah and Sérine, and their relative suitability for his warm but windy vineyards in Santa Cruz, California. For shear entertainment, the prize goes to Tony Aspler for his attempts to save a precious Mouton-Rothschild wine label. And for being completely bonkers, it can’t be any other than PG Wodehouse’s depiction of the merits (or not) of tea versus Bollinger.
For festive reading (and what better book to dip into if you want to avoid It’s a Wonderful Life and all the other gaudy treats Christmas TV has in store) I’d go for Steven Spurrier’s ‘Memorable Menus’ and Gerald Asher’s ‘Wine on Wine’ for a spot of dining table inspiration. Or I’d get lost in Peter Vingding-Diers’ magical mystery tour to the Cape, the first chapter of his – it has to be said – rather swashbuckling winemaking memoirs (Viking in the Vineyard, watch this space…).
In Vino Veritas is modelled on Cyril Ray’s Compleat Imbiber, published 1957–1992 as the ‘quintessential late-evening or bedtime book for those who like wine’. We think our version is a pretty good read for wine lovers in 2019 and a decent-sized parcel for tucking into the Christmas stocking!