This new collection by the acclaimed novelist—and, according to Salon, “the best wine writer in America”—is generous and far-reaching, deeply knowledgeable and often hilarious.
For more than a decade, Jay McInerney’s vinous essays, now featured in The Wall Street Journal, have been praised by restaurateurs (“Filled with small courses and surprising and exotic flavors, educational and delicious at the same time” —Mario Batali), by esteemed critics (“Brilliant, witty, comical, and often shamelessly candid and provocative” —Robert M. Parker Jr.), and by the media (“His wine judgments are sound, his anecdotes witty, and his literary references impeccable” —The New York Times).
Here McInerney provides a master class in the almost infinite varieties of wine and the people and places that produce it all the world over, from the historic past to the often confusing present. From such legendary châteaus as Margaux and Latour and Palmer to Australia and New Zealand and South Africa, to new contenders in Santa Rita Hills and Paso Robles, we learn about terroir and biodynamic viticulture, what Champagnes are affordable (or decidedly not), even what to drink over thirty-seven courses at Ferran Adrià's El Bulli—in all, an array of grapes and wine styles that is comprehensive and thirst inducing. And conspicuous throughout is McInerney’s trademark flair and expertise, which in 2006 prompted the James Beard Foundation to grant him the MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award.
McInerney (A Hedonist in the Cellar) has just the right swagger a reader of Hemingway, an '80s slacker reputation earned from his first novel, Bright Lights, Big City, four marriages, sly allusions to Coldplay to inspire oenological pursuits in a less rarefied, more "like us" crowd. This latest collection of his wine columns from his first gig, House & Garden (before it folded in 2007), and, more recently, the Wall Street Journal, demonstrates a bracing frankness that instills confidence in his vinous choices, such as promoting lower-priced American brands next to Old World masters and his blitheful ability to correct past biases, namely regarding pinot grigio. McInerney is a bit of a name dropper, and one senses he does not bother much about journalistic virtue when visiting vignerons in seductive far-flung locales: Dominique Lafon in Meursault; Ann Colgin in the Napa Valley; Angelo Gaja of Barolo; or the former elBulli's sensational, changeable chef Ferran Adri on the hard-to-reach Costa Brava. Still, one of the longest chapters is a sober salute to the innovations of the late Robert Mondavi. Overall, McInerney's encounters with wines are deeply quirky, thus memorable his first 1991 Clos Erasmus was a "wonderful hippogriff of a wine... a sort of thinking man's fruit bomb with lots of structure" an oenological exegesis entailing a first kiss and lots of personality.