Wine writer Alice Feiring's The Battle for Wine and Love: Or How I Save the World From Parkerization, my food-centric book club's latest pick, was a fitting summer read, serving up a lot of insider wine world info in the form of a personal narrative that sees the author visiting winemakers throughout California and Europe.
It's great escapism.
The title references uber-critic Robert Parker, whose preference for a certain style of wine (big, bold, and luscious), Feiring argues, has led the industry to create wines that suit his palate -- for the sake of high ratings (and therefore higher sales), and at the expense of terroir.
Because of technology that allows winemakers to manipulate the flavors, more wines taste the same (in Feiring's opinion) and no longer have the sense of place inherent to those made in the Old World style. Feiring comes across as a champion of small growers producing biodynamic wines with ancient methods.
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Feiring brings the reader along for conversations and arguments with winemakers about their techniques and philosophies, and inevitably, Parker's name comes up again and again. Later in the book, Feiring even gets to engage with the man himself, which only seems to strengthen her resolve that modern winemaking methods have somehow destroyed the nuance and romance of wine.
Speaking of romance, though, there's not much in the way of love, as the title would imply -- Feiring's attempts to weave her personal life into the story feel too vague and tentative compared to her detailed, behind-the-scenes discussions with industry people.
Her true passion, it seems, is in the bottle.