Wine Books: Stephen Brook
Stephen Brook is an accomplished author, and has long focused on Bordeaux, as the titles reviewed below would suggest.
To bring us this book Stephen Brook has used his first hand knowledge of the wine trade in Bordeaux, together with information from his numerous confidants, which include proprietors, courtiers, négociants, importers, retailers and more. If some of these terms are unfamiliar to you, they form the chain of supply that takes the wines of Bordeaux from the chai to the consumer. Brook opens his book with an insight into how this complex system of distribution evolved, its strengths, and its weaknesses, handsomely illustrated with quotes and anecdotes concerning wrongdoing, greed and fraud. Subsequent chapters cover many of the controversial aspects of Bordeaux today, including pricing, the en primeur system, new techniques such as micro-oxygenation and cryo-extraction, terroir, garage and cult wines and, for those perceived as an ally to Bordeaux, the gravy train of hospitality. The book rounds off with an account of power groups (who owns what) and some genealogical information regarding the regions big-hitting families - Rothschild, Cruse and so on, before postulating on the future for Bordeaux. An excellent read that provides in insider's view of Bordeaux, a world which those of us that merely drink the wine will rarely glimpse. It's presented in a large, glossy, coffee-table format, hence the price tag of £30 (£24 discounted) for just 200+ pages. This format, however, allows for the use of some wonderful images.
Another book from the pen of Stephen Brook, author of works mainly concerning Bordeaux and California. Here Brook casts his net somewhat further, having set about interviewing wine personalities from across the globe. Featured characters come from all aspects of the world of wine; famous wine makers, château-owners, businessmen and merchants, even critics, sommeliers and wine drinkers get a look in. The book seems very familiar, as many of the names within are very well known, and there is a certain amount of crossover with Brook's other recent publication, Bordeaux: People, Power and Politics, with quotes from several of the wine people featured in both books. Nevertheless a few of the featured names were less familiar. My main gripe, however, is that the profiles contained within this book are just too brief. Each time, just as I was settling in to read about the lifetime achievements of Robert Mondavi, Michael Broadbent or some similar personality, the writing comes to an abrupt end. It really is a book for briefly dipping in when you have a spare moment, rather than some decent reading time. Perhaps a book for the smallest room?
A glossy hardback book, this is a superb gift for the claret lover. Brook takes us on a journey through the châteaux of Pauillac, starting with the first growths Latour, Lafite-Rothschild and Mouton-Rothschild, and finishing up with the lesser known non-classified châteaux. This is no dry interpretation of the region, but rather a fascinating insight into each estate. focusing on the history an ethos rather than a list of tasting notes. The photography is of a high quality, although the subjects of many of the illustrations strengthen my opinion that this book is for wine-nuts rather than the casual drinker. They often feature interesting details on the doors, or walls, of the châteaux that would leave the uninitiated wondering, unless they also had a strong interest in architecture or heraldry. Personally, however, I love this book. I won't open a bottle of Pauillac at home unless I have it with me, revelling in the history of the estate in question, as I sip the latest vintage.
Another book from the Faber and Faber wine series, penned by an author for whom I have an increasing level of respect. Brook concentrates on Bordeaux and California, and this text sees him extolling the virtues of the sweet wines of Bordeaux, in particular Sauternes. The worth of this book lies simply in the quality of the information provided for each château. There are one or two maps, a small section on storing and serving, and some introductory sections on Noble Rot, making Sauternes, classifications and so on, but they really are a minor part of the book. Stealing the limelight are the château profiles, which give quite in-depth accounts of the history, ownership, vineyard practices and, of course, tasting notes for the estate in question. These are, in themselves, a joy to read, thanks purely to their completeness. The fact that the book goes on to cover the estates of the minor regions such as Loupiac and Cadillac is merely a bonus. A very worthwhile buy for a follower of this style of wine.