Formerly a lawyer in London, Jamie Ivey moved with his wife, Tanya, in the south of France, where he wrote a book about their search for the palest rosé in the country, Extremely Pale Rosé. His new book, an account of running the first rosé bar in France, La Vie en Rosé, will be published in July. Jamie also writes a weekly blog about running a small wine business in Provence, which you can read at www.extremelypalerose.com.
“Drinking wine is fun and reading about it should be as well. This selection might not please the purist, but it’s as varied as a good cellar, with authors ranging from a 12th-century Persian poet to a Hollywood scriptwriter, and whether it’s by a pool with a glass of rosé or curled on the couch with some warming rioja, the books below are the perfect accompaniment to your favourite tipple.”
1. Mon Docteur, Le Vin by Gaston Derys, watercolours by Raoul Duffy
Here it is, the evidence that all wine lovers have been waiting for – drinking is good for you. After extensive research, a team of French doctors have published a book concluding that drinking copious amounts of wine prevents infection, diabetes, appendicitis and obesity. And forget Oil of Ulay: one of the doctors involved even argues that a few glasses a night is an essential component of any beauty routine. The catch? Mon Docteur Le Vin was first published in France in the 1930s and some of the medical wisdom may be just a little outdated. But it still makes a great read, with each chapter accompanied by a set of satirical watercolours. And if you don’t trust interwar French quacks, try the more modern The Wine Diet by Roger Corder, another epistle on the favourable health benefits of wine.
2. Sideways by Rex Pickett
Miles loves Pinot Noir, his friend Jack likes women, and luckily the Californian vineyards are filled with both. So, just days before Jack’s wedding, they head off into the vine-filled slopes for a last hurrah. Downing pitchers of wine at the appropriately named Hitching Post, Miles attempts to ignore the fact that his life is collapsing around him – he steals cash from his elderly mother, his novel is rejected by publishers and his best friend demonstrates a moral code as flexible as a cabinet minister’s, fleeing naked from a lover’s bed just hours before his nuptials. Comic and sad, there’s also plenty of interesting stuff about wine, provided you don’t drink Merlot. And it’s all penned by the LA screenwriter Rex Pickett.
3. A Good Year by Peter Mayle
Mayle is the undisputed king of relaxing holiday reading. His gentle, apparently effortless prose is the perfect match for the Provençal landscape he describes and his eye for a good story, and the promptings of Ridley Scott, who wanted to make a film on the subject, led him to write this vinous escapade about counterfeit vintage wine. Settle down with a nice glass of Margaux and enjoy, just make sure you use a respectable wine merchant.
4. A vineyard in the Dordogne by Jeremy Josephs
The plot for a Good Year was inspired by the real story of the Ryman families attempt to turn Chateau de La Jaubertie into a producer of acclaimed wines. Nick Ryman sold his stationery business and moved to France with his wife and children. When his son Hugh took over the business he brought new-world production techniques to the vineyard, creating one of the area’s best wines. But the book is really a story about the relationships between family members – Dallas in the vines.
5. Wine and War: The French, the Nazis, and the Battle for France’s Greatest Treasure by Donald and Pete Kladstrup
If you visit enough vineyards in France the theme of the Nazis is bound to come up. Vignerons are only too happy to uncork bottle after bottle and journey through the years with you, remembering the weather on harvest days decades ago. But as you sup your way through the vintages, they begin to apologise – “I am afraid the Nazis got to the bottles.” This fascinating book tells the story of the wine that survived and the tricks the vignerons employed to save it – such as ageing young bottles by changing the labels and covering them in cobwebs to fool the Nazis into thinking they were vintage, or building false walls to hide the valuable years.
6. Romancing the Vine: Life, Love and Transformation in the Vineyards of Barolo by Alan Tardi
I couldn’t help but sympathise when I read some of Alan Tardi’s excellent descriptions of exhausting labour in the Italian vineyards. Two years ago I spent a day hand harvesting grapes and I don’t think my spine has straightened out since. Formally a New York restaurateur, Tardi leaves the city shortly after the 9/11 attacks and heads to Barolo in search of a different life. An evocative memoir.
7. Wine: A Life Uncorked by Hugh Johnson
Hugh Johnson was the first wine editor of Vogue, and worked on the Sunday Times as wine correspondent and travel editor. In this wine-inspired autobiography, he describes how his insatiable curiosity led him to a life in the wine trade. It’s entertaining and educational. As the author learns about wine so does the reader: what makes one wine better than another, what grapes produce what wines in which countries, are the wines any good … and what does good mean?
8. Vineyards and Vignerons by Robin and Judith Yapp
Yapp is one of England’s finest small independent wine merchants and this book is Robert and Judith’s tribute to the French vignerons encountered during their years in the trade. Each chapter is accompanied by a sketch of the vigneron concerned and gentle stories of life in the vineyards.
9. Bon Appetit! Adventures with Knife, Fork and Corkscrew by Peter Mayle
Another entry by this chronicler of all things French, the book is a celebration of wine and gastronomy and merits its mention here for the description of the Bordeaux marathon. In London re-hydration is the buzzword, in Bordeaux it’s dehydration as the elite field of palates races from dégustation to dégustation.
10. The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam translated by Edward Fitzgerald
And to finish, classic ancient Persian verse devoted to the love of wine.
“And much as Wine has play’d the Infidel
And robb’d me of my Robe of Honour –
Well, I often wonder what the Vintners buy
One half so precious as the Goods they sell.”
Full article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2007/may/14/top10s.wine