A History and Description of Modern Wines

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G. Bell, 1876 - Wine and wine making - 440 pages
 

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The first edition of this book was published 22 years before the famous classification of Bordeaux and 150 years before the popularization of 100-point wine rating schemes. Don't expect much about Napa, Willamette, Marlborough or Shiraz (unless you're referring to the city in Persia), but do expect to be informed and entertained.
Redding starts by quickly discounting the opinions of those who think they know what ancient wines tasted like, and then methodically summarizes the "modern" production of wine, country by country, region by region.
Much of what was true in 1833 is still true now, such as the belief that Romanee Conti, Tokay, Lafite, Montepulciano and Montrachet are exceptional wines. Redding deplores the addition of pine resin to wine (a Greek custom) as well as sloppy Italian production techniques.
Those who think counterfeit wines are a recent problem may be surprised to find an entire chapter devoted to the subject. For the engineers among us, fermenting, racking and fining -- practices that are still essential for wine production today -- are discussed in detail.
Cyrus Redding was a free-market thinker long before there was anything like an Austrian School of Economics. His analysis of counter-productive wine tariffs and government-supported monopolies is witheringly accurate. "Trade," he writes, "must be free as air."
His comments are occasionally prophetic: "The wines of Spain, both red and white, will one day rank much higher in estimation than they do at present" (pg. 192), and "The Chinese, it is certain, will buy European wines" (pg. 282). Anyone who has witnessed recent auction prices for Bordeaux in Hong Kong might consider that a serious understatement.
If the book "Wine for Dummies" sounds appealing to you, you'll probably struggle with Redding. But if you enjoy fine wine and would love to learn more about it, here is something to savor.
NOTE: Good luck finding a copy. Mine, the 1833 first edition, was secured via inter-library loan from Temple University.
 

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