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Book Review – The Finest Wines of Bordeaux

By May 28, 2011No Comments

This is the third book in the series published under the auspices of The World of Fine Wine magazine, the authors of the books also contributing writers to the magazine. I rate the magazine as the finest such publication on wine, with highly educational and intellectual content. So it was mandatory that I obtain the ‘Finest Wines of…” series, beginning with Champagne and Tuscany, published in 2009, and now the book on Bordeaux, published late last year.

James Lawther MW is the author, based in Bordeaux for fifteen years, and a contributing editor of Decanter as well as writer for a number of publications. The book is truly his selection of chateaux and properties that he considers worthy of inclusion as ‘Finest Producers’. On that count, the choices follow what is generally accepted as key, but he surprisingly omits a few that are highly regarded and known, such as Duhart-Milon, Lafon-Rochet and Magdelaine. But in the same vein, there are a number included that may be below the radar. I suppose that’s what makes the book so personal, and an insider’s view to what are rising stars.

The heart of the book is comprised of pen-portraits of the selected producers, and while brief and certainly not comprehensive in history and production detail, captures the essence of the properties and the owners and people behind the wines. To do this so successfully requires personal contact, and this is what Lawther shows. Some of the producers he knows better than others, of course. Lawther includes his tasting notes on vintages recently tried, and discusses releases of note. I like is clear, concise and down-to-earth comments on the various vintages of the wines, assessing successful and not-so-successful releases objectively.

As with all of the books in the ‘Finest Wines of…” series, the introduction to the region with history, climate, soil, grapes, as well as viticulture and winemaking is covered well to provide a good base to understand the important aspects to allow an appreciation of the wines. This book on Bordeaux has also introduces the sub regions more than adequately, and provides a sound report of the vintages from 2009 to 1982, all that the relevant to the modern Bordeaux wine drinker. The photography of Jon Wyand as in the previous books in the series captures people and place especially well.

The book is not a fully-detailed, all-encompassing one on Bordeaux and its wines, nor does it pretend to be, but it is an excellent one that is as up-to-date as any book can be. The reader certainly gains a feeling for, and an understanding of the forces operating in the vignoble, and from it a sense of how the wines taste. I for one felt I gained from it, and believe I am more aware of what is happening there. Such, that I purchased some more Bordeaux wines for the cellar, classed-growth of course. And I have booked into an upcoming tasting of a range of wines from Bordeaux! James Lawther MW has succeeded in generating more enthusiasm in the wines of Bordeaux in me with his book, as I am sure it will with any reader.

The Finest Wines of Bordeaux, James Lawther MW, University of California Press, Berkeley, 2010
RRP US$34.95

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