NOBLE ROT: A Bordeaux Wine Revolution

William Echikson, Author . Norton $24.95 (302p) ISBN 978-0-393-05162-9

In vino veritas. Yet as Echikson (Burgundy Stars ) shows in this entertaining journey through Bordeaux's wine-making landscape, the truth of wine is also highly subjective and subject to change. Bordeaux has long epitomized fine wine. In 1662, Echikson relates, the English diarist Samuel Pepys described "a sort of French wine called Ho Bryan that hath a good and most particular taste...." This Haut-Brion was the first Bordeaux wine; it would soon join a handful of other chateaux that became the coveted "first growths." Indeed, Thomas Jefferson noted there were "four vineyards of first quality": Margaux, Latour, Lafite and Haut-Brion. After a rigid classification system was imposed in 1855, it seemed likely that the French reverence for tradition would make "innovative Bordeaux" an oxymoron. Over the last several decades, however, some revolutionary "garagistes" (garage wine makers) have begun using new growing and wine-making techniques to show the world that less than perfect land and less than blue blood can yield extraordinary wines. Echikson, a wine columnist for Wall Street Journal Europe , profiles merchants, brokers, enologists and the most influential wine critic in the world, the American Robert Parker. The title comes from Chateau d' Yquem, the maker of a legendary sauterne ("noble rot" has to do with allowing grapes to begin to rot on the wine to achieve concentration and sweetness). Oenophiles will come away from this lively account with a sense of how globalization and economics have challenged the rot and created ferment and growth in ancient Bordeaux. 23 illus. Agent, Michelle Tessler. (May)

Forecast: Bordeaux is the world's wine capital, and few books have covered it as accessibly as Echikson does. The author's connection to WSJ Europe and his status as Brussels bureau chief for Dow Jones Newswires will help his book get media coverage.

Reviewed on: 04/12/2004
Release date: 05/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 300 pages - 978-0-393-32694-9
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