We get asked this question a lot. And, as a matter of fact, we have. You might guess that our tastes are a little bit slanted toward books or movies about wines and winemaking, but there are several out there that are really pretty good. We’re not talking about wine reference books, but good “curl up by the fire” novels with a story to tell. Here’s our suggestions:
Billionaire’s Vinegar, by Benjamin Wallace. The story of wine fraud and how unscrupulous dealers, collectors and negociants dupe unsuspecting dealers, collectors,and negotiants by pawning off fake wine for astronomical prices. An amazing story that starts with bottles of wine represented to be part of Thomas Jefferson’s Paris cellar collection that set the world price record at auction but were discredited as fakes . A good read with all of the twists and turns of a mystery novel.
Jefferson on Wine, by John Hailman. The story of Thomas Jefferson, 4th President of the United States and his lifetime love affair with wine as told through his meticulous records, correspondence and journals. A fascinating story of America’s first true wine connoisseur and his belief that American could become as good as Europe in the production of fine wines. The story traces his quest for knowledge from his pre-Presidency years as Ambassador to France and his years in Paris to his years in the White House and that famous residence’s first wine cellar.
Judgment of Paris, by George Taber. It’s the story of the 1976 tasting in Paris between the California wines and the French Grand Cru wines (with all French judges) in which the Americans swept the tasting and turned the wine world upside down. Written by the only reporter to cover the event this account accurately depicts the small tasting, held in a Parisian hotel, that would forever change the world’s perception of great wines. The author, in addition to the account of the actual tasting, has researched and reports the story of the pioneer winemaking families of the Napa Valley, and how they came to become the wine powerhouse that California is in just a few short years.
The House of Mondavi, by Julia Flynn Seiler, Gotham Books. The story of an American Wine dynasty and the family fights, greed and ambition that destroyed it. A pretty accurate account of the Mondavi family’s rise from grape merchants to one of the most innovative forces in the wine industry; then its fall finally resulting in the loss of the winery. Interesting reading and an accurate account of a tragic episode in American winemaking.
Wine and War, by Donald and Petie Kladstrup. An interesting chronicle of the efforts of the French to keep the Germans from looting their wine and wineries during WWII. While large caches of French wine were stolen by the Germans, often for the German military hierarchy, much was never found due to the efforts of clever French vineyard owners and vintners. A fascinating read.
Bottle Shock (a movie), starring Chris Pine, Alan Rickman and Bill Pullman (2009) – an interesting and pretty well acted motion picture about the 1976 Paris tasting between American and French wines that tells the story from the perspective of one of the participating California wineries, Chateau Montelana. It’s a “rags to riches” story of passionate, but struggling California winemakers and how they got caught up in one of the wine industry’s most ground-altering moments and produced the Chardonnay that topped the French. Very entertaining and available on DVD.