A corking good read! Apr 8, 2007
When this book first came out, I wrote a brief review of this wonderful book in the print edition of The Washington Examiner newspaper (www.examiner.com -- April 29 & 30th Weekend Edition). Here is that review:
Recently, I had the opportunity to catch up with world-renowned wine writer Hugh Johnson as he breezed through town promoting his new memoir on the inner workings of the wine world, "A Life Uncorked." This is a deeply personal book. Yet, as Johnson admits, it is not an autobiography. Rather, this memoir is a personal journey, as much about wine as it is about his life.
For Johnson, wine is essentially "a social game" not merely an interest or a hobby. Wine is "about human relations, hospitality, bonding-all the maneuvers of social life-and all under the influence, however benign, of alcohol." Who can argue with that?
This social experience is richly transformative: "However good a wine may be, sentiment can make it better" and "with the right companion, a single wine can be a continuing conversation." In person, as in his writings, Johnson comes off as witty, personable, and charming, and his approach to wine is wonderfully infectious.
Never one to shy from a fight, Johnson (a Brit) takes issue with Robert Parker, the preeminent American wine critic. Johnson criticizes Parker's wine scoring system, which treats wines "like American high school students"-50 points just for showing up, 60 = dreadful, 70 = pretty poor, 80 = not bad, etc. Johnson decries the effect this approach has had on the wine industry, where wines are Parkerized to get higher scores.
Ultimately, Johnson's unpretentious and highly enjoyable attitude towards wine appreciation is compelling. As he plainly explains, "It depends on whether you see wine primarily as a drink or as a recreational substance. In a drink you look for something refreshing and satisfying without too loud a voice, not too intrusive on your food or your thoughts each time you take a sip." So take a page from Hugh's book, and enjoy a jolly good read with glass in hand.