a life uncorked, hugh johnson (2005)


hugh johnson a life uncorkedThis is quite a big book – not quite a coffee-table book, but close to 400 pages that have weighed down my laptop bag for 5 months or so.

5 months?

Well, it’s a book that you can dip into, returning after 2 weeks absence is no loss…

Frankly, I was expecting great things – it was the fault of the first page and a half, the preface, it left me with a level of writing expectation that was met only patchily throughout those 400 pages.

Wine is first and foremost a social game; only secondarily an interest like music or collecting. It is about human relations, hospitality, bonding, ritual…

And what an ‘interesting’ approach Hugh has taken for his book; A tour through ‘how did I get here?’ followed by bubbly, white wine, red wine and sweet wine; yet gardens, fish eating and sailing are liberally interspersed throughout the text. I was particularly bemused by the fish ‘section’ though I suppose we were within the ‘white wine’ chapter!

You will eventually come across a ‘critique’ of the influence of one RM Parker; paraphrasing, Hugh thinks scores irrelevant to him, but is concerned that wines are now very often made with scores/tasting in mind, rather than drinking. A fair point, but one that is easily countered for the vast majority of buyers with significantly higher average quality at medium and lower price-points – buyers who may be less interested in micro-oxygenation or the amount and type of new oak in a Grand Cru Classé…

If Hugh’s grape tastes appear rather catholic – Cabernet and Riesling seem to be his mainstays – there is nothing catholic about where he takes his wine from; USA, Chile, Australia even the Languedoc(!) – and that’s just cabernet.

I find it hard to get worked up about the book, it’s far from a ‘must read’, but even when taking your time, it’s a satisfying read – should that be the equivalent of the commercial kiss of death that is ‘only’ 89 points? Hugh seems a decent ‘bloke’ who tells a decent tale, but in the end, no rocket science here.

Agree? Disagree? Anything you'd like to add?

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