I just finished reading Alice Feiring’s “The Battle for Wine and Love or How I Saved the World from Parkerization.” A wine writer and journalist, Feiring takes us through her trips through Italy and Spain and tastings here in the U.S. to tell us all about how wines around the world are getting “Parkerized,” or tuned to wine critic Robert Parker’s tastebuds. Feiring tries to weave her personal life into the book, telling us about her various lovers a la Amanda Hesser’s “Cooking for Mr. Latte,” but she’s simply not as charming as Amanda. Her love musings are more cloying than amusing and leave me hoping that she stops dating and focuses on the wine.
But let’s get to the heart of the book. Feiring, as you can quickly tell from the title, is not a fan of Mr. Parker. She dislikes his palate, criticizing his love for heavy, plush, fruitbombs reeking of creme de cassis, espresso and fruit jam. Too many wineries, she despairs, are hiring wine consultants so they can please the critics at Wine Spectator and Mr. Parker. Plus, the corporate wineries are producing products that all taste the same and have no charm. Funny how she doesn’t ever criticize Veuve Clicquot. Could it be because she is friends with the former CEO of Veuve, Mireille Guiliano, who coincidentally has a blurb on the back cover of her book?
The rest of the book is a whine fest (no pun intended). She doesn’t strike me as a very educated wine writer (she despises science and constantly harps on the folks at UC Davis. Is she aware that they have helped save the international wine industry from some pretty bad fungal, bacterial and viral plagues?) and she crows about biodynamics and organics without fully explaining how and why they work. I’m actually all for organics and was pleased to learn that Littorai, one of my favorite Pinot producers, has gone biodynamic, but I want to hear it from someone who fully understands how it works and recognizes that it is indeed an investment for wineries, particularly smaller ones. I’ve truly enjoyed wine reads such as “The Billionaire’s Vinegar” and “The Judgment of 1976” where the authors have spent countless hours on research. Feiring, it seems, just wanted to get a book deal so she could travel to France and Italy for free.
Feiring doesn’t eat meat, shellfish or pork (she’s Jewish), which I understand somewhat, but how can you really be a wine writer when you don’t enjoy foods that many wines should be paired with? I can understand the religious obligations, but why no meat? How can you claim to love food and wine while abstaining from one of the most glorious food groups?
She also calls herself a journalist, but when discussing her interviews with several winemakers and Robert Parker himself, her interview questions appeared childish and immature.
I could go on and on, but needless to say, I found the book to be a self-obsessed, whiny read. If I hadn’t been stuck on a train for three hours, I probably wouldn’t have finished it. It’s not to say that I didn’t agree with Feiring’s actual thesis; I too prefer lighter wines with more subtlety and regional characteristics, I just greatly disliked the way she presented her thoughts.
Final words: she made the most awful comment about her friend’s husband’s weight in the book. What a catty thing to do. She goes to stay at this woman’s house in France and benefits from free housing and meals and still finds the time to call her husband fat. What a friend! I certainly would never have this woman over to my house.