Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
No Cover Image

A Carafe of Red

Gerald Asher
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Pages: 296
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    A Carafe of Red
    Book Description:

    Every wine has a story. In this collection of elegantly written essays from the past thirty years, updated with a new introduction and endnotes, renowned author Gerald Asher informs wine enthusiasts with insightful, engrossing accounts of wines from Europe and America that offer just as much for those who simply enjoy vivid evocations of people and places. Asher puts wine in its context by taking the reader on a series of discursive journeys that start with the carafe at his elbow. In his introduction, Asher says, "Wine . . . draws on everything and leads everywhere." Whether the subject is a supposedly simple red wine shared in a Parisian café or a Napa Valley Cabernet tasted with its vintner, every essay inA Carafe of Redis as pleasurable as the wines themselves.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95136-5
    Subjects: Environmental Science

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. [Maps]
    (pp. [ix]-[xii])
    (pp. 1-2)
    Gerald Asher

    Long ago, during my apprenticeship in the wine trade, I learned that wine is more than the sum of its parts, and more than an expression of its physical origin. The real significance of wine as the nexus of just about everything became clearer to me when I started writing about it. The more I read, the more I traveled, and the more questions I asked, the further I was pulled into the realms of history and economics, politics, literature, food, community, and all else that affects the way we live. Wine, I found, draws on everything and leads everywhere....

    (pp. 3-13)

    We had stopped for a quick lunch at a pastry shop near the Place de la Madeleine. My friend sniffed approvingly at her glass of red wine. “This is good,” she said. “What is it?”

    It was from the Corbières, the block of wind-riven mountains between Carcassonne, Narbonne, and Perpignan on the French Mediterranean coast. While the world has been looking elsewhere, the growers of the Corbières have been busy recapturing for their wines a reputation that had always distinguished them from those grown elsewhere in the Languedoc. My friend was right: The wine was good.

    And what did she...

    (pp. 14-26)

    A friend of a friend had taken a long lease on a house in West London in one of the few John Nash terraces—for all I know, the only John Nash terrace—outside Regent’s Park. In Nash’s hands, elegance had been more than an abstraction, and the house, built in the early years of the nineteenth century, had been carefully restored and handsomely decorated. Carpets had been laid and curtains hung. On the morning when a few of us were shown around the house, it stood empty but ready.

    On the spur of the moment my friend’s friend decided...

  7. CÔTE RÔTIE AND CONDRIEU: Drinking with Pliny and Columella
    (pp. 27-36)

    “On the banks of the Rhône, after its junction with the Saône, and in the adjacent territories, several precious wines are produced: but although the vineyards in these departments may be regarded as among the most ancient in France . . . it is only in recent times that the merits of their choicest produce have become fully known.”

    This could have been written yesterday, so new is our revived interest in wines of the northern Rhône, but I’m quoting from Alexander Henderson’sHistory of Ancient and Modern Wines,published in 1824. Côte Rôtie—one of the wines Henderson is...

  8. CÔTES DE CASTILLON: A Bordeaux Wine Reborn
    (pp. 37-43)

    Régis Moro, a wine-grower in the Côtes de Castillon, in Bordeaux, was astonished when his face made the cover of the French newsmagazineLe Pointlast September. But neither he nor anyone else was surprised to find that the magazine had placed the Côtes de Castillon among the top ten wine regions of France. Some of the best of Bordeaux’s most affordable wines are now being produced there, and they’re cropping up in restaurants and on merchants’ racks in the United States.

    The area takes its name from Castillon-la-Bataille, a small town about six miles east of Saint-Emilion with a...

    (pp. 44-53)

    Every year on the third Thursday of November, bars, cafés, and bistros all over Paris revel, with varying degrees of decorum, in the new harvest’s Beaujolais. The cynical would say that the success of Beaujolais Nouveau—almost as great in Brussels, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, and New York as it is in Lyons—is a triumph of marketing and promotion. But commerce merely cashes in: The gaiety is spontaneous, and the joy a response to something beyond posters and bar streamers. A mouthful of wine that was grapes just weeks before, and earth, rain, and sunshine only weeks before that, is an...

  10. ARMAGNAC: The Spirit of D’Artagnan
    (pp. 54-62)

    Tucked away in southwestern France between the curve of the Garonne River and the pine forests of the Landes, the Armagnac region, though hardly more than an hour from Toulouse, is reassuringly bucolic in a way that farm country today rarely is. Bright red poppies line the roadsides in summer, and hedgerows strewn with wild roses divide scattered vineyards from wheat fields and patches of sunflowers. There are no vast tracts of anything. Corn and eggplant flourish alongside pumpkins and plum trees; herds ofblondes de Gascognecattle graze contentedly; and in the busy jumble of farmyards, geese and ducks...

    (pp. 63-72)

    Of the ten thousand members of Burgundy’s Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, two thousand live in North America. From Halifax to San Diego they are attached to groups known rather forbiddingly assouscommanderies,the oldest and probably the largest of which was founded in New York in 1940.

    No doubt more than a few Americans will be among the five or six hundredchevaliersand guests, black-tied and robeddu soir,who will sit down on the evening of June 9 to dine at candlelit and flower-bedecked tables in the twelfth-century wine cellar of the Château du Clos de Vougeot....

  12. JEREZ DE LA FRONTERA: Sherry and Tapas
    (pp. 73-80)

    Some years ago an opinion poll had uncovered the fact that though wine (presumably table wine) had now overtaken Sherry as the most popular drink in Britain, Sherry still appealed most to mature, “top” people, especially those who lived in the shires of the south and west of England and on the wide flat farms of East Anglia, a region where I spent my entire childhood without ever once feeling warm. (Copenhagen, the only windbreak between the Russian steppes and eastern England, is not very effective for the purpose.)

    In England, Sherry is not just something that one consumes. At...

  13. MALMSEY: A Greek Classic
    (pp. 81-89)

    There had been violent storms on Crete all week. One morning at Rethymno the shopkeepers had had to flush out a muddy stream flooding their shops, and on another the tiny harbor had been a great bobbing mass of tables and chairs blown into the water from the quayside cafés. The rain on the day we drove from Agios Nikolaos to Sitia, near the eastern tip of the island, had been too much for the windshield wipers. Almost blindly we followed the water-slicked road through mountains that rose sheer from the seabed. The taped voice of Fleurie Dadonaki, one of...

  14. BARBARESCO: A Glimpse of Paradise
    (pp. 90-100)

    I’ve never been much interested in the latest food fad. Nouvelle, Cajun, Southwestern, Thai, high this and low that have all swept past me. I prefer familiar dishes; they talk to me. I’m happiest with lentil soup, good risotto, a roasted bird, lamb cooked almost any way, beans, grilled peppers, a wild mushroom sauté, andstracotto—that slowly cooked Italian beef stew that gives a glimpse of paradise. And though I enjoy wine of all kinds—how could I not?—when I eat one of those comfortable, comforting old favorites the wine I most enjoy is a Barbaresco, preferably one...

  15. PRIORATO: A Heady Success Story
    (pp. 101-108)

    The first storm of winter had done its worst just days before I arrived in Priorato last November. In four hours, more rain than is usual during an entire year had washed out dirt roads, hillside terracing, and young vines. But local winegrowers were in high spirits, buoyed by their first impression of the year’s new wine. The rain had marked the end of a summer so dry it had taken the vines to the limit of their endurance, and it was already obvious that the resulting wines would be concentrated and aromatic. The essence, one might say, of Priorato....

    (pp. 109-116)

    “Good morning!” said Dr. Otto Currle, counselor to the regional chamber of agriculture. “I hope you ate a good breakfast!” Thirty-six of us, some rumpled from the bus, some from lingering too late the night before in a local vintner’s parlor, were on the brink of our fourth day of lectures, tastings, and visits in a week-long course on German wines. We had been disgorged into the morning mist of Alzey, near Mainz in the Rheinhessen, and stood at the door of the official testing station where local wines, once they are approved for sale, are certified with their batch...

  17. FRANCONIA: Going for Baroque
    (pp. 117-127)

    A year ago, at the end of May, I was in the German city of Würzburg for the final night of the annual Baroque music festival. While dusk gathered over the rose garden of the Residenz, the sumptuous eighteenth-century palace of the former prince-bishops, its scented arbors and pathways illuminated by flickering torches, three hundred of us, decorously black-tied or discreetly bejeweled, sat under the vast Tiepolo ceiling of the Imperial Hall, listening to soloists of the Leipziger Gewandhaus Bach Orchestra play, as a prelude to dinner, music by Corelli, Handel, Bach, and Vivaldi.

    It was a brilliant performance, and...

    (pp. 128-140)

    Cabernet Sauvignon was introduced to California in or before the 1880s together with other varieties from southwestern France, including those traditionally associated with Cabernet Sauvignon in the vineyards of Bordeaux and some, such as Tannat, used for less opulent wines grown in the Béarnais region closer to the Pyrenees. As in France, these varieties were seen as means to an end—the production of claretlike red wine—not as ends in themselves. No more than in France did California growers at that time seem to be seeking to make a “Cabernet Sauvignon,” and, with rare exceptions, it was only after...

    (pp. 141-146)

    Joe Heitz called me one morning early in January to ask me to join him and a few friends at his Napa Valley winery the following Saturday to taste the 1970 Cabernet Sauvignon he was about to release. He was also releasing small quantities of some earlier vintages that he had held back for further maturing, and we were to taste these too.

    It was a good day for a tasting. I left the Bay fog behind at Yountville and arrived at the Heitz winery under a blue sky. There were six of us, including Joe and his son David,...

    (pp. 147-156)

    A year ago this month a group of French men and women—professionals in wine, marketing, and law—met in Chinon in the Loire Valley to ask themselves which was preferable: adapting classic wines when necessary to meet fluctuations in consumer preferences or using marketing skills to persuade consumers to accept and appreciate such wines as they are. A classic wine in Europe is usually identified by the name of the place from which it comes. Its production is controlled by statutes based on established local traditions of winemaking. Not surprisingly, the consensus of those present in Chinon seemed to...

  21. SANTA CRUZ MOUNTAINS: Ingenuity and Tenacity
    (pp. 157-163)

    I had never before been asked, prior to sitting down to dinner, to sign a release absolving my hosts from responsibility for any subsequent “discomfort or distress.” But then this was the first time I had been invited to the annual feast of the Fungus Federation of Santa Cruz, held this year at India Joze restaurant on Center Street, where local chefs had gathered to show what they could do withDentinum repandumandPleurotus ostreatus.

    As might be appropriate in Santa Cruz, a sort of Berkeley-by-the-Sea, India Joze, an airy café popular with everyone for miles around, usually specializes...

  22. ZINFANDEL: California’s Own
    (pp. 164-175)

    The table in my kitchen is small and round; no more than two, perhaps three, can eat there together comfortably, a limit that allows me to open—for what is often an impromptu meal—one of those bottles we all hoard but that could never be stretched to a dinner party. I share some of my best wines in the kitchen.

    Though curiosity sometimes prompts us to seek out wines we know will be difficult to appreciate, wine is never intended to be anyone’s jousting partner. And, especially in the kitchen, it should comfort and be companionable, whatever its pedigree:...

  23. WINE AND FOOD: The Myth of a Perfect Match
    (pp. 176-184)

    Raymond Oliver, distinguished chef and proprietor of Le Grand Véfour in Paris, once wrote, “Apart from a few rare and gross mistakes there are few wines and dishes which really do not marry.” Most would agree. For my own part, I have endured my share of awful food and miserable wines, but I have yet to be confronted with truly well prepared food and delicious wine in a combination so bizarre that either or both were actually ruined. Wine and food can be mutually enhancing, but in any case they have a natural affinity and are tolerant of each other...

  24. CHARDONNAY: Buds, Twigs, and Clones
    (pp. 185-198)

    At the last count, there were forty-two thousand acres of Chardonnay vines in California. That is more than double the acreage in Burgundy, Chardonnay’s home. The rising flow of California Chardonnay has coincided with a change in the way the state’s wineries are handling this popular varietal. They are turning away from the chunky oak-and-fruit style that has served, brashly enough, for the last decade or two, and, with Burgundian tradition as their example and restraint as their new watchword, they are placing greater emphasis on balance and texture. But because, in the flood of brands and labels, the wineries...

  25. HAUT–BRION: A Most Particular Taste
    (pp. 199-208)

    “A little rise of ground, lieing open most to the west. It is noe thing but pure white sand, mixed with a little gravel. One would imagin it scarce fit to beare any thing. . . .” John Locke’s words are taken from his journal entry for May 14, 1677. At that time a philosopher’s journey to view a vineyard at first hand and to write down his impression of it was as unlikely as the visit today of an eminent intellectual to ponder the significance of a cabbage patch. Locke’s curiosity confirms a singular achievement of Arnaud de Pontac,...

  26. JUDGMENT OF PARIS: California’s Triumph
    (pp. 209-215)

    In the early 1970s Steven Spurrier, an English wine merchant, and Patricia Gallagher, his American partner, had a small wine shop in Paris in a cul-de-sac near the Place de la Concorde, where, in an adjacent building, they also gave courses in wine to their enthusiastic customers. Almost inevitably, Spurrier and Gallagher developed a considerable clientele among expatriate Americans. The U.S. Embassy was a block or two away, the substantial offices of IBM were almost next door, and American law firms were scattered all around them. Through word of mouth, their Caves de la Madeleine became a regular stop for...

  27. A SILENT REVOLUTION: Organic and Biodynamic Wines
    (pp. 216-223)

    How good are organic wines? For a start, there are far more of them out there than you might suspect. They’re not in some fringe niche either: They include, for instance, Château Margaux, the Médoc first growth, the wines of the Domaine Leroy in Burgundy, those of Robert Sinskey Vineyards in Napa Valley, and certain bottlings from the Penfolds vineyards in South Australia’s Clare Valley.

    The question, then, would seem to answer itself, but there’s a catch: Wines like these rarely display the word “organic.” Sometimes it’s to avoid having the wine perceived as funky, or bought for what the...

    (pp. 224-228)

    “What was the best wine you ever tasted, the one you will always remember?” It’s a question I’m often asked when someone newly introduced first realizes how I spend much of my waking time. How to answer? I think I’m expected to château-drop, to say something glamorous about a Margaux ’53, a Cheval-Blanc ’47, or a Mouton-Rothschild ’45—a monumental wine, by the way, still flamboyantly vigorous when poured for me at a dinner at Mouton itself a couple of years ago. (There’s a real château-drop for you.)

    But how does anyone compare that Mouton-Rothschild with a Cheval-Blanc ’47, last...

  29. MISSOURI: Return of the Native
    (pp. 229-241)

    I’d arrived in Hermann, Missouri, two days too late for the annual Great Stone Hill Beast Feast, so I’d missed the possum teriyaki, the raccoon pie, and the beaver jambalaya. Every year local hunters and trappers provide for the charity benefit a selection of fauna worthy of Daniel Boone. Along with the possum, raccoon, and beaver, Gary Buckler, proprietor of Hermann’s Vintage 1847 restaurant, had been able to prepare other old-time frontier favorites like bobcatbourguignonne,marinated Montana mule deer rounds, coyote and fox salami, and stuffed water buffalo Florentine.

    The wines, donated by Stone Hill Winery, were all Missourigrown...

  30. SPREADING THE WORD: Books on Wine
    (pp. 242-252)

    Books for those who buy rather than make wine tend to be compendiums of maps and facts: They define appellations, list growers, measure vineyards, and quantify wine production. Lively, readable commentary, experiences of wine, or just personal reflections on wine in general, are much rarer, even—perhaps I should say especially—in France. Pierre-Marie Doutrelant’sLes bons vins. . .et les autres(Good Wines . . . and the Rest), published in Paris in 1976, is a sparkling exception.

    Perhaps it is because the English didn’t produce wine until quite recently, and so were never able to take...

  31. SIMPLE PLEASURES: Warm Bread and Hot Chocolate
    (pp. 253-260)

    It was a Saturday in June. The sun was flooding into the apartment. A mass of flowering privet that had caught my eye on one of the stands in the market that morning was making the living room smell green and woodsy.

    I had a lazy-day feeling, but I made a pot ofratatouilleanyway and ate some at midday with quartered eggs that had been simmered in the shell just to the point where they were no longer soft but were not quite hard, either. I ate alone in the dining room, looking through the open window into the...

  32. INDEX
    (pp. 261-280)
  33. Back Matter
    (pp. 281-281)