From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Steadman, illustrator of several of Hunter S. Thompson's gonzo narratives, also has a reputation in the world of wine—which is no contradiction, as he thinks of himself as "a romantic and a lifetime supporter of the maverick tradition in all fields of human activity." In this volume, which follows his well-received Grapes of Ralph, he wanders to notable vineyards in California, Chile, Spain, France, Italy and South Africa for a look at their grapes and wine-making techniques. Steadman chats with the owners, eyes their dogs, tastes their wines and takes notes, which frequently meander into fond digressions on unusual oenophilic practices. Still, it's Steadman's sketches that make the book: vertiginous mountain vineyards; splotchy caricatures of idiosyncratic vintners; lumpy, mustachioed villagers (male and female); even a brief album of wine dogs, "grand cru mutts." Although he's designed many wine labels himself, Steadman's no label snob; indeed, he rails against "the rigid aristocracy of fine appellation" and misses the "good, bad old days" when you could decant a nice Roussillon into your own jug straight from a pump at the wine cooperative. Readers dithering over the right bottle to surprise a wine-loving friend with might do better to shop at the bookstore for a Steadman instead. (Nov.)
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Steadman's utterly distinctive drawings are the stars of his eccentric book about the world of wine, which his curmudgeonly prose just complements. Though hardly for the chardonnay- or merlot-swilling masses, the book does include a step-by-step how-to on making champagne and a careful description of how each year's sherry is mixed with some from earlier years to smooth and refine the marketable product. How-to's and why-for's aren't really Steadman's meat, however. He is interested in the offbeat and overlooked: wine made by old hippies who ignore wasps flying about the outdoor vats, or by reckless Chileans who hang the vines off cliffs, or even by himself, as he dabbles in grape growing in England (no wonder he's cranky about chardonnay). Illustrations of vineyards capture the strange beauty of vines thwarted from their natural, rampant leafiness and crowded into trellised rows, but more memorable are muddy dogs met in vineyards from France to California and caricatured vingerons hard at work. Not to be missed: the saga of the scandalous red wine Cardinal Zin. Patricia Monaghan
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