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Bacchus & Me: Adventures in the Wine Cellar Hardcover – October, 2000
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Bright lights: Krug, Latour, Lafite, Montrose. Big cities: Montalcino, Hampstead, Reims, Geyserville. Welcome to Bacchus & Me: Adventures in the Wine Cellar, bestselling novelist Jay McInerney's mixed four-case lot of wine essays culled primarily from his output of "Uncorked" pieces written for House & Garden magazine. Reflecting the author's wit and opinion, it's tasty and stylish stuff. And nestled between glossy pages of photos depicting, say, a 396-square-foot TriBeCa loft decorated with a pair of Eames chairs purchased at a Brooklyn swap meet for $45, McInerney's blend of self-deprecation (his "eyebrows raised and jaw dropped" when H&G editors broached his name as wine columnist) and irreverence (on straw-covered Chianti bottles: the "bong component of choice in dorm rooms around the world") is refreshing juice. Unfortunately, as a compilation, it serves more to unmask a Eurocentric name-dropper: the bon-mot-coining D2 dilettante on an expense account who got the gig because he knew the editor. It's distressing, because there's so much to like here: "A Ticket to the Veneto" is a sparkling meld of ego and yeast; questioning whether or not to cellar wine, he concludes, "What could be more all-American than instant gratification?"; and his dead-on description of a Port hangover is quintessential McInerney. But numerous repetitions, imperceptible when published monthly, irritate when separated not by 30 days but 30 pages: Sauvignon Blanc's aroma of "pipi du chat" is funny the first time you read it, less so two essays later; likewise you won't find a single California piece that doesn't contain the words "dude" or "Helen Turley." And while it's admirable to break the mould of stuffy wine writing, McInerney's a bit long in the tastevin to adopt a "Wine Brat" posture comparing, for example, Martinelli Jackass Hill Zin more to "Free Bird" than "Jumpin' Jack Flash," or describing his first sip of Mouton "like hearing Nirvana on Saturday Night Live." Blame it on the editor, or maybe it just depends on how you devour Bacchus & Me. Sipped slowly, McInerney's words taste of the passionate amateur oenophile and skilled raconteur. Gulp 'em down and the finish is of the bestselling bon vivant with a blank check. --Tony Mason
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I read a few pages and decided I’d give it a go. Jay’s style, while not singular, is quite amusing. He writes like a very gifted kid, though also like one who’s not overwhelmed with his own genius (no names, please).
Since I pay my rent and my kids’ tuition with the money I make from the business Jay writes about in these pages, I suppose I know a little about the business. I also spent a decade of my “professional student” career in Europe – specifically, in Switzerland; Austria; Italy: (then) West Germany; the (then) Soviet Union; and Spain – and was able to sample a variety of Old World wines.
Just short of a year ago, I read a little thing titled WINE (ALL-IN-ONE) FOR DUMMIES – yes, all 600+ pages of it. And, given my employment, I probably now read a little something about wine every day.
All of that said, I can easily recommend this book, whether to the neophyte or to the experienced connoisseur, as a worthwhile read. The former will find it educational; the latter will find it, at the very least, entertaining. McInerney touches upon the history, geography and topology of the wine-making and –drinking business just enough to render the book educational – and does so in a kind of wine-spritzer style to render the subject entertaining. If you have to start anywhere in this continually evolving world of wine, this is as good a place as I can imagine to get your feet wet and your palate titillated.
If I have any criticism at all (and this frankly doesn’t count as a valid criticism, given the subject-matter and its requirements), it’s that the book seems just a tad dated. But in some sense at least, books about wine – just like books about gardening or cooking – never age out. And although this book may well be a mere collection of essays written over months or years for the likes of House & Garden, Jay McInerney’s prose doesn’t age out either. Unlike many of the wines he describes, he’s good to go – right now.
So what does a man do with his cool cash and his passion for wine? He spends it, he hob-nobs with the rich and famous. This book has its fun and comical points ("Anyone who starts analyzing the taste of a rose in public should be thrown in the pool immediately" or "...the more expensive California Chardonnay tended to resemble the women of Playboy and Beverly Hills") and he enjoys meeting wine makers, describing Angelo Gaja's driving as "Jackie Steward on crystal Meth" - which made me laugh.
The book is at best an irreverent, almost comedian-like take on wine. It is serious only for a moment. He has a few pointers but again, unless you have thousands in your bank account, you most likely won't follow his advice. He isn't a sommelier or someone in the industry. He's honest, he explains where he's coming form. He's a writer that has a passion for wine. And like most American wine writers, he misuses the word 'varietal' instead of using 'variety' ('varietal' is an adjective, describing a type of wine, not the grape variety itself - how come the British always get it right?). When it comes to tasting notes, he is more pop culture which after a hundred pages, began to tire.
But look at the title 'Bacchus and Me'. That says it all. You can hate this book, find it pompous and elitist (which it can be) or you can take it for what it is - Jay McInerney and wine. How else would he write? What else would he write about? Himself, his money, his wine. There is no real depth here. It's a beach read at best but if you can pick up a pointer and giggle along the way, it's not that bad.
Most recent customer reviews
If only one could have joined Jay in his wine adventures!