South-West France, the Wines and Winemakers
By: Paul Strang, photographs by Jason Shenai
Publisher: University of California Press
This is a book that has been in the coming for a very long time and now finally (!), is it published. Let’s start with this: if you are even remotely interested in wines from other than the big-and-famous appellations you should read this book. It covers a huge area of France, the South West (le Sud-Ouest) where you have a very large variety of wines and wine styles. It’s a very ambitious project to try and cover all of it but Paul Strang carries it off excellently. Secondly, this is really (really!) a region that deserves more attention from the wine lover. There are a few moderately well know districts, Cahors and Madiran mainly, but even those are just barely recognised by the average wine lover.
The problem, as Strang points out, is that almost all wine growers are small family enterprises, with limited production and no marketing budget, so they rarely make it to the supermarket shelves – production is just too small. So you have to seek them out in specialised shops, or on location. And Strang’s book is an excellent guide to find the best wines. The bulk of the book is producer profiles, but each region also gets a thorough introduction explaining rules and regulations, grape varieties etc. Grape varieties is a subject of particular interest in this region – you can find a wealth of local, traditional varieties that exist no where else, making some very interesting and character-full wines (and some very strange wines too).
It’s a pleasure to read it and think of some of the wines one has tasted, and long for some that one has not yet tried but now read about. Two gripes: why are there no captions on the photos? Really a pity. Now one has to guess what’s on the pictures. It would also have been nice with a few more photos – it’s such a beautiful region and it doesn’t quite come through. But book editors sometimes don’t like when the page number goes up and up I guess. Definitely a book to read about a region whose wines you should try.
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