Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Robert Camuto Re-cap

You may recall that a few weeks back, I was promoting a book reading and tasting featuring special guest Robert Camuto. He recently wrapped up a promotional book tour for his book Corkscrewed, which is an homage to independent French vignerons who passionately pursue their vision of producing their own wines from vine to bottle. Before discussing the event, I'd like to extend thanks to David McDuff, who first brought the event to my attention. As I am on host venue 18 Reason's email list, I'd have eventually discovered this was going on, but perhaps a bit later than I would have liked. Good looking out, Mr. McDuff.

Addressing the standing room only crowd of thirty or so people, seated shoulder to shoulder at four large communal tables, author Robert Camuto began his talk by commenting on the fairly recent resurgence of small independent vignerons, farming their grapes organically, slowly developing a niche market for their wines domestically and abroad. He then proceeded to describe his four broad requirements for good wine:

1.) Wine should reflect its specific terroir
2.) The production of wine should show respect for the environment
3.) Wine should be made with grapes
4.) Wine should be made mainly by people, and ought to be for sharing and enjoyment with others

Numbers 1 and 2 should make sense. As for number 3, it caused a few chuckles from the crowd; after all, wine by definition is made from fermented grapes, right? Well, some of you can probably see what Camuto was hinting at here. Wine should contain grapes, period (no additives such as wood chips, enzymes, designer yeasts, liquid tannins, etc.) Number four hints at the skyrocketing trend, begun in the 1970's and reaching astronomical heights in the past decade, of wine as valuable commodity, as a liquid investment to be flipped back and forth amongst collectors via the auction market.

After this introduction, Camuto began the tasting portion of the evening, briefly introducing a particular wine, and largely letting the wine do the talking. At times, he would go into more detail about the chapter describing a particular wine and region, as he did with the Robert & Bernard Plageoles 'Loin de l'oeuil' Gaillac Doux Controlee,' a delicious dessert wine from this region known for its bounty of obscure, nearly extinct varietals.

I am about midway through Robert Camuto's book. It is very well-written, in the descriptive, witty, keenly observant voice of a seasoned journalist. At the same time, it retains the author's personal perspective as an American ex-pat, recently introduced to the world of wine while living with his family in the south of France for the past eight years.

If you're interested in learning more about French wine and in reading an engaging, insightful look at wine through the eyes of some of its masterful producers, I would encourage you to purchase a copy of Robert Camuto's book on his website.