REVIEW (sort of): The Battle for Wine and Love by Alice Feiring

Anyone else out there read a foodie book that changed your entire perspective? What book changed your life? I don’t use this phrase lightly. There are only two books that have held this distinction for me: French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano and The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan.

Perhaps choosing Guiliano’s book seems a bit trite, but don’t knock it until you’ve read it. Additionally, I understand this book isn’t for everyone. For me, though, it was a revelation. My passion for food, my openness to all its joys, started with this book three years ago.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma took what I learned in French Women to the next level. What both authors advocate is a consciousness regarding what goes into your body. What are you eating? Where is it from? Think before you put it in your mouth! Do you really want to eat that? Really? Or are you on automatic pilot? Do you even care? Whereas French Women tapped into my passions, Omnivore’s Dilemma connected to that part of me that is a lifelong learner and seeker.

Why do I bring these books up? Because I may have just discovered a third book. I use the word “may” because my future is yet untold, and it remains to be seen how much impact Alice Feiring’s The Battle for Wine and Love or How I Saved the World from Parkerization will ultimately have in my life. Having finished the book, I feel a beginning. I will – and have already started – drinking wine with a newfound consciousness, thanks to Alice. And anytime there is a gained consciousness, Life Changes are certain to follow.

Truly, if you love wine, this is a Must Read. That said, Alice’s voice and opinion aren’t for everyone. If you’ve read her blog, then you’re already familiar with her tendency to ruffle feathers, particularly among California wine growers and their corporate sponsors. Anytime there are corporate feathers ruffled*, you really have to pay attention. Clearly, Alice has touched upon something important and I’m paying attention.

In a nutshell, for us non-wine writer and non-wine critic types, Alice makes a pitch for natural wines. No, not necessarily organic because, as we all know, “organic” has been adopted by corporate America and the definition and philosophy behind it has been somewhat, if not entirely, bastardized. That bottle of Yellowtail corked in your fridge…that Mirrasou Pinot Noir I drink at TGI Friday’s to get me through the horrific experience of being there…the Hogue Fumé Blanc that I thought I liked…

Forget about ‘em. Unless you like science experiments. Alice exposes (okay, she exposed it for me, anyway) just how fake all those “flavors” are. Wood chips thrown into stainless steel barrels, vines grown in laboratories, vines “bred” and “selected” for certain flavors, additives galore to try to get good ratings from critcs…yep, your wine has most likely been subjected to all these procedures and more. Read the book – Alice will tell you about it. Maybe you won’t be shocked by this, but I was. I have actually walked into wine stores and said to the salesperson: “I like tobacco, chocolate, vanilla, oaky flavors…What have you got?” Silly me, I actually thought these were all natural. You know, like, part of the soil and shit. Nope. Chances are exceedingly high that I’m drinking a fake wine.

Now, as I wrote in an email to Ms. Feiring, I do still like all those flavors I listed above. But at what cost? Do I want that at the cost of authenticity? Giving up what is real? Is 15% alcohol content really what I’m after? The answer, for me, is a resounding no. As Alice points out, some of the natural wines can taste…um…a little “funky”…but I’ll take that. I’d rather tasty the funky earth over some fabricated approximation of the real thing.

I know, I’m on a tirade, right? Does anything I’ve just blogged seem remotely interesting to you? Then pick up the damn book and read it. I have a wine source where I can get a couple of the wines that Alice mentions in the book – I’ll try to remember to post my impressions of the natural wines**. Either way, though, I do sense a personal revolution in the way I taste, enjoy, and shop for wine, just as Michael Pollan and Mireille Guiliano did that for me in their books.

Eat, drink, and taste the earth

* Wanna get a feeling of the backlash? Here's Alice's Op-Ed article in the L.A. Times. Here is one of many responses to her article. In the response, Matthew DeBord decries natural wines stating that, among other things, that natural wines have "weird herby flavors." I ask you, fellow foodies, when did the flavor of herbs become "weird"? I think, perhaps, Mr. DeBord has forgotten that wines come from grapes...grown in the earth...kind of like herbs... Thank goodness Ms. Feiring reminded me of this!

**FYI - the wines being sent to me are all in the $40 and under range. Granted, one of the wines Alice mentioned in her book was going to cost me a cool $150...I bypassed that one for now. On the other hand, perhaps if I paid $150 for the wine I drink with my dinner I would drink it with a greater consciousness and respect. Regardless, $150 is ridiculously steep for me right now.


Lisa said...

I am absolutely going to read French Women Don't Get Fat. I really need a new relationship with food and I really don't want to join Weight Watchers.

Unknown said...

YES, you MUST read it. It's all about passion and love...yet advocating moderation to make it all the more delicious when you do indulge. I can totally see you and Amy getting into this book.

Honey, PLEASE try this before Weight Watchers. Mireille Guiliano promotes a much sexier lifestyle. And what's sexy about getting on a scale every week and confessional support groups? I rest my case.

(FYI - I read FWDGF 3 years ago, lost 20 pounds and kept it off...Adam read it as well, lost 20 pounds, and he has kept it off. Just sayin'... We're proof positive that a sexier, more indulgent lifestyle in moderation is the way to go. But as I also said in my blog post, I know this book isn't for everyone...)