jamie goode's wine blog

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Films and books and stuff

Just been on to amazon and ordered a book recommended to me by Ted Lemon, who was at Pinot Noir 2010. Ted's wines are fantastic, and so anything he wants to put on my reading list is fine by me. It's called 'Agroecology', by Miguel Altieri. Not cheap at £30, but I'm hoping it will be very good.

On the flight on the way back from Auckland I caught a few films. Here are my amateur reviews.

1. In The Loop (www.intheloopmovie.co.uk) is utterly brilliant. You must see it. I almost cried laughing at several places. Malcolm Tucker is an utter genius. This is one of those films you can watch several times and still find something fresh. But it's not for those who are sensitive to profanity.

2. Star Trek (uk.rottentomatoes.com/m/star_trek_11/) is a pile of poop. Sorry. It's Hollywoodized to oblivion. I can't believe I watched this. And I can't believe that it gets 94% on rotten tomatoes. The plot is ludicrously bad, with parallel realities and people coming back from the future. A bigger is better, and biggest of all is best mentality has totally ruined this film.

3. Bright Star (uk.rottentomatoes.com/m/bright_star/) isn't a pile of poop, but it's disappointing. A run of the mill period piece charting the failed love affair of John Keats and his neighbour Fanny. Lots of old costumes, unrequited love and early death by consumption.

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Reading material for the NZ trip

Off to New Zealand tomorrow. Not the worst time of year to be visiting Kiwiland.

The flight is long, and in my spare moments I like to read, so I did an amazon raid, choosing a range of books, many of which were recommended by readers here (thank you to those concerned).

The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold - a risk, this. Could be great, could be dire. A good friend liked it a lot, and I trust him.

Black Swan Green, David Mitchell - reader's recommendation, sounds good

Generation A, Douglas Coupland - I'm a Coupland junkie who loved JPOD and The Gum Thief, so v looking forward to this

Ghost Rider: travels on the healing road, Neal Peart - the drummer from Rush, but he writes genius lyrics, and this is his narrative of a motorcycle journey that helped him recover from an unbelievably sad double bereavement

The Road, Cormac McCarthy - not read him before - it's 'now a major film', which doesn't bode well, but a trusted reader recommended this


Saturday, August 29, 2009

Kermit's Adventures

I have been re-reading one of the best books on wine ever written. It's Adventures on the wine route by Californian merchant and importer Kermit Lynch. I just wish there were more books like this on the subject: well written, interesting and perfectly judged. Yes, there's a bit of salesmanship here, but I can forgive this because it's just so good.

Does anyone have recommendations of wine books that are a good read?


Friday, July 17, 2009

Buy my last book for just £5!

I've just moved office, and in the process I found a couple of boxes of my last book, Wine Bottle Closures (optimistically, I did quite a large print run). So if you'd like a copy of this incisive assessment of the closures scene, then you can buy one at the knockdown price of £5 from http://www.flavourpress.com/.

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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

NWR: Books and films

Some amateur film and book reviewing now follows. I've gone through a bit of a barren period of late with both genres, but long-haul travel usually helps here...

My favourite book of late has been Douglas Coupland's The Gum Thief. I also loved Coupland's last book, J Pod. In some ways, these books are a bit of a guilty pleasure. They're funny and self-referential, but essentially trivial. They focus on the banality of modern life, but they work. There are good reviews here and here.

Now films. Benjamin Button is a rubbish film. I'm sorry, this seems a bit negative, but I tried watching it twice (once on a plane) and never managed to get to the end. It was a rip-off of Forest Gump, if you ask me, with a bizarre plot twist (guy gets younger rather than older) that isn't really explored properly or intelligently.

I did enjoy Revolutionary Road, despite the fact that both Kate Winslet and Leonardo di Caprio take the starring roles. But it's a really good film. Set in the 1950s, it chronicles the breakdown of a marriage in all its dark complexity. There's a good review here.

Synecdoche New York is a film that annoyed me intensely, but which, on reflection, has some merit. It's massively self-indulgent and totally bizarre. Yet it has some powerful messages, if you can get past the delivery. Philip Seymour Hoffman - perhaps the best actor of his generation? - delivers a strong performance. For me, the key message delivered is quite a negative one: while the role we play in our daily lives seems so important to us, no one is actually watching, and it doesn't really matter. I don't agree with this premise, but I understand how people can feel like this.

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Monday, March 02, 2009

Recent books, and top wines from SITT

Posted an article with notes on my top wines from the SITT tasting last week here. What do you think of the selection? It doesn't pretend to be comprehensive, but there are some really nice wines included.

As you probably know, I quite like to branch out from wine coverage and include other stuff on this blog - ranging from dodgy film reviews to naive sports commentary, with a bit of amateur philosophy thrown in for good measure. So here are my thoughts on a couple of recent reads.

I don't normally bother with books by politicians, but some time ago Fiona bought me Barack Obama's Dreams from my father, so I eventually (and rather reluctantly) read it. I'm so glad I did, because it's brilliant. Barack can write - really well - and the story he tells of his family backround and formative years is compelling, compassionate and insightful. He is an intensely smart dude who really seems to care.

Another book I wouldn't have chosen to read, but which was I enjoyed greatly is Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist. It's a creative, imaginative and gripping book that draws you in by the power of its narrative, and the distinctive writing style. Totally recommended.


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Wine Science in Japanese

Here's a review that Ken Ohashi kindly sent me of the Japanese edition of Wine Science. Apparently, it's a very good review and the book gets three glasses (out of three). How cool is that?

You can still buy the US version of Wine Science here. In the UK it's sold out, and the lastest news is that Mitchell Beazley are working out costings for print on demand.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

'Blink' and wine tasting

One of the books on the shelves in the house we are staying on is Malcolm Gladwell's blink: the power of thinking without thinking. It's a book I'd heard about, but never read. So I've skimmed through it, and it's interesting - well, sort of.

The thesis is that we humans are often better at making split-second decisions than we are at reaching conclusions with lots of deliberation and research. 'This book is all about those moments when we "know" something without knowing why', it says on the back cover.

Gladwell suggests that there's some background processing going on in our brains, which we are unaware of but which helps us make rapid decisions. I suppose this is similar to the familiar notion of 'intuition'. 'Blink' likely resonates with people because it makes them feel extra clever and reassures them that their instinctive reactions are usually correct.

I think Gladwell's cheif cleverness is in making a solitary interesting idea stretch out far enough to fill a whole book. The reason I wanted to comment on it is because of the application of the 'blink' principle to wine tasting. We can spend a long time dissecting a wine into its components, trying to analyse it and understand it, but sometimes it's the instant impression that is the most useful. Much of the time, even if I struggle to write a good note on a wine, I know immediately what I think of it. It's often the first impression that is the purest and most accurate.

That's not to say, of course, that there aren't some wines that require time and attention to show what they've got.

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Buying my book on wine science

I get quite a lot of queries on how to buy my book Wine Science. In the UK, this book was published by Mitchell Beazley in November 2005. It sold pretty well, and the initial print run all disappeared. Will they reprint it? Probably not, was the answer I got. They aren't very good at responding to emails, and so I don't know whether it's officially out of print, or whether I can get back the rights to publish it.

But whatever the situation, the result of this is that you can't get hold of it in the UK or most other markets (although I recently found out that http://www.aroundwine.com/ have some copies still). Amazon.co.uk list it as out of stock.

In the USA, it was published in March 2006 as The Science of Wine. Different cover, too (pictured), but exactly the same content. They sold through their initial order of 5000 and have since ordered two more runs of 4000, which is good, but I don't get very much for each copy sold (just 10% of gross receipts received by Mitchell Beazley, who sell them the books very cheaply).

The good news is that it's very cheap to buy the book from amazon.com in the USA and then get it shipped to the UK. Cheaper, even, than it was to buy the book in the UK when it was still available here. I just checked on amazon.com and the cost was £17.82 delivered. The link is here.

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Two recent reads, NWR

Two recent reads that I'd recommend.

Douglas Coupland's JPod (see website http://www.jpod.info/ or the book on amazon) is a very funny, astute sort of book. It's a creative, humorous satirical and deeply ironic look at the current hi-tech generation, and it is almost perfectly judged. I read it in the space of a couple of plane journeys and the assorted delays associated with them. Coupland is accessible and light without being too ephemeral. It's the first time I've read him – I think I'll have to take a look at his back catalogue, despite seeing him referred to, perhaps not unfairly, as specializing in ‘hyper-ironised glibness’. Of special merit are a number of stream of consciousness-like blocks of text interspersed in the narrative. They’re brilliantly done.

The second book is a bit of a door wedge, but I'm really enjoying it. Andrew Marr's History of Modern Britain is something of a rarity: an interesting, absorbing history book. I guess Marr's skill lies in what he leaves out as much as what he includes. The tone is quite lively, seasoned gently with dry wit, and the text paints a vivid picture of the way Britain was in the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s (I'm only now onto the 80s, and I’m looking forward to see how he deals with the nineties and noughties). The book also comes across as tremendously balanced. We all have biases when we re-tell stories. There's what 'actually happened', but the very act of observing what happened, even first hand, is a personal thing. The 'truth' passes through a set of filters. With a history like this, focusing heavily on the political landscape, the potential for skewing and bias is huge. Some people say that for this reason, all history is biased and any attempt to get to the 'truth' is doomed to failure. But I feel that we have a duty to try to get as close to we can, and be as free from bias as possible. And Marr's account does seem to do this pretty well. His interpretation of events seems a really intelligent, insightful and balanced one, and it's filling in lots of the gaps in my knowledge of postwar Britain. It's also forcing me to rethink some of my own views on this history, which in truth were probably not based on all that much information at all.


Friday, December 21, 2007

Ramblings on books and films

As the Christmas break approaches I'm starting to feel un-work-like, so my mind is drifting towards other things. I realize it's been a while since I did any amateur NWR book or film reviews. So here goes.

First, three books. Ian McEwan's Atonement is a good story, well written. It's one of those books where the prose is so rich that you want it to last a long time, and feel sad as you draw towards the close. From the cover, which features Hollywood stars, I gather a movie has been made of this - haven't seen it, though.

Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner is a book of two havles. It starts brilliantly. You really get a feel for what it must have been like to grow up in Afghanistan. But then it gets a bit silly, and starts reading like a bad John Grisham novel, with the author allowing himself just too many coincidences, and the pace just getting far too rapid. This is another book that has spawned a film. Haven't seen it, though.

Finally, Zadie Smith's On Beauty, which is funny, quite perceptive and brilliantly observed. The writing here is fantastic. The subject matter is original. It's a really good read.

Next, some movies.

The Painted Veil is a beautiful period piece -with teeth - set in China in the 1930s. It's based on the Somerset Maugham, and as well as being visually stunning, there are some strong acting performances. A hit.

Mitchell and Webb are comic geniuses, and their debut film Magicians is very,very funny. Another hit.

Finally, Die Hard 4.0 is a fun film if you are in the mood for it. Bruce Willis is very old now, but still indestructable. Fortunately, he manages to save the world (well, the USA, but isn't that the same thing?) from baddies. I enjoyed this.

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Monday, October 01, 2007

A good day

Forgive the unrelated photograph. It's me on the back of a mechanical harvester, taken on Thursday afternoon in Entre-Deux-Mers. The other rider is Beverly Blanning. We were watching the harvest at Chateau Lavison, where Merlot was being picked, and the offer was made: do we want a ride? So precariously balanced on the back, quite high up, we watched as a couple of rows were picked. It's amazing how these machines can pick so well: the reception bins contained almost exclusively intact berries, and a simple triage at the winery picked out remaining stems and any rotten or unripe grapes.

Anyway, the title of this post refers to today, where a couple of nice things happened. First of all, I found Fiona's keys. Doesn't sound too eventful, does it? But it was. Last Tuesday, Fiona was walking RTL in Hanworth Park, when a horse, which wasn't supposed to be there, suddenly appeared. RTL ran fast towards it, and began running round its legs. There was panic, and Fiona ran after the imperiled hound trying to catch it. After the crisis had passed, she realized she no longer had her keys, which must have fallen out of her pocket. The problem is, Hanworth Park is huge, has tall, dense grass off the pathways, through which Fiona had to run, and the keys could have been anywhere within a patch approximately 200 m x 100 m. That evening we searched en famille without success; subsequent search attempts also failed the following day, so we gave the keys up for lost.

Now house keys are easy to re-cut. But the car key is a different matter. A quick call to Mazda revealed that it was easily replaceable, but at a cost of £260. £260 for a car key? That's more than an Ipod costs, and an Ipod is a whole lot more complex. And they needed the car for two hours on next Friday morning for some reason to supply the new one. Why?

So this morning, as I was walking the dog through Hanworth Park, my mind briefly flitted to the issue of the lost keys. Maybe I'll look for them again, I said to myself. I'd taken just two paces off the path when I looked down, and there they were. It felt like a miracle.

The second nice surprise was waiting for me when I got home: a nice royalty cheque for Wine Science. I'd previously just received and advance: this was the first time the earnings had passed the amount of the advance and I got some cash in my hand. It's selling particularly well in the USA, and has just been translated into Japanese. It's always nice to get money that you weren't expecting.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Back from Devon

I've returned early from my Devon holiday, leaving my family and RTL and catching the train back up to London for an early flight to Portugal tomorrow. It's only been a brief break, but despite some dodgy weather, I'll remember it as one of the best family holidays we've had. It just worked. Pictured above is Putsborough beach, and below is a view of Braunton Burrows, looking towards Saunton Sands.

As well as outdoor excursiony sorts of things, I've slept a lot and read a book: The Little Friend by Donna Tartt. It's a book that took some getting into, but I persevered because her Secret History is one of the best books I've ever read. The first 200 pages are a little ponderous and self indulgent, and I kept getting lost with all the characters (various aunts and domestic staff kept getting muddled up), but then the book is carried by its plot to a striking ending sequence. Tartt is clearly a brilliant writer, whose prose engulfs, and I recommend this book for anyone with patience and time to spare. If you haven't read Secret History yet, then buy both and read them back to back.

The train journey from Barnstaple to London Paddington was a good one, involving just one short change at Exeter St Davids. I can get a lot of work done on a train; more so than when I fly.

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Bargain books

Amazon is remaindering a number of books, including one that I thoroughly recommend: The Emperor of Scent, by Chandler Burr. It's the well told (true) story of a scientist who has an unusual theory of how the sense of smell works, which could either net him a Nobel Prize or shatter his professional reputation. James Halliday gave me his copy to read when I visited him in the Yarra last March - the importance of this topic for wine appreciation is clear. It's on sale at just £1!

Also selling for just a quid is the Winemaker's essential phrasebook, an innovative project headed up by young Barossa winemaker James March, under the watchful eye of Halliday. It has each phrase translated into each of the key wine languages - handy for when you want to tell your Portuguese cellar rat to microoxygenate tank number 3 after punching down the Pinot Noir in the open fermenter on the left.


Thursday, March 08, 2007

Hugh's book, cheap

Just a plug for Hugh Johnson's A life uncorked, which is now available in paperback for just £5.99 in the UK through Amazon here. I reckon this is a must read.


Thursday, February 02, 2006

Wine Science reviewed

Wine Science (or The Science of Wine, as it is known on the other side of the Atlantic) has been reviewed again, this time by US publication Wine Enthusiast (pictured). It reads thus:

"In The Science of Wine, British writer Jamie Goode has done a fantastic job presenting balanced, approachable yet technical essays on many of the major issues in winemaking and appreciation. Ranging from the scientific basis for terroir to a discussion of the effects of micro-oxygenation (still poorly understood) and an examination of the medical evidence of wine's effects on health (both pros and cons), Goode's readable prose makes even the most technical subjects accessible. For anyone interested in more than just drinking wine, this is a must read." --Joe Czerwinski

It's so nice to have such positive feedback. But what about bad reviews? Do they sting? I hope I don't find out.

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