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Blejowski

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Interesting but sensationalist and one-sided

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-10-2018

The book looks into the shadier sides of the French wine industry (though mainly Bordeaux), from a multitude of different angles, and by the end, it's easy to find yourself thinking twice about buying French wine ever again. I was startled to learn just how rampant and unregulated pesticide use is in French wine (which often has far greater toxin levels than would ever be allowed in food). And I was dismayed to hear how hostile the mainstream winemakers are to organic winemakers, even when their own pesticides were shown to have caused serious illnesses (including cancer) to local farmers and residents. Also eye-opening was how cynically some ultra-prestigious chateaus can allow politics to eclipse the actual wine itself (even when you'd think that the reputation of their region's wines would be among their most precious assets). Like, for example, when influential winemakers rigged the appellation scoring system to require a fancy above-ground cellar, just so that a certain competitor wouldn't qualify (because his cellar was a traditional underground one, and his land was already full to the brim of, you know, vines). Or how rampantly Bordeaux is bending to the whims of Chinese investors, many of whom are just out to make a quick buck, and not always ethically. For example, some of the Chinese companies buying up prestigious Bordeaux Chateaus are apparently doing it just to own rights the label....so that the French can't sue them when they use that label it to sell counterfeit (Argentine) wine. So I was left with a set of strong impressions from the book, but it's hard to really know how accurate this impression is, as the book is very one-sided, and makes only the barest pretence of impartiality. Most of the people who appear in the book are quickly cast as either hero or villain, and most anecdotes are clearly meant to serve the preconceived David-and-Goliath narrative, rather than offer nuance or depth. Sometimes the narrative isn't even logically cohesive, as the author tries to have her cake and eat it too. For example, in one chapter, a winemaker who endorses using oak chips so that even people who buy $5 wines can enjoy oak flavours is cast as some sort of contemptuous aristocrat set on maintaining class divide ("so, in other words, oak barrels are for the rich, while oak chips are for the rest!"). Meanwhile, in another chapter, a Bordeaux winemaker's struggle to progress from 2nd Cru level to Premier Cru level (so that he can charge prohibitively astronomical prices for his wine, instead of merely ludicrously high ones) is portrayed as a hard-done-by underdog valiantly fighting The Man. Still, if you don't go into this book expecting strong journalism, there's a lot of interesting stuff to be taken away from it, albeit with a grain of salt. The narrator is convincingly engaged in the text, and her French pronunciation is (from what I can tell) very good.

Well written and well read, if a little meandering

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-10-2018

Among the better wine books on audible, and I've listened to several of them. The author is likeable and a skilled writer. He's good at describing wines intricately and colourfully, without getting pompous or dry at all. The book feels as much a travelogue as a wine book, and sometimes he goes off on non-wine related tangents, like a prolonged section about blueberry risotto, for example. Other sections are also a bit undisciplined, like the Riesling section, where he hammers the same basic point (people think Riesling is too sweet, but it often isn't) for a good half hour. Overall, though, a good listen.

  • Extreme Wine
  • Searching the World for the Best, the Worst, the Outrageously Cheap, the Insanely Overpriced, and the Undiscovered
  • By: Mike Veseth
  • Narrated by: John Badila

good overall. Dodgy narrator.

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
1 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 30-08-2018

An entertaining and well-written book that is neither pretentious nor irreverent. It treats its subject matter respectfully but with a sense of fun, enjoying the world of wine for both its exquisite richness and its occasional silliness. The narrator leaves a lot to be desired, though. His tone feels wooden, and I suspected for the first few minutes that he might be a computerised voice (though I don't think so - occasional breathing or lip-smacking sounds are audible). I grew used to the voice, and didn't mind it well, though he never really felt like he connected to the prose he was reading. His disconnection to the material becomes particularly grevious when he gets to the section about the famous 1980s 'antifreeze' scandal. As anyone who's heard about this scandal knows, it involved Austria (and, indirectly, Germany). Yet the author repeatedly says "Australia". Not just once or twice, but a dozen or so times throughout the section, including the section title, referring to the "Australian antifreeze scandal" that crippled the "Australian wine industry" and so on. Since both Austria and Australia are significant wine-producing countries, this is more than a quirky blooper, but is downright misleading. I'm assuming that the blame lies with the narrator, and not in the original text. Though I suppose either way, it speaks poorly of narrator, author and publisher that such a repetitive and sloppy mistake could make it through to the end product. It unfortunately makes me less willing to trust the rest of the narration.

Comprehensive and full of useful info.

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-08-2018

Covers just about every aspect of wine you'd want to know about, in a detailed but approachable way. My main criticism is that too much time was spent on going through the many wine regions, without always having much of substance to say. It sometimes felt like a tedious geography lesson as he catalogues region after region, often with little to say about the wines themselves other than 'the wines here are good; the wines there are mediocre.' I also sometimes felt that he sometimes (understandably) had limited knowledge of certain more fringe wine regions or grapes. For example, in the section about South Africa he recommended people avoid Pinotages as he found them to be harsh or too tannic. I don't presume to have half the skilled palette he does, but I really think that he just hadn't tried many, or had a couple of bad bottles. When I was in South Africa, I drank a lot of Pinotage, and whatever else you might criticise it for, being harsh or tannic just doesn't seem right. It frequently has notes of banana or chocolate - hardly harsh qualities - and one of the reasons I drank it so much is because I found it less harsh and tannic than cabernet sauvignon, which I often dislike for that reason (but which he praises, as of course most wine lovers do). This makes me less confident about what he has to say about other lesser-known regions. So I wish he had taken a less completionist approach, but spent more time on those regions he really knew a lot about. His chapters about France, for example, were excellent. I also would have liked more depth about the various grapes. He devotes just one chapter to them, and ends up whizzing through them a bit. Overall though, I really enjoyed it and learnt a lot. Yes, as another reviewer mentioned, his mic picks up a lot of mouth noises, but it didn't really bother me, and I actually tend to be hypersensitive to things like that. Listen to the sample and if you can handle that, you'll have no problem. He actually has a very pleasant demeanour, and I found him very likeable indeed. Definitely recommended.

1 person found this helpful

Goodbye Adam Sims. I'll miss you.

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
2 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-01-2018

Overall, the story is as captivating as the other books. Though I found elements of the case solution to be uncharacteristically guessable, and with an annoyingly glaring plot hole. The new narrator is ok, but lacks continuity with Adam Sims' excellent characterisations. Characters like Beauvoir have drastically lost or altered personalities in the transition. Much of the overall Quebecois/Canadian nuance is lost on the British narrator, who voices all characters in British and reads French phrases with unconvincing French pronunciation. Most female characters are voiced in the same way, except, thankfully, Ruth, whose voice is as delightfully caustic as before.

1 person found this helpful