Wines drunk, friends made, fortunes lost.
I promised a review of Stevens Spurrier’s book “Wine – A Way of Life”, in a previous post. I was looking forward to wine world gossip and I wasn’t disappointed. Steven clearly states that the book is not an autobiography but a memoir of his life in wine, and he’s right. The book bounces you about all over the place, following the threads and personalities that have made Steven the wine authority he has become. Those looking for a history of the wine business might find this frustrating but the insights to the people and places, as well as the wines, that have made our wine business what it is today are fascinating.
He is charmingly candid about his adventures, some more successful than others, and about the money spent, lost and occasionally gained. Like a pantomime character, you want to help by shouting ‘look out behind you’ and you see potential disaster looming as he embarks on another brilliant idea – and in hindsight so does he.
For many of his projects he was just too far ahead of his time or just not in the right place at the right time. But goodness me what a lot of places he has been.
His early adventures as an unpaid trainee, going from pillar to post at some of the most prestigious wineries of the world, would make any aspiring cellar rat’s eyes pop today.
But he certainly was in the right place at the right time in 1976 when he organised what has become known as ‘The Judgement of Paris’. Although after the sulks from the French wine trade it might not have felt so at the time.
Steven is well aware of the privilege of the places he has visited, the people he has met and wines he has tasted and he generously shares them all. Despite the years and the wines he has lost none of his wonder and enthusiasm for the ‘wine game’
He rarely dwells on those who have taken advantage of him, berating himself for a lack of business sense. Steven doesn’t seem to hold any rancour, at least nothing to make him bitter or to change his relaxed and charming demeanour.
I can’t claim that Steven introduced me to wine, but during my ‘formative’ years in Paris, straight out of university, many an evening spent at the Blue Fox (often affectionately known as ‘The Flu Box’ as the evening wore on) certainly did nothing to dissuade me from entering the business. Even now, every time I see Steven, it takes me back to those carefree times. This book will do the same for anyone fortunate to have frequented the critic’s bar and restaurant, shopped at les Caves de la Madeleine or tasted at l’Academie du Vin.
Choose wine for the mood not for the food is one of Stevens many gems, I suggest this Wine-A Way of Life will put you in the mood for a glass from Steven’s latest vinous adventure: Bride Valley.
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