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Matt Kramer’s new book offers insights on wine and wine writing

The world of wine writing is filled with voices clamoring for attention, most of them claiming to be the last word or the best word or both on the latest offerings and what they mean (or should mean) to you.
There are few places to turn where a wine lover isn’t hard-pressed to feel comfortable, as if studying or simply drinking wine no longer is a pleasure but more a tedious endeavor rewarded with a pass/fail/no-hope-for-you grade. Do you focus on the flood of new vintages from around the world, do you explore what’s already on the shelves or do you dig deep into the cellars, looking for something forgotten or overlooked or simply not yet universally acclaimed?
Is there a “right” path to follow? And dare there be a voice to lead?
I would guess Matt Kramer would say no to both, although he is one of the few whose advice I would bother to heed.
Kramer has been observing and writing about wine for more than three decades, a span of time in which he’s established his voice as one of well-considered reason and insight in a profession where emotions, not intellect, often comprise the main arguments for and against a wine’s success.
A long-running contributor to Wine Spectator Magazine, columnist for the Portland Oregonian newspaper and author of several well-done books (his “Making Sense” series is worth the investment), Kramer now gathers his years of observations into a new book titled “Matt Kramer on Wine” (Sterling Publications, New York, 2010, 334 pages, hardcover, $19.95).
It’s the subtitle that gives away the farm: “A Matchless Collection of Columns, Essays, and Observations by America’s Most Original and Lucid Wine Writer.”
I’m ready to quit writing this review, for these aren’t some immoderate ad-copy hype but a rather accurate description of Kramer’s role in modern wine writing.
Kramer isn’t a fan, so to speak, but rather a sharp-eyed observer, as his book notes front and center. There’s a big difference between waving blindly the foam No. 1 finger and being able to comment clearly on what wine is, what it should be and, when necessary, where it fails both itself and the consumer.
The book is a retrospective, a hand-picked collection of what Kramer considers his best work over the past 30 years. That’s a tall order for anyone to fill, particularly someone with so much from which to choose.
Consider some of the quotes chosen at random from Kramer’s vast reservoir of wit, acerbic comments and enlightening philosophy:
– “To marvel about fine wine is not to romanticize it, but to grasp its real meaning. Fine wine, like birdsong, is fundamentally wild.”
– “The purpose of fine wine is not to give pleasure, but to give insight.”
– “My rule of thumb for old wine is this: if you can’t tell what the hell it is, it’s too old.”
– “This is the giveaway to great wine: It does all the work, yet you feel like you’re the genius.”
Of all the writers, bloggers and self-styled wine experts I read on a regular basis, Matt Kramer is one of the very few I’d really care to share a bottle of wine with, not simply to sit and listen but also to delve into his insights about the fascinating world of wine. Until then, his book “Matt Kramer on Wine” will have to fill the void.

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