Manga Sommeliers and Suitcase Clones
Two good articles in the New York Times yesterday on wine. The first is on the Japanese manga sensation "The Drops of the Gods," which is a comic book drama about wine tasting with its heroes and anti-heroes being sommeliers. I'd been hearing about the books for quite some time before I finally saw a few copies in a bookstore in Burgundy a few months ago. The works have yet to be translated in English, but there they were in French, which I could generally follow. I stood for 15 minutes in the bookstore, trying to figure out what this wine-soaked melodrama was about. Apparently they are quite the tastemakers.
The other article is by Eric Asimov and takes on the subject of so-called "suitcase clones" or illegal vine cuttings taken from famous vineyards and then smuggled through customs to be planted in American soil without having to go through the mandatory years of USDA quarantine (to make sure the vines are virus-free). Asimov--who is a friend and also wrote the forward to my Pinot Noir book, which is due out next spring, has in my opinion become the best wine writer the Times has ever had. His work is incredibly thoughtful, his taste impeccable and he has a nose for the trends. While this piece is informative, it doesn't have enough space to get to the real nitty gritty. I completely agree with the critics he cites that most new world Pinot is boring because of clonal homogeneity. I disagree with Asimov that suitcase clones are overrated. We will see in the coming years that people who have unique clones, such as the suitcase vineyard of Rhys or the heritage clone discovered and propagated in Oregon by Tony Soter will end up making the wines that stand out from the crowd.