Sunday, August 16, 2009
I hope you have had time to read a few books and see a couple of interesting movies this summer. I would like to mention one of each, both relevant to lovers of wine and food.
When I picked up The Billionaire's Vinegar by Benjamin Wallace, I was skeptical of the story's ability to hold my attention. It is the story of the most expensive bottle of wine ever sold, and the circumstances surrounding the sale. It just did not seem to me that there was enough story here to make a book. I am happy to report that I was wrong. It is an interesting, fast read involving history, mystery, crime and the clash of personalities. It reads like a novel, in the same way books like The Perfect Storm and Into Thin Air do. The characters, many of whom will be familiar to wine lovers (Michael Broadbent, Marvin Shanken, Jancis Robinson), are well-developed and engaging. The reader will get a look into how wine appreciation came to be viewed as a pretentious endeavor. The exorbitant, over-the-top, competitiveness of both the collectors and sellers of wine will make the average wine lover's head spin. One does not have to be a wine aficionado to enjoy the book. It's a good, well-written story.
Last night I watched The Future of Food, a documentary by Deborah Koons Garcia, widow of Jerry Garcia, of the Grateful Dead. The film discusses the history, legality and science of genetically modified foods. It gives a highly critical look at the agribusiness giant, Monsanto and the government agencies that are supposed to be regulating it. (Monsanto is a bio-tech company that has created and patented genetically modified organisms. For more info visit Monsanto's web site and the Organic Consumers' Association's site Millions Against Monsanto and form your own opinion.) The film also brings up the legal issues surrounding patenting living organisms and labelling of foods containing GMOs. It is not an unbiased look at these practices; in fact, no one from Monsanto, or any pro-GMO scientists are interviewed. The intent of the movie is to expose and bash GMOs; it does that well. Whether you agree or disagree with Garcia (I happen to agree), it is a thought-provoking movie that should move you to research the subject more.
Next week's post will be from Spain - if I have time!