January is the 6th installment of the virtual Wine Book Club. The topic of this month’s Wine Book Club is ‘Notes on a Cellar-Book‘ by George Saintsbury, edited by Thomas Pinney, published by University of California Press, $29.95. Saintsbury (1845 – 1933) was a journalist, editor, Professor of Literature, and opinionated wine afficianado.
I first have to say that Saintsbury’s resemblance to Dumbledore is uncanny. I’m convinced that JK Rowling fashioned Dumbledore after Saintsbury.
This was a tough read, had a lot of difficulty staying engaged – perhaps because I’m afflicted with SASD (Short Attention Span Disorder). If I were to describe the book in one word it would be disjointed. Reminds me of a North Carolina wine I had at the Charlotte airport when first reading this book – some interesting aspects, but disjointed and choppy.
The inside front flap of the book jacket provides the following description, “A collection of tasting notes, menus and robust opinions…”. Definitely a number of “robust opinions and menus,” but I seemed to miss the “tasting notes.” Throughout ‘Notes’ Saintsbury referenced wines from back in his day, ’52, ’62, ’64, ’71 (that’s 1852, 1862, 1864,…) and I found myself wanting to know how these wines tasted. I would have really appreciated Saintsbury’s detailed insights in to the sensory pleasures and tastes of the wines he enjoyed.
Despite the fact that I wasn’t able to stay fully engaged in this book and jumped around from section to section, much like Saintsbury’s writings – I did like ‘Notes.’ I apprecite the history and context Saintsbury provided. I plan on keeping this book in my nightstand along side ‘Jefferson on Wine’ for occasional night reading and reference. Every couple of months, I feel compelled to connect with the origins of wine in America so I open up ‘Jefferson on Wine‘ and end up reading it several nights in a row, and then don’t touch it again for months. ‘Notes on a Cellar-Book‘ will assume a similar place on my late night reference and reading list when I want to reflect on an earlier, simpler time of wine.
Want to learn about wine? I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this book as a general learning tool. Want to read the ruminations of a cerebral dude that drank a lot of First Growths back in the day sprinkled with interesting historical insights? Get this book – it will make an excellent reference book and addition to your collection.