Book Review: The Wild Vine – Todd Kliman

Title: The Wild Vine: A Forgotten Grape and the Untold Story of American Wine
Author: Todd Kliman
ISBN: 9780307409362
Pages: 288
Release Date: May 4, 2010
Publisher: Clarkson Potter
Genre: Non-Fiction, History
Source: Amazon Vine
Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary:

In this book, Todd Kliman traces the history of the Norton grape, a 19th-century American hybrid strain that is disease resistant and very well suited to the weather and growing conditions outside temperate California.  The Norton also produced award-winning wine, but then somehow disappeared almost completely.  Kliman looks at the grape’s origins, as well as what happened to it, and where it might stand now.

Review:

I’ve really enjoyed the few books I’ve read on wine, so when I first heard about Todd Kliman’s The Wild Vine, I was really excited.  I also appreciated that Kliman is the food and wine editor for Washingtonian magazine, a DC area magazine that I enjoy and subscribe to.  I was excited to read about the Norton and a little local Virginia history.

However, Virginia history isn’t exactly what I got, and I was pleasantly surprised.  Kliman uncovers the history (and repeated failures) of American wine making in this book.  It was not in Virginia, but in Missouri that the Norton actually flourished.  I had no idea there were even vineyards in Missouri!  It was very eye opening and provided a lot of history.  The most intriguing aspect of the book was the effects of Prohibition on the wine industry.  I can’t get the image of federal inspectors rampaging across the country and ripping out grape vines out of my head.  Kliman researched The Wild Vine well, giving us both past and present day looks at the Norton grape.

The Wild Vine moves quickly, never stopping in one place long enough for the book to become dry.  Kliman’s style is engaging and he keeps the reader interested in the narrative.  It also helps that this book is so many things at once – a history lesson, a biography of a grape, a biography of the different winemakers who pursued the Norton, past and present.  The author successfully rolls all of these into one book.

If you’re interested in the history of wine at all, you should definitely consider picking up The Wild Vine.  I enjoyed reading it, and now am determined to find a Norton wine at my local wine store!

Comments

  1. Well this sounds interesting……thanks for bringing it to my attention

  2. Well this sounds interesting……thanks for bringing it to my attention

  3. Hmm, sounds like a great gift idea for my mother! I’m glad the pacing keeps up- I often find that nonfiction suffers in that regard.

  4. Hmm, sounds like a great gift idea for my mother! I’m glad the pacing keeps up- I often find that nonfiction suffers in that regard.

  5. My mom and step-father have been making wine for years, so I bet they would just love this book. I am going to have to grab a copy for them soon. Thanks for the heads up on this one!

  6. My mom and step-father have been making wine for years, so I bet they would just love this book. I am going to have to grab a copy for them soon. Thanks for the heads up on this one!

  7. I can see that vineyards would do well in Missouri. We’re too far south to have many around here.

  8. I can see that vineyards would do well in Missouri. We’re too far south to have many around here.

  9. I’ve been wanting to learn more about wines, so I’ll keep this book in mind.

  10. I’ve been wanting to learn more about wines, so I’ll keep this book in mind.

  11. Missouri does indeed have a wine country! And it’s pretty tasty, too. There’s a stretch of highway along the Missouri River (not too far from St. Louis, actually) where there are a ton of wineries. This area was settled primarily by German immigrants, and the climate of the area apparently reminded them of home.

  12. Missouri does indeed have a wine country! And it’s pretty tasty, too. There’s a stretch of highway along the Missouri River (not too far from St. Louis, actually) where there are a ton of wineries. This area was settled primarily by German immigrants, and the climate of the area apparently reminded them of home.

  13. 204 Norton vineyards today in 23 states, but in most cases you have to visit the winery for purchases and in some instances these wines can be sent to you via UPS or FedEx. I suspect most people have to develop a taste for Norton wines. Not only do they have to age for four to eight years in bottle because of the strong tannins, they need to breathe for no less than 30 minutes. Because of malic acid inherent in these wines, the first sip will be “sharp”, the second will settle down your mouth’s senses, etc. Norton (Cynthiana) wines can be found throughout the midwest-and-Southeast. After tasting almost 90 Norton wines, the best Norton wines found so far: Three Sister (GA); White Oaks (AL); Century Farms (TN); Elk Creek (KY); Cooper (VA); Stone Mountain Cellars (PA), Blumenhof, Heinrichshaus, Stone Hill’s Cross J, Adam Puchta, and Robller (MO). Have fun exploring America’s only true varietal grape worthy of making a wine which reflects our character.

  14. 204 Norton vineyards today in 23 states, but in most cases you have to visit the winery for purchases and in some instances these wines can be sent to you via UPS or FedEx. I suspect most people have to develop a taste for Norton wines. Not only do they have to age for four to eight years in bottle because of the strong tannins, they need to breathe for no less than 30 minutes. Because of malic acid inherent in these wines, the first sip will be “sharp”, the second will settle down your mouth’s senses, etc. Norton (Cynthiana) wines can be found throughout the midwest-and-Southeast. After tasting almost 90 Norton wines, the best Norton wines found so far: Three Sister (GA); White Oaks (AL); Century Farms (TN); Elk Creek (KY); Cooper (VA); Stone Mountain Cellars (PA), Blumenhof, Heinrichshaus, Stone Hill’s Cross J, Adam Puchta, and Robller (MO). Have fun exploring America’s only true varietal grape worthy of making a wine which reflects our character.

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