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