An Ideal Wine by David Darlington

One Generation's Pursuit of Perfection – and Profit

By Charles Lewis
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An Ideal Wine by David Darlington

An Ideal Wine by David Darlington [©HarperCollins Publishers]


An Ideal Wine is an engaging book on the emergence and growth of the Californian wine industry from the 1970s on, principally through the eyes of Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon fame.

Grahm is well known in America, where he has been described as ‘the court jester and bleeding conscience of Californian wine’. He and a group of fellow idealists established their vineyards in the days when beer was more popular than wine. Their story is related by David Darlington, author of the acclaimed Angel’s Visits.

It is an innovative, interesting and humorous approach to wine and business, with many interesting lessons for those involved in wine throughout the world today.

Grahm started work in the Californian wine business with the idealistic aim to produce fine wine that speaks a place, only to be confronted, when volumes and competition increased, with the hard edge of commercial reality.

As wine eclipsed beer in popularity, big business moved in, and the rise of the powerful wine critic began. To survive, they had to be quick-witted and innovative.

There are tales of vision and disillusionment, the searches for excellence and failure, of idealism and pragmatism, in an industry that brings out the best and worst in people.

What makes an ideal wine? This question is mooted in depth, and the technical aspects of growing and making the ideal wine (assuming it can be defined!) are discussed in detail. Each of the growers and makers has their own way.

But far from being a dry academic tome, An Ideal Wine is entertaining, and at times extremely humorous.

Grahm is clearly an eccentric ­– one of his many brainchildren was the label Cardinal Zin, and who else would think of holding a funeral for the cork at New York Central Station – and I have never laughed so much over tasting descriptions in my life.

But Grahm does not want to be remembered for his marketing stunts or wit, he wants his epitaph to be his fine wines, and in this book he shows us the path that he has followed towards achieving his own holy grail.

It's a fascinating book that's hard to put down due to its wide engaging narrative. If you're interested in wine this is a great read.


An Ideal Wine by David Darlington is published by Harper Collins Publishers (New York, 2011; hb,356 pp) and retails in Australia for RRP A$37.95. and WinePros Archive subscribers can click here to purchase An Ideal Wine from our book partners Seekbooks at 12.5% discount off RRP (postage extra).



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November 07th, 2011
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