Text Size:-+
11.16.2007

Book Review: Decantations, by Frank Prial

decantations_cover.jpgReview by Derrick Schneider.

Frank Prial’s New York Times wine articles educated and entertained subscribers for more than 25 years. His small piece of the Dining section whisked readers into historic chateaux, through renowned vineyards, and into hearing range of the business’s most interesting people.

Food and wine lovers no doubt looked forward to his articles, but they were ephemeral works destined to be the next day’s birdcage liner. Devotees can now trawl through the Times’ online archives to find them, but they might prefer to pick up Decantations: Reflections on Wine by The New York Times Wine Critic which binds together “his finest columns,” according to the back cover.

Newbies and experts alike will find solid information in these articles, which range from winemaking to wine writing. Prial has a journalist’s eye for detail and focus, drilling down on his subject while providing context for the average reader. His essay on the 1855 Classification of Bordeaux wines, for instance, reels in France’s desire to compete with England, earlier attempts at classifying the region’s wines, and the influence of the Rothschilds while never failing to explain how the classification works and its modern-day problems. In every piece, he writes with a newspaperman’s Spartan prose: There’s no florid wine-writer-ese here, just a minimalist’s simple, direct sentences. Of preparing for harvest at Bordeaux’s Château Margaux, he writes, “Picking at Château Margaux began on September 16, a Saturday. Spirits were high. It had been a spectacular summer for grapes in Bordeaux, hot and dry. If the rain held off, it could be a very fine year, even spectacular.” Short sentences, a little bit of internal rhyme, and a flowing rhythm are typical of his writing.

But in the end, the book format doesn’t work. In a daily newspaper read by a large, general audience, small digressions that give a reader background make sense. In a book, that same digression becomes a constant refrain as each piece, one after the other, includes it.

And while the Dining section imposed a short space on Prial, the pieces in the book feel abrupt — good for a commute, perhaps, but almost like staccato shots in a longer tome. Just as you feel like you’ve settled in for a long story, it ends.

Prial has plucked pieces from across the years, which means some are out of date. Winemakers have moved on, large corporations have bought small wineries, and new wine regions have opened up. Randall Grahm is no longer imagining a far-off day when he might explore biodynamic wines, as he was in 1998; he recently sold off his large brands and is bringing all his remaining vineyards into biodynamic practices. In 1992, “only the most optimistic vintners expect English wine to ever be more than a marginal agricultural endeavor”; today’s higher temperatures have begun to move English wine out of the fringes. All these anachronisms might be okay if the publishers hadn’t made a fatal design mistake. They appended the run date to each piece, rather than printing it at the head of the article. Instead of going into a piece thinking, “Ah, this was written in 1989,” you find yourself flipping to the end when you’re midway through in order to figure out when Prial wrote the piece. That simple choice provides a constant distraction.

Frank Prial is one of the most influential wine writers of the last few decades, and despite their frustrating brevity and occasional anachronism, these essays show a masterful hand. Read them on your commute, while standing in line, or whenever you have a little time that you want to fill with wine.

Frank Prial, Decantations: Reflections on Wine by The New York Times Wine Critic, St. Martin’s Green, 2002, $14.95 (trade paperback). Buy it online from Cody's.


Derrick Schneider is a freelance writer and the publisher of the blog An Obsession With Food.

Comments (2)

11.26.14 at 4:29 AM

Its style and design permits for carrying lots
of accessories like snow shoes, a wind breaker or other warmer jackets and has a neat fleece lined goggle pocket which
stops the goggle from fogging up. The fleece protects
the lens from scratches primarily in the course of tumbles and falls.

It also has a helmet pocket which tends to make carrying the helmet all over really trouble no cost.


I discovered these truffles awful, I enable them stand for 4hrs it did not firm up effectively.
I place them in the fridge for 2hrs they firmed up a little,
but not adequate to roll. I set them in the freezer
until the following working day. For the dough: in the bowl of a stand
mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg yolks,
whole egg, sugar, butter, and buttermilk. Include around 2 cups of the flour along with the
yeast and salt whisk until eventually moistened and mixed.
Take away the whisk attachment and replace with a dough hook.


Leather skirts are as common as they have at any time been. And the cause is likely
mainly because they are a multipurpose merchandise of garments.
For illustration, they differ in length from micro to mini to
just over the knee to underneath the knee. In a amount of scenarios, the application of leather-based was even prolonged to trousers and equipment as very well.

Leather trousers were then deemed to be scorching and ladies have been also instantaneous to go by this improvement.

Black leather pants with belts that experienced whopping shiny buckles grew to become
a manner assertion specifically with the youth..


There is no explanation by any means for Lois Lane, who admittedly showed up for 5 days of university, to count on to be remembered
as a pupil there. Certain, Lois was a military brat,
so she grabs on to the Smallville Large portion of her existence and potentially romanticizes it for
more than it was, but I know the good Lois Lane would hardly
ever be expecting a team of younger older people who knew each and every other for the very first 18 years of their
life to try to remember substantially if just about anything about the
five days they may or may well not have seen some new chick wandering
the halls. I know this is going to audio nit picky
to some of you, but it details like this that bug the residing Blue Kryptonite
out of me.

Its structure allows for carrying plenty of accessories like snow shoes, a wind breaker or other hotter jackets and has a neat fleece lined goggle pocket which stops the goggle from fogging up.
The fleece protects the lens from scratches primarily during tumbles and falls.
It also has a helmet pocket which helps make carrying the helmet all over
really problem absolutely free.

I observed these truffles terrible, I enable them stand for 4hrs it did not agency up thoroughly.
I set them in the fridge for 2hrs they firmed up a bit,
but not plenty of to roll. I place them in the freezer till the following working day.

For the dough: in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment,
whisk the egg yolks, full egg, sugar, butter, and
buttermilk. Increase approximately 2 cups of
the flour together with the yeast and salt whisk till moistened and merged.

Get rid of the whisk attachment and replace with a dough hook.


Leather skirts are as popular as they have at any time been. And
the motive is likely mainly because they are a versatile
item of apparel. For case in point, they fluctuate in duration from
micro to mini to just previously mentioned the knee to beneath the knee.
In a variety of circumstances, the application of leather was even extended to pants and extras
as properly. Leather trousers were then regarded as to be scorching and ladies have been also prompt
to go by this improvement. Black leather pants with belts that had whopping shiny buckles turned a manner assertion especially with the youth..


There is no cause whatsoever for Lois Lane, who admittedly confirmed up for
five times of faculty, to count on to be remembered as a student there.
Sure, Lois was a armed service brat, so she grabs
on to the Smallville High component of her lifetime and
possibly romanticizes it for more than it was, but I know the
intelligent Lois Lane would in no way be expecting a group of
younger grown ups who understood each and every other for the to start with 18 decades of their
lives to recall significantly if nearly anything about the five days they may
or may possibly not have observed some new chick wandering
the halls. I know this is likely to seem nit picky to some of you, but it particulars like this that bug the living Blue Kryptonite
out of me.

Comment on this entry

(will not be published)
(optional -- Google will not follow)
Yes
 

Type the characters you see in the picture above.

Buy My Book!

small_final_covershot_dropshadow.jpg A wine book like no other. Photographs, essays, and wine recommendations. Learn more.

Follow Me On:

Twitter Facebook Pinterest Instagram Delectable Flipboard

Most Recent Entries

Putting a Cork in Your Thanksgiving Wine Anxiety Plumbing the Depths of Portugal: A Tasting Journey Vinography Images: Rain at Last The Mysterious Art of Selling Direct Critical Consolidation in Wine What Has California Got Against Wineries? Dirty Money for a Legendary Brand Vinography Images: Tendrils Highlights from Tasting Champagne with the Masters Off to Portugal for a Drink

Favorite Posts From the Archives

Masuizumi Junmai Daiginjo, Toyama Prefecture Wine.Com Gives Retailers (and Consumers) the Finger 1961 Hospices de Beaune Emile Chandesais, Burgundy Wine Over Time The Better Half of My Palate 1999 Királyudvar "Lapis" Tokaji Furmint, Hungary What's Allowed in Your Wine and Winemaking Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Appreciating Wine in Context The Soul vs. The Market 1989 Fiorano Botte 48 Semillion,Italy

Archives by Month

 

Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.