Text Size:-+

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Prial has plucked pieces from across the years, which means some are out of date.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 (6)

11.21.14 at 12:14 PM

I know all the players effectively and I will certainly constantly prepare to assist them in any way I can.

11.21.14 at 12:58 PM

Coming to the breathtakingly stunning Biniparrell cricket ground
is constantly similar to dying and going to heaven for any cricket
lover; the smell of freshly cut yard transferred
me back to the days in England when weekends and frequently midweek
nights included wall to wall cricket... happiness!

11.21.14 at 1:53 PM

I'll immediately seize your rss feed as I can not to find your email subscription hyperlink or e-newsletter service.
Do you have any? Kindly permit me realize so that I could subscribe.

11.22.14 at 6:41 AM

Salou takes the crown for the liveliest of all the resorts, packing its major street with neon lights,
continuous delighted hours, British-style bars, karaoke
bars and discos. Or head to the comprehensive strip
of disco bars and coffee shops which run parallel to the beach in La Pineda.

Its design enables for carrying heaps of add-ons like snow footwear, a wind breaker or other hotter jackets and has a
neat fleece lined goggle pocket which stops the goggle from fogging up.
The fleece guards the lens from scratches specially
through tumbles and falls. It also has a helmet pocket
which can make carrying the helmet about pretty headache absolutely free.

I identified these truffles terrible, I permit them
stand for 4hrs it did not business up appropriately.
I place them in the refrigerator for 2hrs they firmed up slightly, but not plenty of to roll.
I place them in the freezer until the upcoming working day.

For the dough: in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk
the egg yolks, complete egg, sugar, butter, and buttermilk.
Increase about 2 cups of the flour alongside with the
yeast and salt whisk right up until moistened and mixed.
Remove the whisk attachment and exchange with a dough hook.

Leather skirts are as well-known as they have ever been. And the purpose is probably due to the fact they
are a multipurpose merchandise of apparel.
For instance, they differ in duration from micro to mini to just higher than the knee to
underneath the knee. In a selection of circumstances, the software of leather-based was even extended to trousers
and equipment as nicely. Leather-based pants have been then regarded as to be
incredibly hot and women ended up also prompt
to go by this advancement. Black leather-based pants with belts that experienced whopping shiny buckles became a style statement particularly with the youth..

There is no cause in any respect for Lois Lane, who admittedly showed
up for five days of school, to anticipate to be remembered as a student there.
Certain, Lois was a armed forces brat, so she grabs on to the Smallville
High element of her daily life and most likely romanticizes it for extra than it was, but I know the clever Lois Lane would by no means count on a
team of young adults who realized each and every other for the very first
18 years of their life to keep in mind considerably if everything about the five
times they may or may not have viewed some new chick wandering the halls.
I know this is heading to sound nit picky to some of you, but it details
like this that bug the dwelling Blue Kryptonite out of me.

Kassandra wrote:
11.23.14 at 11:21 PM

The island was awarded the George Cross for its heroic resistance throughout
the 2nd World War.

Comment on this entry

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

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

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 Vinography Images: Hazy Afternoon

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.