30 Jun

Review by Tamlyn Currin on Jancis Robinson’s Website

http://www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/book-reviews-2015-africa-china-and-an-ebook

JR

Written by Tamlyn Currin 7 Jan 2016

The Wines and Winemakers of Languedoc-Roussillon
Gorley’s Guide 2 – vineyards, people and places of the wilder south of France – by Peter Gorley – Hamilton John Publishing
£12.99, $18.99 as an ibook, and as a pdf

Just one ebook this year – quite surprising, in this digital era of ours. Richard has many interesting observations to make on ebooks and wine books in general that he will be sharing soon, but there is a smidgeon of irony in the fact that the only ebook that landed on my desk was written by one of the older authors in this crop (no offence, Mr Gorley!).

What didn’t surprise me, however, was to read the following in the opening lines: ‘When I was writing the first edition of my Guide, the UK’s celebrated wine writer Jancis Robinson MW (and now OBE) suggested I put it up on the Internet. That was in the year 2000. It’s taken me 15 years to follow her good advice!’

This is the second edition of Gorley’s guide to the Languedoc-Roussillon. The first one was a ring-bound paperback published in 2002 with 150 wineries and 12 routes. This one features a whopping 500 wineries over 15 possible routes.

The 15 routes determine the structure of the book, starting with a colour-coded map to give the reader an overview of where each route is set. Gorley has neatly split the routes by area, starting with the north-east corner of the Gard, moving roughly south west through the Hérault and Aude, and finishing in the furthest corner of the Pyrénées-Orientales. Each chapter begins with a map of the area, each winery clearly labelled using a numbered key.

Gorley has a way of making you feel as though he’s whizzing you down the A9 to take you to some places that he loves. It’s written in such a chatty style, casual, unapologetically personal. He describes St-Chinian, ‘a bright blue New Holland tractor easing its way out; kids hurling themselves around a hillside doing cyclo-cross; a cycling club in bright kit whizzing by …’ and it’s as if you’re sitting in the front passenger seat of his car, listening to him rattle on about Cyril Bourgne, whose grandfather was a coffee grower in Africa, while he waves at Patricia Bettoni passing by in her elegant sunglasses at the wheel of a tractor. He also writes with quiet humour, so subtle you could easily miss it: “Alternatively, go east to Beaucaire (ignoring the cement works, though in the evening they glow rose-red …)”.

Without following too much of a strict format, the winery write-ups start with contact details (address, website and email address if they exist, and phone numbers). There is then a little story about the estate, which ranges from very detailed to little more than perfunctory – but what I find most interesting is how this book seems to be marked with kindness. Obviously he hasn’t picked wine estates that he thinks are awful, but he’s found something encouraging to say about even the slightly more ordinary estates. There are useful comments on wines tasted and others made but not tasted. Where he hasn’t been able to taste any wines, he’s included feedback from others. The tasting notes are not for a particular vintage, although he’ll usually give an indication of when they were tasted – they are obviously meant to be a more general guide as to the character and quality of each cuvée rather than a review. Gorley has wisely, I think, left any form of scoring out although it’s very obvious to see from his notes which wines he thinks are special.

The whole guide is punctuated with the photographs, some of them breathtakingly beautiful – most of them taken by Peter Gorley himself. But what I particularly loved were the stunning abstract paintings of vines and wines and landscapes done by his artist wife, Elizabeth Hannaford. How to turn a travel guide into something a little extraordinary…

…Gorley’s unrepentant love of the region shines through every page: ‘I love this wild, heretical part of France, so I can’t really be accused of objectivity’. His introduction finishes thus: ‘Note: Please use Gorley’s Guide 2 responsibly and in moderation.’ I’d counsel otherwise.

Use it to excess.

Vendanges

ELIZABETH HANNAFORD Vendanges I (Verlaine series), 10x14cm watercolour/ink on paper.
Excerpt From: Peter Gorley: “The Wines & Winemakers of Languedoc-Roussillon.” iBooks.