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Cookbook of the day – Sauternes

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Sauternes

by Bernard Ginestet

Publisher:Jacques Legrand S.A. Paris ©1990

ISBN-  0-582-07544-0

ISBN- 2-905969-39-3

This is a book that you might have to dig for. It’s a mostly European-distributed book from the series Bernard Ginestet’s Guide to the Vineyards of France. It was translated by John Meredith and has a foreword by Nicholas Faith, who points out that, Unfortunately, the French edition went to press before Bernard could discuss the biggest single revolution in the history of the great sweet wines of the bands of the Ciron: the way in which the technique of cryo-extraction has swept the vineyard, even such vineyards as Chateau d’Yquem, in the past few years.

Other than that topic, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better discussion of the wine history of the region as well as a rundown of the chateaux of Sauternes, down to a discussion of the soil composition . Most get at least a cursory examination, some very extensive discussions, and at the very least, a listing of the various statistics and whether or not they allow visits.

There’s a great map of the region, color-coded according to soil type. The photo on the cover shows a typical bunch of grapes which clearly shows the contrast between “healthy” grapes and the raisinesque botytris-attacked “raisins”. There is a comprehensive discussion about botrytis and Ginestet would seem to hope that the popular term “noble rot” disappear from the lexicon. In fact, he points out that this isn’t what we normally would call “rot”, as it doesn’t attack dead tissue but living, healthy grapes. The grapes end up getting picked in two different categories of decrepitude, shrivelled and dessicated. This necessitates constant pickings, and the price of the product is a reflection of this reality.

You get a detailed report on the meteorology of the region as you would expect from a book covering a French region, as dependent on terroir as they are.

The language is what you expect from translated French, lugubrious and academic. It achieves this without becoming treacly or haughty. There are copious photographs, which give you a sense of the culture of the region. There are even 5 “savory dishes” recipes from regional chefs in French; recipes that utilize Sauternes in the dish.

I don’t recommend this book for people only getting into wine. This is for the intermediate wine enthusiast or better. It’s not that it’s above the head of a beginner, it just goes into more detail about a small but significant region of French wine, a region that the beginner might not even encounter, as most restaurants don’t even offer a Sauternes on their wine list. Additionally, it’s not a common book and might be difficult to find at a decent price (I was lucky enough to find mine for $3.00 – would I have piad $20 for it? Probably not, although for a wine expert it would be worth the price).

Botrytis