It's easy to fall in love with wine while talking with British wine writer Jancis Robinson. She knows everything about wine and happily shares that knowledge without the attitude you find so often among wine experts. When she stopped off in Los Angeles last week as part of a two-week swing through the United States promoting the recently published "The World Atlas of Wine, Sixth Edition" she authored with fellow Briton Hugh Johnson, she was buzzing about climate change. It took her and her assistant, Julia Harding, both Masters of Wine, two years of dogged reporting to update the atlas, she says, because the wines from nearly every region of the world have changed as a result of global warming. Whether it's "respectable wine from England" or the fact that "Germany now can reliably ripen its grapes," rising temperatures are changing wines everywhere, Robinson says. Why else would the European Union for the first time be considering a ban on chaptalization -- the practice of adding sugar to wine? Chaptalization was a necessary bit of winemaking trickery when the French climate wasn't warm enough to guarantee a successful vintage each year. Now it's hardly ever vital.
Wine criticism is Robinson's stock in trade and the reason people like me subscribe to her Purple Pages wine blog. After a book-signing at the Wine House, three dozen wine enthusiasts joined Robinson at the West L.A. retailer's upstairs dining room for a dinner prepared by chef de cuisine Todd Barrie. For each course, Robinson selected two wines that, though strikingly different from each other, were well matched for the course. In that way she made the point that food and wine pairing is an elastic concept.
Grilled shrimp wrapped in prosciutto was paired with 2004 Wittmann Scheurebe Trocken from Germany and 2001 La Monacesca Mirum Verdicchio RS from Italy. Mushroom-crusted halibut with red wine sauce was paired with 2006 Descendientes de Jose Palacios Petalos Bierzo from Spain and 2004 Neudorf Pinot Noir Moutere from New Zealand.
A venison course was paired with two more Spanish wines: a 2004 Finca Sandoval Tinto made by Victor de la Serna, one of Spain's leading wine experts, and a 2004 Venta Mazzaron Tinto de Toro de Zamora. Why so much Spanish wine? "It's not a policy. More of an accident, really," Robinson says. It's just that there are so many emerging wine regions in Spain making extraordinary wines. "It was the most difficult entry in the atlas. Things are changing there so quickly," she says. Considering that the latest edition of the atlas weighs in at 400 pages, 50 more than the previous edition, published in 2001, it's clear that wine regions around the globe are changing and growing.
"The World Atlas of Wine, Sixth Edition" by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson, (Mitchell Beazley, $50)
-- Corie Brown
Photo by Matt Prince