Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Arboreal with Pinot Noir.

'Arboreal' is one of those books that felt special the moment I picked it up, never mind waiting until I started to read it. The cover is beautiful, it's pleasant to handle, the type is pleasing, as is the blend of essays, poetry, and photography. That royalties from sales are being donated to Common Ground which will help enable educational projects to celebrate, and connect people with, nature (aims I wholeheartedly support). Most exciting though, is the sheer range of writing to be found here.

It gathers together a variety of voices (I'm shamelessly paraphrasing from the blurb, I'll be writing a lot more about this book in the new year when I have time and energy to try and do it some justice) including those of teachers, novelists, poets, ecologists, foresters, artists, and more to explore why woods still matter and mean so much. Each contributor takes a different place as a starting point, the end result is something huge, with an embarrassment of riches when it comes to ideas. It's a spectacular book. A book that deserves something a bit special, and which, in it's own way reflects back something of the forest.

When you start to learn about wine you quickly find yourself looking at illustrations of the wine making year, having the seasonal and seasonal and weather dependent nature of the process drilled into you. Each vintage will be different, a reflection of the year that has produced it as well as the landscape. It's part of what makes it all so exciting.

Something else you learn quiet early is how excited people get by Pinot noir. It's a difficult grape to grow, thin skinned, prone to disease, and responsible for some of the greatest, as well as most expensive, wines in the world. It's the grape most likely to inspire devotees to go into poetic flights, and inspire winemakers across the globe to keep on trying until they get it right.

When they do get it right words like bewitching and seductive get thrown about, and with good reason. A good, mature, Pinot noir will smell of forest floors, maybe with a gamey note, And will taste reminiscent of cherries and raspberries. Wine made from the fruit of old vines will have a discernibly silky texture in the mouth, The tannins will be velvety - and you begin to see what I mean about the way it gets people carried away.

Unfortunately there is a lot of bad Pinot Noir around too, so this is the wine more than any other that I'd say throw some money at. It's the grape that made Burgundy famous, and where entry level wines are around £10 (in the U.K). For the same price you'll get something better from New Zealand or Chile. Ideally spend much more though.

I know (oh how I know) that many people often struggle with the idea of spending £20 or £30 on a bottle of wine to drink at home. That the same people wouldn't think twice about spending that much on a bottle of something really ordinary in a restaurant, or more on not very many drinks in a bar frankly baffles me, but never mind.

I really wish that fine wine had a more democratic image. Expense is relative, the basics of wine tasting are simple enough to get to grips with, and a good wine blossoms under a little critical attention. I'm not saying that every sip should be an intellectual exercise, but when you have something good it's worth making the effort. It's also worth making the effort to get something good.

Arboreal is available Here amongst other places.


  1. A really good pinot is a true delight, though it can be hard to convert someone once they've had a dubious one. It does seem to be one of those polarizing wines that makes you really think about what it goes with food-wise. Happily we have some really gorgeous ones over here, so -- for once! -- I don't have FOMO when I read your recommendation. ;-)

  2. You've made me crave d'Arenberg wine with that comment. One day the lure of Australian vineyards will overcome my fear of massive spiders and get me over there. Pinot noir isn't by any means my favourite grape, mostly because the bulk of examples that come my way are underwhelming, the exceptions being out of my general price range, so when I've tried them at tastings there's always a bit of frustration involved.. Once or twice I've found a really good one that isn't to expensive though and then suddenly get an inkling of what the fuss is all about. The hats the magic of wine.

  3. There is a very nice D'Arenberg pinot you'll probably never see over there (she says teasingly) and it also has a very pleasing label (important!): The Feral Fox, with grapes from very near me in the Adelaide Hills where I gather it is just cold enough for pinot.

  4. I know The Feral Fox! Odd bins sold it, and I think it's still available in the U.K. With a bit of persistence. Lovely label - we had The Lucky Lizard as well, though I can't remember if that's an Adelaide hills wine or not. All this d'Arenberg talk is bringing back some great memories. I have a stash of old bottles of Dead Arm, and might open one for Christmas now.