Untrodden Grapes

Ralph Steadman, Author . Harcourt $35 (246p) ISBN 978-0-15-101167-4

Steadman, illustrator of several of Hunter S. Thompson's gonzo narratives, also has a reputation in the world of wine—which is no contradiction, as he thinks of himself as "a romantic and a lifetime supporter of the maverick tradition in all fields of human activity." In this volume, which follows his well-received Grapes of Ralph , he wanders to notable vineyards in California, Chile, Spain, France, Italy and South Africa for a look at their grapes and wine-making techniques. Steadman chats with the owners, eyes their dogs, tastes their wines and takes notes, which frequently meander into fond digressions on unusual oenophilic practices. Still, it's Steadman's sketches that make the book: vertiginous mountain vineyards; splotchy caricatures of idiosyncratic vintners; lumpy, mustachioed villagers (male and female); even a brief album of wine dogs, "grand cru mutts." Although he's designed many wine labels himself, Steadman's no label snob; indeed, he rails against "the rigid aristocracy of fine appellation" and misses the "good, bad old days" when you could decant a nice Roussillon into your own jug straight from a pump at the wine cooperative. Readers dithering over the right bottle to surprise a wine-loving friend with might do better to shop at the bookstore for a Steadman instead. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 10/10/2005
Release date: 11/01/2005
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