Wednesday, March 29, 2017


unfortunately the terribly amusing and wine-centric video of my granddaughter enjoying wine that I just posted a few moments does not work as a video. But I do most earnestly assure you that it was terribly funny and cute. You had to be there of course.

Maybe this will work:

Wine and youth

My wife just left for France today to visit some of  our grandchildren.
Here is our youngest. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Oysters & white wine

“As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.” 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Wine and Life

As Christopher Hitchens said: " It's not a coincidence that Omar Khayyam, rebuking and ridiculing the stone-faced Iranian mullahs of his time, pointed to the value of the grape as a mockery of their joyless and sterile regime."

A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread--and Thou 
Beside me singing in the Wilderness-- 
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!

Whether at Naishapur or Babylon,
Whether the Cup with sweet or bitter run, 
The Wine of Life keeps oozing drop by drop, 
The Leaves of Life keep falling one by one

And lately, by the Tavern Door agape,
Came shining through the Dusk an Angel Shape 
Bearing a Vessel on his Shoulder; and 
He bid me taste of it; and 'twas--the Grape!

The Grape that can with Logic absolute
The Two-and-Seventy jarring Sects confute:
The sovereign Alchemist that in a trice 
Life's leaden metal into Gold transmute:

Waste not your Hour, nor in the vain pursuit 
Of This and That endeavor and dispute; 
Better be jocund with the fruitful Grape 
Than sadden after none, or bitter, Fruit.

And if the Wine you drink, the Lip you press 
End in what All begins and ends in--Yes; 
Think then you are To-day what Yesterday You were--
To-morrow You shall not be less.

What, without asking, hither hurried Whence?
And, without asking, Whither hurried hence!
Oh, many a Cup of this forbidden Wine
Must drown the memory of that insolence!

Ah, make the most of what we yet may spend, 
Before we too into the Dust descend; 
Dust into Dust, and under Dust to lie 
Sans Wine, sans Song, sans Singer, and--sans End!

From The Rubaiyat. By Omar Khayyam, 1120 A.C.E.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Hitch on Wine

It is almost six years since 'Hitch' was taken from us, but his wisdom remains:

“Alcohol makes other people less tedious, and food less bland, and can help provide what the Greeks called entheos, or the slight buzz of inspiration when reading or writing. The only worthwhile miracle in the New Testament—the transmutation of water into wine during the wedding at Cana—is a tribute to the persistence of Hellenism in an otherwise austere Judaea. The same applies to the seder at Passover, which is obviously modeled on the Platonic symposium: questions are asked (especially of the young) while wine is circulated. No better form of sodality has ever been devised: at Oxford one was positively expected to take wine during tutorials. The tongue must be untied. It's not a coincidence that Omar Khayyam, rebuking and ridiculing the stone-faced Iranian mullahs of his time, pointed to the value of the grape as a mockery of their joyless and sterile regime. Visiting today's Iran, I was delighted to find that citizens made a point of defying the clerical ban on booze, keeping it in their homes for visitors even if they didn't particularly take to it themselves, and bootlegging it with great brio and ingenuity. These small revolutions affirm the human.”

Christopher Hitchens, Hitch-22: A Memoir

Friday, March 24, 2017

Deep Thoughts

As the American philosopher, Jack Handey, reminds us, we should always try to put our social obligations ahead of our personal considerations.

 “Sometimes when I reflect back on all the wine I drink, I feel shame! Then I look into the glass and think about the workers in the vineyards and all of their hopes and dreams. If I didn’t drink this wine, they might be out of work, and their dreams would be shattered. Then I say to myself, ‘It is better that I drink this wine and let their dreams come true than be selfish and worry about my liver.”
Jack Handey's Deep Thoughts

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Bordeaux or Burgundy?

“Your Honor,’ an old marquise once asked, from her end of the table to the other, ‘which do you prefer, a wine from Bordeaux or from Burgundy?’

‘Madame,’ the magistrate who was thus questioned answered in a druidic tone, ‘that is a trial in which I so thoroughly enjoy weighing the evidence that I always put off my verdict until the next week.’

Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin. The Physiology of Taste. 1852

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

More Claret!

Another English writer, Nick Harkaway, was even more enthusiastic in his praise of claret:

"I hover over the expensive Scotch and then the Armagnac, but finally settle on a glass of rich red claret. I put it near my nose and nearly pass out. It smells of old houses and aged wood and dark secrets, but also of hard, hot sunshine through ancient shutters and long, wicked afternoons in a four-poster bed. It's not a wine, it's a life, right there in the glass."

Keats and Claret

In terms of a literary pairing for Claret, nobody wrote with such enthusiasm for the wine of Bordeaux as the English poet, John Keats. In the spring of 1819, he wrote to his brother George as follows:

“Now I like Claret and whenever I can have Claret I must drink it. It is the only palate affair that I am at all sensual in. For really it is so fine. It fills the mouth, one’s mouth with a gushing freshness, then goes down cool and feverless, then you do not feel it quarrelling with your liver, no it is rather a Peace maker and lies as quiet as it did in the grape. Then it is as fragrant as the Queen Bee; and the more ethereal part of it mounts into the brain, not assaulting the cerebral apartments like a bully in a bad house looking for his whore and hurrying from door to door bouncing against the wainscot; but rather walks like Aladdin about his own enchanted palace so gently that you do not feel his step. Other wines of a heavy and spirituous nature transform a Man into a Silenus; this makes him a Hermes, and gives a Woman the soul and immortality of Ariadne for whom Bacchus always kept a good cellar of claret.”  

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Chianti and cheese

The Miami Herald published my letter to the Editor this morning.

I am the same age as our president and understand, indeed sympathize, with his late-night impulse to just be himself. How many years do I have left, I ask myself as, after checking that my wife is asleep, I thinly slice some Parmesan cheese, open a can of anchovy filets in olive oil and pour another glass of Chianti to wash them down — while skulking in the kitchen. It’s an old man’s thing — we can do stuff that young folk can’t get away with.

I might write inappropriate late-night letters to the editor of the Miami Herald, but I do not insult a previous president on Twitter or casually jeopardize our relationship with this nation’s closest allies. Only crazy people do things like that, however late it is.

Patrick Alexander, Coral Gables

Monday, March 20, 2017

Pot pairings & good cheap wine

This Sunday’s New York Times (March 19, 2017) had two unusual but very interesting articles concerning wine.

Pot & Wine Pairings: The first article featured the wine country of Sonoma California which is famous not only for the quality of its vines but also for the quality of its cannabis – which it is now legal to grow and to consume recreationally.
Taking advantage of these two home-grown pleasures and supporting the local economy, some Sonoma restaurants are now offering wine & pot pairing dinners.

"Sam Edwards, co-founder of the Sonoma Cannabis Company, charges diners $100 to $150 for a meal that experiments with everything from marijuana-leaf pesto sauce to sniffs of cannabis flowers paired with sips of a crisp Russian River chardonnay.
“It accentuates the intensity of your palate,” Mr. Edwards, 30, said of the dinners, one of which was held recently at a winery with sweeping views of the Sonoma vineyards. “We are seeing what works and what flavors are coming out.”
Read more of Thomas Fuller's article at the NYT: 

Pleasures of cheap, delicious wine:  The second article confronts wine snobs head-on by offering a detailed and well-argued defense of ‘processed’ wines. The writer, Bianca Bosker, argues that there is nothing inherently superior in natural, unadulterated, fermented grape-juice, as opposed to juice which has been processed by the wine maker. Adding everything to the wine from resin, to crushed marble or egg whites to ox-blood has been a common practice since even before the Romans. With all the technologies of the twenty-first century, wine makers are now able to reproduce all the subtle pleasures of the very best and rarest wines in cheap and accessible versions for the rest of us.
Read the full article by Bianca Bosker at NYT:

Thursday, March 16, 2017

In Vino Veritas

"The Spanish wine, my God, it is foul;  catpiss is champagne compared to this. This is the sulphurous urination of some aged horse." - D.H. Lawrence

"I rather like bad wine; one gets so bored with good wine." - Benjamin Disraeli

"Nothing makes the future look so rosy as to contemplate it through a glass of Chambertin." - Napoleon Bonaparte

"Champagne is the one thing that gives me zest when I am tired." - Brigitte Bardot

"Whenever I drink champagne I either laugh or cry...I get so emotional! I love champagne." - Tina Turner

"Champagne, if you are seeking the truth, is better than a lie detector. It encourages a man to be expansive, even reckless, while lie detectors are only a challenge to tell lies successfully. - Graham Greene

"The Americans have no liking for wine unless it is sweet." - Gustave Koerner, 1833

"I like sweet wines. My idea has always been that when you're young, you like sweet wines; and then you get sophisticated, and you drink dry white; and then you get knowledgeable, and you drink heavy reds; and then you get old, and you drink sweet again." - Sally Jessy Raphael, Wine Collector

"A man will be eloquent if you give him good wine." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Quickly, bring me a beaker of wine, so that I may wet my mind and say something clever." - Aristophanes

"Wine makes a man more pleased with himself, I do not say that it makes him more pleasing to others." - Dr. Samuel Johnson

"One of the disadvantages of wine is that it makes a man mistake words for thoughts." - Dr. Samuel Johnson

"In vino veritas - In wine there is truth." - Pliny the Elder

"If wine tells truth, - and so have said the wise, -It makes me laugh to think how brandy lies!" - Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Dr. Johnson on wine

He allowed indeed, that few people had intellectual resources sufficient to forego the pleasures of wine: they could not otherwise contrive how to fill the interval between dinner and supper.

From Boswell's Life of Johnson

What is Wine?

Wine is made from the fermented juice of fruit. Any fruit can be used to make wine and some of it is no doubt delicious. However, for the purpose of this book, our discussion of wine is limited to the fermented juice of grapes made from the Vitis vinifera vine which is native to the Eastern Mediterranean but is now planted worldwide.
Fermentation is a naturally occurring process in which the yeast found in the grapes converts the natural sugars into alcohol. The more sugar the grape contains, the higher the level of alcohol.
There are seven basic categories of wine:
  1. Red Wine: Made from dark skinned grapes when the skins remain with the juice during fermentation
  2. White Wine: Made from grapes with the (usually pale) skins removed before fermentation
  3. Rosé Wine: Made from dark skinned grapes when skins have been allowed brief contact with the juice during fermentation. Obviously, the longer the contact, the deeper the color will be
  4. Sparkling Wine: Wines which contain small bubbles of carbon-dioxide, either as a result of a secondary natural fermentation or through post-fermentation injection. The most famous come from the Champagne region of North-East France
  5. Distilled Wine: Brandy is made from fermented wines which have been distilled to 35 -60% alcohol and the name comes from the Dutch word brandewijn —‘burnt wine’. The best known brandies are Cognac and Armagnac, two regions in South-West France
  6. Fortified Wine: Made from fermented wine to which some brandy has been added, raising the alcohol level to about 18-20%. The most famous fortified wines are from Jerez (Sherry) in Southern Spain and Porto (Port) in Northern Portugal.
  7. Raisinated Wine: Rather than fermenting the juice of the freshly picked fruit, the grapes are allowed to dry in the sun, becoming more like raisins before they are crushed and allowed to ferment. This process, which is called appassimento in Italian, concentrates the sugars and thus results in a far higher alcohol level as well as a sweeter wine. Historically all the best and most expensive wines used to be made this way. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017


In terms of literary pairings, Champagne is the Oscar Wilde of wines. It is witty, deliciously naughty, and, like Oscar, it is sublime. It is hard to imagine Wilde’s sparkling, high-spirited exchanges in the drawing rooms of Belle Epoch London and Paris without also thinking of champagne. 

Napoleon famously said, “In victory, you deserve Champagne. In defeat you need it.” A hundred years later, Churchill rallied his troops by declaring, “Gentlemen, we fight not only for France, but for Champagne!”

When a London newspaper reporter asked Lilly Bollinger when she drank Champagne she famously answered: I drink it when I'm happy and when I'm sad. Sometimes, I drink it when I'm alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I'm not hungry and drink it if I am; otherwise I never touch it—  unless I'm thirsty.

Sunday, March 12, 2017


In "Taste" the most brilliant and wonderful short story by Roald Dahl, a man tries to identify a wine in a blind tasting. The following extract describes the logic of his thinking. But please read the whole story to get the full taste - you are in for a real treat!

'First, then, which district in Bordeaux does this wine come from? That's not too difficult to guess. It is far too light in the body to be from either St Emilion or Graves. It is obviously a Médoc. There's no doubt about that. 'Now - from which commune in Médoc does it come? That also, by elimination, should not be too difficult to decide. Margaux? No. It cannot be Margaux. It has not the violent bouquet of a Margaux. Pauillac? It cannot be Pauillac, either. It is too tender, too gentle and wistful for Pauillac. The wine of Pauillac has a character that is almost imperious in its taste, And also, to me, a Pauillac contains just a little pith, a curious dusty, pithy flavour that the grape acquires from the soil of the district. No, no. This - this is a very gentle wine, demure and bashful in the first taste, emerging shyly but quite graciously in the second. A little arch, perhaps, in the second taste, and a little naughty also, teasing the tongue with a trace, just a trace of tannin. Then, in the after-taste, delightful consoling and feminine, with a certain blithely generous quality that one associates only with the wines of the commune of St Julien. Unmistakably this is a St Julien.' ……... 'Ah, yes. This wine is from Bordeaux, from the commune of St Julien, in the district of Médoc. So far, so good. But now we come to the more difficult part - the name of the vineyard itself. For in St Julien there are many vineyards, and as our host so rightly remarked earlier on, there is often not much difference between the wine of one and the wine of another. ….. This wine is obviously not from a first growth vineyard - nor even a second. It is not a great wine! The quality, the- the - what do you call it? - the radiance, the power, is lacking. But a third growth - that it could be; And yet I doubt it. We know it is a good year - our host has said so - and this is probably flattering it a little bit. I must be careful. I must be very careful here.' He picked up his glass and took another small sip. 'Yes,' he said, sucking his lips, 'I was right. It is a fourth growth. Now I am sure of it. A fourth growth from a very good year - from a great year, in fact. And that's what made it taste for a moment like a third - or even a second growth wine. Good! That's better! Now we are closing in! What are the fourth-growth vineyards in the commune of St Julien?' …. 'There it is again! ' he cried. 'Tannin in the middle taste, and the quick astringent squeeze upon the tongue. Yes, yes, of course! Now I have it! The wine comes from one of those small vineyards around Beychevelle. I remember now. The Beychevelle district, and the river and the little harbour that has silted up so the wine ships can no longer use it. Beychevelle . . . . could it actually be a Beychevelle itself? No, I don't think so. Not quite. But it is somewhere very close. Château Talbot? Could it be Talbot? Yes, it could. Wait one moment.' …. 'No. I was wrong. It is not a Talbot. A Talbot comes forward to you just a little quicker than this one; the fruit is nearer the surface. So it is a '34, which I believe it is, then it couldn't be Talbot. We, we. Let me think. It is not a Beychevelle and it is not a Talbot, and yet - yet it is so close to both of them, so close, that the vineyard must be almost in between. Now, which could that be?' …... 'Ah!' he cried. 'I have it! Yes, I think I have it!' …. 'You know what this is? This is the little Château Branaire-Ducru,' 

Friday, March 10, 2017

The mystery of wine

A two thousand word survey of French wine, Etude Des Vignobles de France: Regions Du Sud-Est Et Du Sud-Ouest, published by the eminent Dr. Jules Guyot in 1868, concluded:

      "Wine is the most precious and stimulating element of the human diet. Its use in family meals saves a third of bread and meat, but more than that, wine stimulates and strengthens the body, warms the heart, develops the spirit of sociability; encourages activity, decisiveness, courage and satisfaction in one’s work."

Many young European children begin drinking wine (mixed with water) at mealtimes. In contrast, Americans prohibit alcohol until the age of twenty-one, often leading to binge drinking at college. Therefore, if only for legal reasons, those Americans who do enjoy wine usually did not start drinking it until they were in their twenties, and then only for special occasions. Consequently, although attitudes are changing, compared to Europeans, Americans are often self-conscious or apprehensive about drinking wine and still regard it as something “mysterious.”

My book has been written to dispel those fears and to remove the mystery from wine. Based closely on the very popular six week Wine Appreciation program offered regularly at Books & Books in Coral Gables, Florida, The Booklover's Guide to Wine covers all the basics, from the history of wine to how best to drink and, most importantly, how to discover and appreciate its many pleasures.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

New Release Date

The release of The Booklover's Guide to Wine has been put back to October 2017.

This will allow us to incorporate the launch party with the celebrations marking the 35th Anniversary of the founding of Books & Books in October 1982.

Additionally the release of the book will then be celebrated and featured at the Miami Book Fair in November.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Marcel Proust and wine

     But of course it is the French, with their unparalleled tradition of wine making and their glorious history of great writing which, since Rabelais, has always combined that love of books with the mastery of the grape. This combination was enough for me to leave England at an early age and move into the French countryside of south-west France where my wife and I spent the next few years raising children, drinking Bordeaux wines and immersing ourselves in every writer from Balzac and Flaubert to Rimbaud and Baudelaire.
     Ironically, my favorite French writer preferred beer to wine and would even phone the Ritz hotel at any hour of the day or night to order a cold bottle to be delivered to his apartment. Nonetheless Marcel Proust still wrote a wonderful description of his young hero drinking seven or eight glasses of port wine to give himself courage to invite a young lady for an amorous assignation. By the time he had drunk enough to make his proposal, the young lady declined. Possibly because he had consumed too much port wine, or because she had not consumed any.
     If Marcel Proust was a wine, I think he would be a Gewurztraminer from Alsace. Despite the wine’s underlying acidity, its sharpness and acuity is hidden behind a rich, floral bouquet that charms with a mellifluous harmony that simply overwhelms the senses. In the same way, Proust, the writer, hides his sharp and extremely comic insights into human nature behind a screen of poetically seductive images. The first taste from a glass of Gewurztraminer or a random passage read  from ‘In Search of Lost Time’ leaves us standing alone in ecstasy, inhaling through the rain, the lingering scent of invisible lilacs.
     Over the years, as I have become more familiar with my favorite authors and have become better acquainted with a wide selection of different grapes, I often find myself pairing wines with writers. In Chapter Six – Varietals, I have therefore described several different grapes in terms of novelists who share similar characteristics with the wine. A literary wine-pairing.
    Sixty-five years after my first glass, I have become ever more set in my ways and now I am never happier than with a glass of wine in one hand and a good book in the other.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Wine and literature

Under the careful supervision of my father, I began drinking wine with meals at the age of five. Although mixed with water, it was unmistakably wine and we would discuss the taste and bouquet while my father would explain where and how it was made. At the same age, with the warm encouragement of my mother, I began a lifelong love-affair with books.

My earliest memories involve Christopher Robin, with Pooh and Tigger and then Rat and Mole from the Wind in the Willows. Weekends were spent lying on the floor in the local library, lost in the worlds of Kipling and Dickens and, above all, my beloved John Buchan. Another early memory concerns Ernest Hemmingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls and asking my mother to explain ''But did thee feel the earth move?''

Shakespeare of course became an early love of mine and I still thrill to hear Sir John Falstaff in Henry IV [2], boldly proclaiming the joys and wonders of a glass, or two, of sherry. Likewise, in Richard III, I still feel a chill when the two murderers arrive at the Tower of London with orders to drown the Duke of Clarence in a barrel of wine. When the unsuspecting Duke asks the men for a glass of wine, the ‘second murderer’ calms him with a reassuring, “You shall have wine enough my lord, anon.”

And it is not just the English who associate wine with books. The twelfth-century Persian poet, Omar Kayan, famously wrote:

"A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread—and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness—
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!"
Indeed, as the writer Julian Street famously argued in his posthumous book, Table Topics: "Blot out every book in which wine is praised and you blot out the world’s great literature, from the Bible and Shakespeare to the latest best-seller. Blot out the wine-drinkers of the world and you blot out history, including saints, philosophers, statesmen, soldiers, scientists, and artists." - And what are you left with? Trump's 'Art of The Deal'!

Friday, March 3, 2017

Wine quotes

“Great people talk about ideas, average people talk about things and small people talk about wine.”
Fran Lebowitz

“The discovery of a wine is of greater moment than the discovery of a constellation. The universe is too full of stars.”
Benjamin Franklin

 Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the most natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing.”
Ernest Hemingway

“I can certainly see that you know your wine. Most of the guests who stay here wouldn’t know the difference between Bordeaux and Claret.”

Basil Fawlty, “Fawlty Towers”

Welcome to my blog

My name is Patrick Alexander and I have been drinking wine for sixty-five years. When my doctors and my wife suggest that I should maybe curb my enthusiasm for wine, I like to explain that I am only doing it for research purposes and that I owe it to the readers of my book and the students in my class, to be as well informed as possible. So today, as I begin this new blog, dedicated to the pleasures of wine, I accept that the pressure upon me to continue my research have grown that much greater. Nonetheless, I owe it to my readers to persevere 

I shall strive to do so.