Neither overly technical nor horticulturally-centric, Jay McInerney’s The Juice: Venous Veritas is a collection of essays centered around the joys of drinking wine that even someone who is more likely to order a Guinness than an old-vine Grenache will enjoy. McInerney came to fame in the 80s with Bright Lights Big City, a novel that made him the un-official spokesperson of his generation, a literary badboy with the appropriate tastes (of both the legal and illegal ilk) for the times. But a chance meeting with the legendary Raymond Carver set him on a slightly more narrow path, where Bolivian Marching Powder was replaced with the more genteel hedonism of great wine. And since the 90s, when he was hired by House & Garden to helm a monthly column, McInerney has written about wine with a singular voice that is as once knowledgeable, witty, fun and yes, at times, rarefied (after all, it isn’t your average person who scores a coveted reservation at El Bulli, Ferran Adrià’s now-shuttered restaurant of mythical renown, or is witness to the owner of a billionaire real-estate empire sabering off a $10,000 jeroboam of Champagne at a raucous auction).
But McInerney is self-aware enough to write about these more esoteric moments with a light hand and he never alienates his reader with the more decadent details. As he writes in his introduction, ” . . . I believe it is one of the wine writer’s duty . . . to bring back news of the best and the rarest, just as it’s the travel writer’s duty to explore exotic and remote destinations.” And while he readily admits to ” . . . some wine porn” in the essays, he also points out that there are ” . . . exciting moments involving obscure and undervalued wines like . . . the 2007 Château Jean Faux Bordeaux, which at $25 retail is $1,200 cheaper than the 2010 Latour.”
The essays The Juice are educational and yes, they present an aspirational wine world where one is able to compare the rosé Champagnes of Bollinger, Moët & Chandon and Pol Roger, but they are also beautifully rendered stories of the people and places that create the juice we love so much. While ostensibly about Viogner (a personal favorite of mine, especially when drunk outside in the sunshine on a summer’s afternoon), the essay “Cold Heaven, Hot Mama” is the tale of Morgan Clendenen’s passion for the grape, culminating with the establishment of her Cold Heaven Cellars, with a some multi-continent history regarding the varietal thrown-in for good measure.
Whether a casual wine-enthusiastic, a full blown wine-geek or simply a lover of good writer, The Juice is should finds it’s way onto your bookshelf as soon as possible. In-fact, it’s such a good book that I’m thinking about making it mandatory reading for the staff at barVino.