Book review: 'In Vino Veritas', edited by Susan Keevil

Jacopo Mazzeo

Jacopo Mazzeo

02 March 2020

‘The good bits, the juicy bits, the useful bits and the unsettled arguments that bring your favourite drink to life,’ Hugh Johnson writes in his introduction to this exceptional collection.

Indeed, who wouldn’t fancy joining a 1981 Michael Broadbent on a back-in-time tour of the most fascinating private wine cellar experiences of his professional career? And who wouldn’t develop a strong opinion as a much-more-contemporary Justin Howard-Sneyd MW discusses The English Wine Bubble, or as Jane MacQuitty arguments her ‘anti-decanting stance’?

However, aside from introducing the reader to some of the past two centuries’ most intriguing ‘bits’ of wine writing, the book carries further, overlapping layers of meaning, aptly disclosed by its aphoristic title. Through wine, In Vino Veritas unveils as many truths as the stories it narrates. Steven Spurrier’s account of his historical 1976 Judgement of Paris – and of the four rematches that followed – is an evident reminder of how crucially such an event might change its meaning, value and relevance as the industry evolves over time.

Meanwhile, as we approach the final lines of Cyrus Redding’s 187-year-old Call to Ban Port’s Fortification, we’re provided with evidence that wine, like any other good, is subject to trends, and that nothing we take for granted today – not even the finest wines – will necessarily be understood as such in the years to come.

As it approaches its last chapters, In Vino Veritas illustrates how wine is so crucially interconnected with our culture, by tackling its relationship with art and poetry. After all, as in front of a painting or while reading a poem, what else is wine drinking other than the perceptible contemplation of beauty?

£25, Académie du Vin Library

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