Local Columnist Launches
Collection of His Opinions
By Fred Delkin
When we served the fledgling Oregon wine industry as marketing diector two decades ago, we shared our local winemakers' general disdain of the Oregonian's wine columnist Matt Kramer, generated by his lack of attention to our burgeoning industry and paucity of compliments when he infrequently referred to it. Our prejudicial attitude has been altered by his collection of the highlights of his decades of writing on the subject in newspapers, magazines and books... Matt Kramer on Wine, a Sterling Publishing Co. venture going on sale this month.
Kramer has survived as a full-time wine & food journalist since 1976 and his 34-year career now
includes a column in every monthly issue of "Wine Spectator." His published books include the
"Making Sense" volumes on the overall wine scene, Italy, California and Burgundy. While giving Oregon short shrift as a wine region, Kramer is well worth reading for his thorough mastery of the French and Italian scenes where, after all, sophisticated winemaking and viticulture first reached the levels that have now been exported to the so-called "New World" that includes the USA.
The new compendium of his most trenchant published opinions is a delightful, insightful read for
anyone who enjoys wine, no matter the level of your devotion or expertise. Kramer can write and
he loads his discourse witrh comparisons that justify his opinions and also make the complexities of wine understandable even to a vinous beginner. " To marvel about fine wine is not to romanticize it, but to grasp its real meaning. Fine wine, like birdsong, is fundamentally wild....fine wines taste like they come from somewhere. Mediocre wines taste like they could come from anywhere."
Kramer is an admitted Francophile, a lover of all things French in the world of wine. This led him to downgrade Oregon's success with Pinot Noir for a long while and earned my enmity. He is correct in crediting the French with setting the original global standards for good wine. His opinions have mellowed with subsequent experience and a reader of his collected essays will find tributes to the wine regions of Germany, Australia, New Zealand and even Oregon and California.
Kramer takes a former profession of mine, the restaurant business, properly to task for overpricing wine lists and too often serving wine in 'junk' glassware...yes, Virginia, glassware does matter in the enjoyment of wine, and Kramer even goes so far as to suggest that restaurants with a fine wine list should add a $1 surcharge for offsetting the high breakage or pilferage cost of good crystal. "Why go to the extent of compiling a deluxe list, an accomplished wine steward and then pour into the equivalent of a goatskin bota?"
Kramer declares that "the proper marriage of food and wine is overdone." He does caution, however, that a big red is no proper companion to a delicate seafood. He urges that a comprehensive wine list should go beyond simply listing labels and explain more of the origin and charcteristics of each bottling.
Kramer's chapter titles reveal their pertinent contents: " Through two lenses-one eye on Europe and another on America" in which he states that 'price has nothing to do with quality' and 'most wines will age longer and better than we expect.' "Tasting"--'there's more to tasting than a quick gurgle, a spit and words.' "Burrowing deep into wine lists and wine cellars." "Old Wines, collecting and other wine madness" "Wine and Women (and men. Too)" "In love with France" "Running away to Italy"--"California Dreaming"--"Crystal Ball", in which he predicts the new wine varietal trends of Pinot Gris and Syrah-- "Wine Hokum" "Wine and Words" "The notion of 'Terroir' " and finally, a tribute to "Angelo Gaja", a remarkable scion of the Italian wine industry and as formative in his direction as the late Robert Mondavi was in California, as we profiled in an earlier issue of Oregon magazine.
A couple of Kramer insights..."the richest winegroer in the world cannot make his or her vines grow any faster than the poorest peasant" and "unlike slugging back a beer or a shot of liquor, our appreciation of wine requires a longer, savoring moment." Kramer "writes and reads and talks about wine the better to savor its captured moment."
Read him and reap the words you wish you'd written.
© 2010 Oregon Magazine