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February 21, 2011

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Nice review of a book all American wine lovers should read. I sampled a few Norton wines and wrote about them on my blog, Now And Zin. Hope you'll want to check out the articles and the Norton grape! http://blog.nowandzin.com/search.aspx?q=norton&sc=t&dt=3m&al=none

I just finished this book myself. I'm looking forward to finding the time to comment in a coherent way.

I can only imagine the problems in regard to marketing any non-internationalized grapes. Heck entire growing regions here in Southern California are choosing to grow Merlot poorly rather than grow Sangiovese or even more obscure Italian varieties well because they're worried the 20M cases they sell from their tasting rooms on Saturday and Sundays will dry up.

Randy - Thanks for the links. Interesting stuff.

Peter - We look forward to hearing more from you on this.

Mark - No doubt there are barriers. It seems to me that even though Norton has its fervent believers in Virginia, there are far more focusing on vinifera and leaving Norton behind.

The overwrought prose that Evan talks about got on my nerves as well. I also couldn't quite get comfortable with his use of the definite article with grape names: does anyone really call Norton 'the Norton' or Merlot 'the Merlot'?

There were a few howlers that a good copy editor should have picked up. He talks toward the end of the book about 'the microclimate of the state of Virginia.' That term gets misused all the time, but that's the biggest microclimate I've ever heard of!

I don't drink Norton (sorry, the Norton), but I get to taste them at wine competitions often enough. To me they are of two styles: Regular and Heavily Bretty. The unspoiled ones (Regular) are indeed very simple, grapey wines of no particular appeal. The Bretty wines are just like any Bretty red, which is why Nortons got a lot of attention throughout the 1990s from wine writers who cut their teeth on Bordeaux and Rhone wines. In fact, the author keeps referring to the amazing Rhone-like qualities of a well-aged Norton.

I can't believe that any wine writer these days would not recognize Brett in wines, though very few did a couple of decades ago. Why, then, does he not call a spade a spade? Perhaps the mere mention of a spoilage organism being a defining character of the wine would be seen as casting unfair aspersions on the wine.

Great to see the comments here.

Peter, I've only had the "Regular" Nortons and have found them to be almost like a cross between zinfandel and California merlot -- fruity, straightforward and inoffensive. I guess you could say I don't "get" Norton, but I've only had a dozen or two examples.

I could be wrong, but I don't think Todd is a wine writer per se. I know he's a restaurant critic in DC but don't know much about his wine writing beyond this book. You're probably right though -- doesn't make a ton of sense to associate Brett with the grape you're centering you book on.

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