“Sod the wine, I want to suck on the writing. This man White is an instinctive writer, bloody rare to find one who actually pulls it off, as in still gets a meaning across with concision. Sharp arbitrage of speed and risk, closest thing I can think of to Cicero’s ‘motus continuum animi.’

Probably takes a drink or two to connect like that: he literally paints his senses on the page.”

DBC Pierre (Vernon God Little, Ludmila’s Broken English, Lights Out In Wonderland ... Winner: Booker prize; Whitbread prize; Bollinger Wodehouse Everyman prize; James Joyce Award from the Literary & Historical Society of University College Dublin)





31 December 2008




Felix Salmon in Conde Nast Portfolio

(comparing the new US trend to seek apartments in shopping malls):

“The history of the wine market in America (bear with me here) has a central role for merlot: a relatively sweet and easily-drinkable varietal which got Americans -- who had been more accustomed to beer and sweet white wine -- comfortable with the idea of red wine. Nowadays, merlot has something of a bad name, but it's still hugely popular.

“I think of these mall condos as the urbanist equivalent of merlot: a gateway, if you will, to the urban lifestyle, without the tannic downside.

"I'm not sure they'll ever become quite as ubiquitous as merlot. But they're clearly part of America's real-estate future.”

DRINKSTER finds this amusing because:

1 Merlot is neither sweet nor more easily-drinkable than other wines. It is a tannic grape variety from Bordeaux, with flavours of chicory and rocket when young. Properly aged, these phenolics oxidise to take on a character akin to bitumen or dark chocolate, adding astringency to red fruits that plump out the rest of Merlot’s aromatic and flavour structure.

2 Americans still don’t know that Merlot is a serious red grape variety with astringency akin to Cabernet Sauvignon. Real merlot is not mellow.

3 If you’re comparing Merlot to real estate, check Chateau Petrus, where 11.4 ha of vineyard produces a maximum of 2,500 dozen bottles a year. The 2004 Chateau Petrus is available from $A1,200 - $1,600 a bottle; the 2006 from $2,160 to $5,300.


(from a Vatican blog)

Austen Ivereigh writes about the Cremisan winery of the Salesians of Don Bosco, who make merlot on a hill outside Bethlehem. It is a wine of choice for Christians clustered in the Occupied Territories of the West Bank and those in Israel.

"Cremisan's distinctive 'David's Tower' and 'Shepherds' Fields' wine is a vital symbol of the identity of Arab Christians: Drinking Cremisan wine sets them them apart from Israeli Jews (who have kosher wine) and from Muslim Arabs (who do not drink alcohol).

“Moreover, the wine has begun to be exported to Germany and the United Kingdom to compensate for the drop in Christian visitors to the Holy Land. Cremisan's "Messa" altar wine has proved popular with abbeys and large churches in the United Kingdom, who buy the wine as a means of directly supporting the Christians of the West Bank.

“But since early November, Israeli soldiers have been refusing to let the wine through the Hebron checkpoint.”

Cremisan wine "has an important social value," said Father Franco Ronzani, the Salesian rector. "The ones who profit from the wine sales are not us."

Some 30 families depend directly on the winery, which supports many projects among the poor in Bethlehem, including a technical school and a bakery where the poor gather to collect loaves.”

It feels like the final straw for the elderly Italian Salesians living in the friary.

The house looks out over the 30-foot-high concrete Wall of Separation, which the Israelis say is necessary for their security; but its path makes clear that its purpose is also to protect illegal Jewish settlements on the West Bank, and to annex lands that once belonged to the Christian families of Bethlehem.

The loss of Christian lands, and therefore grape supplies, combined with the obstacles to free movement of people and goods since the intifadah in 2000, is the main reason why Cremisan production has dropped from more than 700,000 bottles to just 200,000 in recent years.

When it is extended next year, the wall will snake behind Cremisan to include an illegal Jewish settlement, thus severing Cremisan from Bethlehem -- and from the workers who tend the vineyards and make the wine.

If it is unable to reach its customers in Israel and abroad, the winery will be forced to close; and its demise will be a major blow to the continuity of the Christian communities in Palestine and Israel.

Father Ronzani puts it simply. "We want to continue to exist," he said. "We've been making wine for 120 years, and we want to carry on for another hundred."

DRINKSTER abhors this because:

It’s just a tiny addition to the towering stack of steaming shit behaviour the Israelis have built for us all to admire this Christmas.

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