Thursday, January 03, 2008

On My Bedside Table

Regular readers will know that Miranda and I share our house with three standard poodles, and four cats (of an imagined Irish heritage). These animals also occupy various parts of our bedroom, but the most conspicuous occupants of the bedroom are the bookshelves on either side of the California King. Mine, the really small one, is stacked with books on a multitude of topics including wine. Well in truth, most books on my side of the bed are about wine. This book fetish creates a problem when I travel as I can’t carry the whole bookshelf with me. So I select a book, or two. And hope that I will find the time to read. On my trip to Australia last December I packed a half-read copy of Campbell Mattinson’s “Why the French Hate Us. It’s a passionate book. Worthy of purchase. But the second half is a less interesting read than the first. So, wandering around LAX. I snapped up a soft cover copy of Jay McInerney’s “A Hedonist in the Cellar: Adventures in Wine. I have it in hard cover. I’ve never looked at it. Its collecting dust in another room of our house in San Diego. A quick skim of the LAX purchase suggested that I might find some interest in a few of the chapters; why is it that non-Aussie wine writers find it so difficult to write about the most innovative and interesting wine continent?

Never mind, Oz is filled with good bookshops. And Dubbo, at the periphery of the (wine)outback, is no different from anywhere else. With little else to do but hook up the laptop to the internet in my cousin’s Darrell Lea chocolate shop, and hope that my work email might function correctly. I decided to walk the main drag in search of wine books. The Book Connection at first proved uninteresting. But in a little alcove a few used gems. A 1979 copy of Wine Australia” by The Australian Wine Board ($7AUD) slouched next to Max Lake’s “Hunter Winemakers” (1970); the inside covers filled with copies of wine labels of decades past. Ah, the memories. Another eight bucks. And then a few spines further along. An almost pristine copy of “Wines and Wineries of the Barossa Valley” by Bryce Rankine (1971), and even more wine labels. Another $7. The little bedside table in a bedroom once occupied by the most forgiving of grandmothers was beginning to buckle.

Off to the big smoke, Sydney. And my mate Ted’s little house on the edge of national parkland in Warrimoo. The Blue Mountains. A hell of along way from anywhere and central to everything. Ted has a small idiosyncrasy, he collects pretty much everything. Well OK, for many years its just been Australia prints (but its a bloody diverse range of artists, Ted), books and periodicals on art, and now postcards. His excuse for the latter is that he is writing a book on photography of the Blue Mountains.

Ted is celebrated for something else. He thinks of his mates or more specifically his mates’ idiosyncrasies when he’s on the hunt for more acquisitions. So after we have gone through a few bottles of (rather obscure) Aussie wine I am presented with a foxed but otherwise excellent copy of H E Laffer’s “The Wine Industry of Australia” (1949). It cost him $8. Thanks mate.

There is one more book to add to the bedside table. Halliday’s “2008 Australian Wine Companion”. Dymocks in the city has it. It makes my checked luggage “overweight” but the ticket counter lady does not even notice. Home, James!


Natalie MacLean said...

You've noted some wonderful books here! If you're still thirsting to read more about wine, please join my free e-newsletter. You might also find my food-and-wine matching tool helpful.

Author of Red, White and Drunk All Over

Michael Pollard said...


Thanks for your comment. I'm already subscribed to your e-letter. And I have a copy of Red White and Drunk All Over; I just need to find the time to read it. And all the others that keep piling up. Including the two books on the philosophy of taste that arrived yesterday.