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Hardcover Reflections of a Wine Merchant Book

ISBN: 0374248567

ISBN13: 9780374248567

Reflections of a Wine Merchant

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Book Overview

A leading importer of limited-production wines of character and quality takes us on an intimate tour through family-owned vineyards in France and Italy and reflects upon the last three decades of controversy, hype, and change in the world of wine In the late 1970s, Neal I. Rosenthal set out to learn everything he could about wine. Today, he is one of the most successful importers of traditionally made wines produced by small family-owned estates in...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

An interesting read

Neal Rosenthal has written a good book about his experience in the wine business. Inevitably it's going to be compared to Kermit Lynch's "Adventures on the Wine Route." That's the benchmark for wine books of this sort and I'm not sure anyone is going to equal it. Lynch is a good story teller as well as being kind of a Lewis & Clark of U.S. wine merchants, which gave him incredible stories to tell. One of Rosenthal's chapters is a direct rebuttal to "Adventures on the Wine Route," where he discusses the problems of the wine seller choosing the barrels of wine he's willing to sell. As far as complaints from other reviewers that he's bitter or settling scores, I think Rosenthal is just telling the story as he experienced it. One U.S. importer in particular seems to come across poorly. I've talked with three people who've dealt with that importer directly or through intermediaries and except for his excellent portfolio none had anything nice to say about him. So when Rosnthal writes bad things about him he's just picking the low-hanging fruit. I want to try some of the wines that Rosenthal describes. I'm still trying to track down some Chambave rouge and I've got a line on some white Burgundy. The writing is awkward in places. That's as much a fault of the editor as it is Rosenthal. It really seemed to slow down at the end. I got the feeling with the ending he ran out of gas and just wanted to end the book. Also, he seems to be making the same pro-terroir argument several times with slightly different arguments. It seems that could have been condensed. There's not much mention of my two favorite Rosenthal imports, Foreau and Schleret. Maybe he didn't have much to say. I'm glad someone is bringing them into the United States. But I liked the book and would recommend it to anyone who loves wine.

a light read, fairly interesting... 3.5/5

i enjoyed reflections... but i certianly don't think it's going to go down as one of the greatest wine books ever written, and i don't think it makes as much of a statement as it could have. the book is essentially a collection of stories about people rosenthal has encountered over the years, and how their story fits - or doesn't fit - into rosenthal's importing business and view of what the wine world should be. for instance, the story of a family/producer in piedmont embodies everything he loves about wine, while a relationship with a producer in burgundy crumbles as they insist on making changes he doesn't feel are for the best. the stories are generally interesting, however i don't feel they'll appeal to those who aren't truly interested in the subject matter. (however if you've made it to this page, you probably ARE interested in the subject matter.) i echo the sentiment that rosenthal spends a bit of time ranking on people by name. it's not really vengeful stuff as some other reviews have implied, but the problem is that it's not really done with a lot of finesse or class either. it doesn't portray the author in the best light, and makes you question his own personality to some extent. this doesn't destroy the book, but it does detract from the experience a bit. finally, i feel the book doesn't have a ton of focus. there's not a really strong thread running through it. i know it's a collection of stories, but considering the experiences rosenthal has had over the course of the last 30 years, in addition to his very strong feelings about what wine should be, i think the book could have driven home more of a message. maybe rosenthal didn't want this to be too agenda driven, but i thought the result made it a little light. all this said, this is worth reading, especially if you're a fan of rosenthal's views on what wines should be. come to think of it, you should probably read it if you *don't* share rosenthal's views on what wines should be.

Neil Rosenthal is the real deal.

Neal Rosenthal is the real deal, and so is Alice Feiring, whose My Battle for Wine and Love or How I Saved the World from Parkerization. Both echo themes about the authenicity and sense of place in truly great wines and rail against the tragic (for real wine lovers) imposition of industry homogeneousness and wine manipulation over the real thing. Both these books are deep--not frivolous, as some people would like to paint Alice Feiring's book--complex and filled with nuances that everyone who really cares about great wine should know and appreciate. Neither book is jammed with appreciation for overripe fruit, residual sugar, palate numbing alcohol levels and, Thank God, neither comes in a horrid new oak binding (barrels where supposed to be aging vessels, not gross flavoring agents that override grape varieties, terroir, etc.). My prediction is that these two books are going to have an enormous impact on young (and not so young) sommeliers, wine directors and wine buyers (especially non-retail types, who don't use Parker scores to flog wines), because they both espouse the greatness and distinctiveness of terroir-driven, authentic, artisan wines that have a sense of place. Since these are not mass market Parkerista wines, I think this philosophy will not have an immediate effect on the Parker consumer, but it will have on restaurant wine lists run by younger sommeliers, who believe it or not have been fed up with tasting Parkerista wines for quite some time. They will seek terroir-driven wines to lend distinction to their lists and push these wines as those which help set their wine lists and restaurants apart. Restaurant goers will discover these wines and begin to look for retail stores that carry them. It will not be long before the already choppy anti-Parkerista waters build into a very big wave, which, pardon me, copycat American wine journalists will soon see as a bandwagon to jump on, at least those who still have a palate left after tasting all the overripe, sweet, over-oaked, alcoholic junk that they have been barraged with over the past decade or so. And with greening and organic movements growing stronger in response to environmental changes, more and more conscientous wine drinkers will begin to question the manipulation of wines. Neil Rosenthal: ". . . proof that there is some seriously fine terroir to be found in California and elsewhere, terroir that merits being left to express itself rather than being dominated and destroyed by human manipulation in the form of superextraction or immersion in new oak barrels or any of dozens of other laboratory tricks that "correct" what nature gives us." Alice Feiring: ". . . At stake is the soul of wine. This is giant corporation vs. independent winemaker. This is international and homogenous vs. local and varied. This manipulated and technical wine vs. natural and artisanal. . .wine is being reduced to the common denominator. . .I visit producers who make wines that inspire love and

A Voice That Needs to be Heard

I must have read a different book than the one reviewed so unfavorably here, although the title and the author are the same. "Reflections of a Wine Merchant" was exactly what I had hoped it would be when I bought the book for my husband, the winemaker in the family. He found the book opinionated but dead-on right, and he felt that it was about time that someone wrote to decry the industrialization of wine and the homogenization of taste. When we have finally lost the ability to appreciate terroir or even the opportunity to experience it, we will be all the poorer for it, and we can only hope that through the efforts of people like Rosenthal that never happens. There are huge philosophical differences among vintners and wine merchants about what constitutes good wine; my husband and I have read quite a few books on the subject. My husband's methods are of the old school which lets the grape speak for itself and turn into whatever it will become, whereas the newer school, represented more by California, Chile, and Australia, wants a product that will be the same across batches and regardless of the provenance of the grapes, and so they use embellishments to enhance the wine in order to be able to sell it young and standardize the product. What one prefers is a personal choice but it's important to recognize that there is a difference. Rosenthal's descriptions of his interactions with vintners, positive and negative, were fascinating and offered insights into both the sociology and the techniques of the ancient craft of winemaking. I found his writing to be adept, descriptive, and on point. My granddaughter is about to enter the sixth grade, and were she to express herself a third as well as Neal Rosenthal does here, her teachers would be amazed and ecstatic. Please don't let the previous reviewers discourage you from buying and reading this book, especially if you have an interest in understanding the possibilities and potential of wine.

Contrasting View

I don't get the vitriol of the first three reviewers. Concerning their complaints that this book is full of Neal's opinions and rants: yes, it is. If they were looking for nothing but raw facts perhaps they should have selected a book that wasn't autobiographical. As for the quality of the writing: while Neal does tend to be a little over-the-top with his comparisons, his use of the English language is quite good albeit old-fashioned. Personally, I really enjoyed this book. It's a quick, fun read as long as you take it for what it is: a collection of recollections and musings on wine and personal history by Neal. I found him to be relatively even-handed in his treatment of most subjects and it was refreshing to hear from someone in the world of wine who doesn't worship at the temple of numerical scores.
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