Ralph Steadman is best known as the illustrator for Hunter S. Thompson. He does these wildly chicken scratch ink and watercoolers that are just mild melting. It’s truly like nothing else out there.But something you might have known is that Steadman is also a wine lover. Untrodden Grapes is part exploration of wine, part travelogue, part illustrated coffee table book. Steadman definitely cuts through the pretentions of wine, but at the same time he wants to rescue wine from the homogenization of it.
Divorced from their natural outlet as a local product, they have entered the domain, the appellation of the designer, whose fanciful attractions urge us to try something rather natty from the Rhone because he thought it appropraite to design the label as a weeping rock face, sprouting algae like the bottom of a village pond.
Wine tasters talk of blackberry and apple, butter and caramel, damp caves, toast, and cranberries. Even pomegranate – who the hell eats pomegranates? Or Ugli fruits? And eucalyptus bark!
Winemakers throughout the world have had to adopt the supermarket mentality if they intend to stay in business, otherwise they would never survive.
Only someone who loves something can adequately praise and villify simulataneously. Steadman does that, and he takes you to some of the finest winemaking regions of the world and supplies countless anecdotes. It’s not a comprehensive bible of wine, but it’s a personal acount of one man’s love expressed through picture and word.
Ambience can affect the most indifferent wine and is the one ingredient that only the imbiber can add, along with his or her chosen friends. Therein lies the hidden dimension of wine, its inspiration and its “raisin d’etre.”
And if you don’t feel like reading it just look at the illustrations. You won’t find a cooler coffee table book on wine.