The captain has sold his share of the ship, left the bridge and hung up his captain's hat. Manfred Klimek, an Austrian living in Berlin, was co-founder and until 2013 the editorial director of the blog Captain Cork, which positions itself as a "wine daily on the net". Now the digital ship is sailing the sea of wine without him, and he is writing on paper again on land. With a book of the same title that is well worth reading, Klimek has revived the maritime metaphor and imagery of Captain Cork that he devised to convey the most important wine knowledge - and above all his view of wine.
The Berlin journalist and author Rainer Balcerowiak has written the "ultimate different wine book" together with Klimek - this is the somewhat too bold subheading of the title. Balcerowiak has already brushed classic wine and culinary topics vigorously and originally against the grain with books such as "The Democratic Wine Book" and "The Culinary Emergency Kit" and has been a member of Captain Cork's crew as a "left-hand pilot" for some time.
The handy, 215-page, well-structured book deals in a roundabout way with everything that makes wine and enjoyment so special: concise basic knowledge and facts about vintages, the label, glasses - here "the matching hardware" - as well as wine and food. The largest space is taken up by the wine regions of Germany and the world, plus the most important producers, knowledge about viticulture, wine production and much more. In Captain Cork, Klimek has made exaggeration, drastic wording and cracking punchlines his style - and this can be found in this book as well as on the web. The title is the programme. A four-page chapter, for example, deals with the "power of the testers", to which Klimek himself belongs as a wine columnist for the "Welt". In it, he writes about the power of Robert Parker and the rest of the wine media and concludes the chapter thus: "Those who allow themselves to be reduced by the wine luminaries to 'hip' estates, regions and grape varieties ultimately remain a foreign-determined primate of taste." Alongside such sentences, however, there is also much that reads more customarily calm than ultimately different. The subject of the book does not lend itself to stylistic hard-on-wind sailing throughout.
The large chapter on the wine regions offers concise, good descriptions of the traditions, the great sites and the renowned wineries. You have certainly read this elsewhere, but the rather precise and at the same time casual narrative tone of the two authors and their team is appropriate and fitting. But before cultivated boredom while reading calls for the next glass of wine, they let a high crusher wash over the sun deck every now and then, dramaturgically well placed. In the rather quiet chapter on the German wine regions, for example, they write: "You don't have to be a patriot to be enthusiastic about German wine. There are more top winemakers than ever, a broadening midfield - and of course plenty of liquid waste producers. The latter benefit from the unspeakable German wine law of 1971, which obviously serves the sole purpose of dumbing down consumers and enabling large wineries to do lucrative business" Tough, but to the point.
In the back, Klimek and Balcerowiak portray their "top winemakers of the world". They include the Piedmontese pioneer Angelo Gaja, Andreas Barth from the von Othegraven winery on the Saar and Stephan Attmann from the von Winning winery in the Palatinate, as well as the biodynamics pope Nicolas Joly. His short portrait is entitled "The Free Radical". The selection, or rather the non-selection, of many other top winemakers can be debated - but books like this only work with the compression and reduction of the major themes. Klimek and Balcerowiak have succeeded in both - with original headings, a good structure, coherent knowledge transfer and also lively photos from an often unusual perspective by Manfred Klimek, whose main profession is photography. In this respect, the book is not "ultimately different". It is simply good. All hands on deck!
Manfred Klimek, Rainer Balcerowiak
Captain Cork - the ultimate different wine book
Hallwag Verlag, Munich