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August 15, 2014
Extreme Wine



Extreme Wine

by Mike Veseth
Rowman & Littlefield, 2013


Other than token mentions of Icewine, one rarely sees coverage of the Canadian wine industry in the international press. Yet wine economist and blogger Mike Veseth has managed to fill two pages profiling the Okanagan Valley in his new book: Extreme Wine: Searching the World for the Best, the Worst, the Outrageously Cheap, the Insanely Overpriced and the Undiscovered.

While some may argue that our local bottles could fit into any one of Veseth’s categories, it’s as an “undiscovered” region that a visit to the Okanagan rates as an “extreme” wine experience. Now if the author was telling tales of New Age voodoo in Stephen Cipes’ pyramid we might understand this, but it’s the extreme surprise that the region exists at all that makes it, in Veseth’s opinion, so edgy. And this from a guy who lives in Tacoma, Washington.

To tell the truth, his adventures -- a stay at the Summerland Waterfront Resort, dinner at Local and a visit to Burrowing Owl -- seem more like a tame press trip courtesy of Thompson Okanagan Tourism, than say … naked bungee jumping off a Kettle Valley Railway trestle, or even a winter’s drive down the Hope-Princeton sans snow tires. However it’s nice to see those worthy establishments getting some non-homegrown love for a change.

In his observations about the Valley, Veseth gets some things right.

“Everybody (he meets) complains about the cost and difficulty of getting distribution in the other Canadian provinces..”

Yet others couldn’t hit the cellar door.

“The Okanagan wine region in British Columbia has a decided advantage over most winegrowing regions,” he states. “Usually the wine comes first, and then the tourist support infrastructure slowly develops. It’s the other way around here. “

Uh, well… anyone who ever struggled pre-2005 to find more to eat than schnitzel by the lake knows that’s not exactly true.

The wowed author pays tribute to Mission Hill’s iconic bell tower … “It’s just like Robert Mondavi’s!” But then fails to make any mention of what he thought of Anthony von Mandl’s wines. Or anyone else’s wines, for that matter.

Granted, this is not a book for the “sniferatti or spitterati”, andthank goodness for that. Veseth seems like he actually enjoys thinking about wine more than drinking the stuff, and with the most entertaining point-out-the-elephant-in-the-room results. Yeah, why is it we spit out expensive wines at tastings, and then gulp down the cheap stuff at parties?

Okanagan coverage aside, for a book that is written by an academic, Extreme Wine is delightfully full of interesting oddities, fascinating facts and unconventional viewpoints. If you are a wine geek who can live without the usual drip feed of tasting notes, you find it an exhilarating read indeed.

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