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The Wild Vine: Book Review

The Wild Vine – A Forgotten Grape and the Untold Story of American Wine by Todd Kliman 2010

The Wild Vine tells the story of Norton, America's forgotten grape. Also known as Cynthiana, Norton was once an important variety.

This is a fascinating read that moved at a quick pace combining research and personal passion about Norton, a true American bred grape variety that promised so much and then almost vanished during Prohibition to be recently revived. The book links three stories, that of grape growing in America, the life and times of Norton and how Jennifer McCloud emerged to become the largest grower/maker of Norton and its biggest proponent.

Norton grows well in American conditions that challenge pure vinifera, and once established, it has a tolerance of Pierces Disease as well as Phylloxera, however it has a high failure rate when first planted, and its wines when young are strong tasting – they need to be matured much longer than most are willing to do so for the best of Norton to emerge.

In 1873 a Missouri Norton was declared the “best red wine of all nations” at a worldwide competition at the Vienna International Exhibition. Today Norton is growing in more than 201 vineyards in 22 US states and today’s enthusiasts – of which I count myself – look forward to a time when Norton regains its former prominence.

I really enjoyed this book and was sad to reach the end but I have a couple of niggles: the language is sometimes over flowery for my taste with slang expressions ‘ its four singsongy syllables refer to ...... destroying grapes at their source, in the same way that a smart tackler aims to cut a shifty running back at the knees’ (of phylloxera), ‘umbrella topped brat station’, ‘wine related tchotchkes’, ‘kegger’...

And it was frustrating that after finishing the book to find the the origins of Norton are still unknown. If I’d been writing the book I’d have commissioned a DNA test.

The hardback has deckle edged pages which I read is supposed to emulate a hand bound book but to me looks faulty and ugly.

Contents: ****
Production: ***

Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Clarkson Potter (May 4, 2010)
ISBN-13: 978-0307409362

Have you read this book, or enjoyed a Norton wine? Tell us about it on our forum.

DISCLOSURE: Peter F May purchased this book himself at full retail price



Peter F May is the author of Marilyn Merlot and the Naked Grape: Odd Wines from Around the World which features more than 100 wine labels and the stories behind them, and PINOTAGE: Behind the Legends of South Africa’s Own Wine which tells the story behind the Pinotage wine and grape. Now available as a Kindle eBook, click on left link




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