reading: wine, wine, wine

On August 29, 2015 by theseventhsphinx

wine books

Sense a theme? We are very into wine.

Red, White, and Drunk All Over, Natalie MacLean — An entertaining and practical book by a young, stylish wine writer – half the story of her life as a wine writer and half useful wine user’s manual. A condensed and approachable guide to serving and enjoying wine. Often funny as well, as the title implies.

Adventures on the Wine Route: A Wine Buyer’s Tour of France, Kermit Lynch — A passionate importer shares tales from the road. If you’re not already into wine this might not provide enough context but quite interesting if you’re into French wine. Lots of vignettes/mini histories of his favorite producers.

How to Love Wine, Eric Asimov — A general call not to be intimidated by wine from the New York Times wine critic. Not bad as an opening text if you are just getting into wine, with the basic concept that wine is meant to be enjoyed, and advice to help you avoid all those pitfalls that can make it no fun at all (i.e. stressing out about impressing people (probably you are good at other things), being intimidated by your lack of wine knowledge (you don’t need any to know what you like), worrying that your palate isn’t good enough (it is), bad wine (not as common as it used to be), paying too much (you don’t have to), etc.). Likely preaching to the choir if you already love wine but satisfying to have someone writing intelligent things about wine with which you can agree, reaffirming your good sense.

Bordeaux/Burgundy: A Vintage Rivalry, Jean-Robert Pitte — Great if you are into the history of these regions, which is vast and complex. Lots of rich detail. Reads a bit like a thesis in parts (could be a translation issue – originally written in French, which we like) but obviously well-researched. [See also this interesting tasting/debate with Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson on the topic]

Tasting Pleasure: Confessions of a Wine Lover, Jancis Robinson — Jancis Robinson is to Britain what Robert Parker is to the U.S., the most influential wine critic. Unlike Parker, though, Robinson seems infinitely more personable to me, and more in line with my approach to wine (she doesn’t think much of scores, for example). She co-authors the definitive World Atlas of Wine, did a great series of videos on major grape varieties for the BBC, did an interview/ tasting with the quirky WineLibraryTV (pretty funny contrast between host and guest), and is the author of dozens of books about wine, including this memoir.  This chronicles how she sort of stumbles into being such an influential wine critic, and some of her memorable tastings and projects. I’ve liked all of her writing, and really all of her speaking, which is intelligent and no-nonsense with a good sense of humor…I like her.

Reading Between the Wines, Terry Theise — Wine philosophy. Theise reflects on what it means to make wine, what it means to make good wine, what it means to enjoy wine, what it means for wine to be beautiful, what it means for anything to be beautiful…if you are interested in thoughts on what makes a good life, this is a really interesting read.

Passion on the Vine, Sergio Esposito — Of all the wine memoirs* I’ve been reading, this is the best memoir in its own right, independent of wine data. Funny, with life and wine nicely integrated, engaging writing.

*I’m calling them wine memoirs, books written by people who are passionate about wine that are partly about the people and partly about their experiences with wine, though some are more guides or manifestos than memoirs.

Reflections of a Wine Merchant, Neal Rosenthal — As with the Lynch, you want to be pretty into wine to go for this, otherwise it’s a bunch of people and regions and details about wine. OK, but Lynch and Esposito were more interesting to me.

 

loving: these heels

On March 14, 2015 by theseventhsphinx

I cannot get enough of this photo. I love everything about this look, a street style shot from the US Elle roundup Paris Fashion Week (a pleasantly long slideshow of some 300+ looks, I recommend).

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This deep plummy shade, the layers of the skirt, the texture and masculine cut of the jacket, the lush softness of the scarf, even the positioning of the head and arms, the hair…and those shoes.

These heels have that elusive balance of structure and delicacy, giving the foot shape and interest while being absolutely minimal and unobtrusive. The sleek, isolated triangle toe-box of a d’orsay pump is sublime. So often they are done poorly, shapeless with the foot swimming about, or set at an awkward angle. And this dainty shoelace-thin ankle tie, this is so light and understated. Not too much string or wrapping (not multiple strands going around and around, over and through, or up the leg, as is growing increasingly popular, and is often, to my eye, too busy), and no bulkiness. Though I can like a thick (or just thicker) ankle strap, I am particular about the proportions, which are usually slightly off, creating a stilted, unflattering effect.

I cannot express to you how many shoes I do not like. Really hardly any shoes. When shopping for shoes it feels like wading through an endless sea of ugliness. For $40 or $400, there are eyesores at every price point. When I see, then, a design that seems elegant, and not only elegant but personally wearable, desirable, this is a breath of fresh air, a shock.  I want to try that shoe on (so many do not pass that test, either…).

Style is personal in every sense, and shoes are somehow especially so. It seems not only possible but likely to be able to agree with someone on many levels of style and then, suddenly, to disagree entirely about shoes, and what constitutes an appealing shoe. Why is this? Because feet and feelings about feet are so personal? Because walking and carriage is so personal?

I wonder if it has something to do with shoes being, for the mainstream, a relatively adventurous category of fashion, where it is, in a sense, safe to make bold or unexpected style choices, and therefore to infuse more dramatic levels of personality. Where by safe I mean something like, acceptable, perhaps near the edges of yet within the boundaries of expectation.

I don’t think of myself as being particularly into shoes, but I am into things I find beautiful, and once in a while a shoe pops up in that list.

So, does anyone recognize these shoes? Seriously I’ve been looking around and haven’t found anything remotely close. If you find something similar, let me know…

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photo via elle.com

earth tones

On July 21, 2014 by theseventhsphinx

“Luxury is aggression dressed as fashion.”

                                — Handbags, Anna Johnson

Here’s one of my ideas of an ideal summer ensemble. Loose and light, ultra comfortable (as in the photo I was recently distracted by).

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I could wear earth tones every day.

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So, this is a (pretty good) replica of Vuitton’s Sofia Coppola bag.

It doesn’t often happen that I am interested in a high-end designer item, not in the ‘willing to fork over my money’ kind of way, anyway (just in a ‘how inspiring’ way). Usually it’s moot because I don’t remotely have enough money to consider it. I liked the design of this bag so much, however (and for so long. I rarely like bags, only very recently do I even own multiple bags), that I was open to that shady category, the replica. I feel no disloyalty to Luis Vuitton, as they have not lost a sale…I was never going to spend $7,000 on this bag, so this is all happening a little outside their reality (intellectual copyright is still very slippery in fashion, a difficult topic, but the pricing of luxury brands is also a difficult topic). I did look around for something similar, actually, but none of them were as nice as this replica, which is, in fact, quite nice. It is, satisfyingly, about exactly as nice as it should be.

The cachet of luxury items is by turns interesting and troubling to me. They are, to the cognoscenti, walking price tags; subtle or perhaps not so subtle announcements of superfluous wealth. There is something aggressive and potentially gauche (if not outright tacky) about this. Especially when the items are being worn not because they are loved for themselves, but because they are on trend.

In the best cases, though, they are truly sublime objects, beautifully constructed out of impeccable materials. So there is something aggressive about them either way, but there can also be about them something ultimately tasteful, reflective of excellent taste.

Even what is now a kind of middle market, the $50-80 pair of pants, say (even given that a savvy shopper would almost never pay the full price), I would not call inexpensive. That is not inexpensive to me, anyhow. It is difficult to be stylish on a true budget (remembering that this book had a lot of great ideas about it, though). Or, it is not difficult to be stylish (given a bit of time to slowly accumulate good pieces), but it is difficult to be stylish in a variegated way, to have many solid style options. One must be very resourceful and invest a lot of time to find pieces made of good material that have been treated well, designed well, cut well, which, in many cases, at least at some point in their existence, were relatively expensive. Good clothes shouldn’t be inexpensive (someone somewhere was woefully underpaid, if they are…and likely even if they are expensive this is still the case…), they should be an investment.

I do like the French (at least, most famously French) concept of a minimal, versatile closet, some 10-15 carefully curated pieces that can be mixed and matched endlessly with different accessories to provide variation….but I like too many things. I want to look like too many kinds of people. I completely agree with the virtues of this concept but I cannot fully embrace it with my style so in flux. Maybe one day. My closet does need culling.

Ahhh. This is why I have no money left.

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This is Nars Taj Mahal blush again. So good.

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The necklace is various incarnations of jasper, which is quite a chameleon and has long been a favorite stone of mine.

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Camisole from asos, lounge pants from hush, Anthropologie Amentum sandals, obi belt from Viktor Sabo, Breil Milano watch, bag, bracelet and necklace from eBay. On the lips: Lipstick Queen in Jungle Queen, a beautiful, sheer poppy orange-red. [The packaging is a stunning dragonfly green and it’s beautifully done all around.]

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