Cellar notes: A tale of claret and blues

Noble Rot is a compelling story written by the Brussels bureau chief for the Dow Jones Newswires, William Echikson, whose starting point is a love affair with France derived from a visit to Bordeaux as a 15-year-old, culminating in a taste of the rare elixir, Yquem: "in one glass, the magic of the Old World came alive," he writes. The title deals with the fact that, beneath the Aubusson carpet, something rotten lurks in the state of Bordeaux.

The magic rapidly wore off after Echikson spent six months getting his writing fingers dirty in 2001 in Bordeaux. His characterisation of Alexandre Lur Saluces of Château d'Yquem as an avaricious and petulant dracula earned him a writ suspending publication in Europe (but available on www.amazon.com).

While the revelations about Yquem are spellbinding, Echikson's main theme is the revolutionary influence on Bordeaux of the modern, so-called "garage" movement. In a narrative peppered with neat thumbnail sketches, Echikson hails Michel Rolland, the wine consultant extraordinaire of Bordeaux's Right Bank, as a hero flanked by a band of upstart new growers, riding to the rescue, US-cavalry style, to cure Bordeaux of its ills.

The story of the rise of the Right Bank arrivistes begins with Château Pétrus, whose champion, Robert Parker, is, ironically, derided by Christian Moueix, the owner of Pétrus. This is some compensation for Echikson's rose-tinted view of Parker and Rolland. Overall though, Echikson does a good job of unravelling the complexities of the world's greatest fine-wine region. Next up, Ewan McGregor as Rolland and Michael Douglas as Parker?

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