Since my last update in January, I have made important progress on The Wines of Piemonte. The big news is that on 31 May, on time, I submitted my full text to the Classic Wine Library. This is genuinely an important milestone! While it has been on the publisher’s and Amazon’s websites for some time to pre-order, that is now beginning to feel real to me. The publication will be in early September and I will let you know the date. Needless to say, there have been some highlights and some challenges in the last half year.
Turin, Verona, Turin again
While most of my time has been devoted to writing and revising, I have managed to squeeze in three visits. First in January to Grandi Langhe in Turin, the release of the latest vintages of Barolo, Barbaresco and other Langhe wines. Visiting the city was a delight as was filling a few gaps in the research for the book. Janet and I also went to Vinitaly in Verona, partly for general coverage of Italy for the WSET (yes, other Italian regions are available) and partly again to cover those final gaps in denominations such as Boca (Alto Piemonte) and San Rocco Seno d’Elvio, the tiny area of Barbaresco that is within the municipality of Alba. Finally, I attended the annual tasting of Alta Langa DOCG, traditional method wines made with Pinot Nero and Chardonnay, in the magnificent royal palace, Venaria Reale. It was thoughtful of the House of Savoy to build this palace so close to Turin airport!
Words, words and more words
When I started on this project I had no idea how many words I would write. Nor did I know that there are 60 DOCs and DOCGs in Piemonte and 60 native varieties. I was anxious that I might not have 100,000 words to write so I had 80–100,000 written into the contract. I have always valued the less well-known wines and varieties in any region. As the work developed it seemed to me essential to cover them all. My informal title has been ’Piemonte, much more than just Barolo and Barbaresco’! I did keep a spreadsheet of the number of words I had written as I went along. It finally began to dawn on me that no sections were going to be shorter than projected, as I had hoped.
I am very grateful to the publisher for giving me an extension of up to 125,000 words (350 pages). I was able to write the Barolo and Barbaresco chapters and the general introduction in a concise way. Other sections were trimmed to get to this agreed length. The two leading denominations still get nearly 23,000 words (65 pages) … but it could have been worse! In Monferrato and other regions, most or even all the well-known wineries have a full profile. Inevitably in Barolo and Barbaresco some really famous names have been left on the cutting board. But then there are more than 600 wineries in these two denominations.
Checking and being checked
The final task has been to get the relevant sections of the book checked by experts. I wrote individual emails to the 200 wineries that are profiled in the book to ask them to check their entries. Janet and I were going ‘on holiday’ to St Ives. I made good use of two long train journeys and a couple of hours a day to send these out. I am delighted to say that I have had a 90% response to these and a few important errors have been avoided. Equally, a number of experts in the regions have generously given their time to read the various sections. There is an enormous amount of detail in the book and I have done all I can to check that it is correct.
Here is an example of points made by an external expert, here commenting on the Cortese grape variety in Gavi DOCG:
Finally, I had a very positive video call with the editor at Classic Wine Library. She had read the first five chapters. She was very encouraging about how readable the text is and she said that it needs little editing. I was delighted by this of course as it is my job at WSET to write accessible and clear text about complicated wine matters!
The next job …
… is to do some work to promote the book. Having put all my spare time in the last four years into this project I do want to make sure interested people are aware of it. I am working on a number of strands to promote the book. My daughter has a professional background in digital marketing. For example, she is going to transform my Instagram account ? ! I will also be planning book launches in the UK and Piemonte at least. If you have ideas for this, please let me know. For example, do you know anyone in wine PR who specialises in the ’niche within the niche’ of promoting wine books? (The niche is highly engaged wine drinkers. The niche within the niche is highly engaged wine drinkers who buy wine books!)
Thank you for your interest in The Wines of Piemonte. A huge bonus of this project has been all the people I have met who have expressed their enthusiasm and support for my work. That means as much as the actual research and writing. Submitting the full text has been a great moment, an important milestone. Now I am moving on to external editing and learning how to promote the book.