The peripatetic, enthusiastic and voluble British wine writer Oz Clarke was at Bedell Cellars in October to promote his new book, his 15th, Let Me Tell You About Wine. He was also there to catch up on the state of Long Island Wine Country and to revisit some stomping grounds.
The Cutchogue stop was just one of six Clarke (above left, sipping wine at Bedell Cellars with winemaker Richard Olsen-Harbich) had planned for North America. His other stops included the Hudson River Valley and the Finger Lakes in New York, and the Hill Country in Texas, a wine region outside of Austin. He finished up in San Francisco and Napa. The first half of his tour, he said, was to keep up with developing wine regions.
As for the East End, Clarke had been on the North Fork before, in the early ’80s, to visit Alex and Louisa Hargrave, who pioneered Long Island wine when they planted the first vinifera vines in 1973. Ms. Hargrave was in the front row at the talk and smiled as Clarke recalled taking the train from New York and tasting wine he called “supremely original.” He also fondly spoke of a time in his life, during the same decade, spent drinking sauvignon blanc from the erstwhile Bridgehampton Winery.
Not a fan of high-alcohol wine, Clarke said the East End has evolved into what Bordeaux used to be, because the cool maritime climate allows grapes to ripen, while still maintaining acidity. The result is fresh drinkable wine.
His talk covered the basics of wine tasting—don’t wear white, don’t drink coffee—but also covered his philosophy, which is that wine is meant to be enjoyable. It’s not the province of critics, “or some bloke who lives in Maryland,” but accessible to anyone with the curiosity and the time to spend with friends at a kitchen table trying something new.