Thanks Simonbeve for update, 2008 looks like an interesting vintage for Brunello, but wines need to be chosen carefully.
I just finished the book and my impression is very positive. In a world where there is an abundance of superficial analysis and self-published opinions it is refreshing to see in-depth research published by the University of California. Working in the academic field myself I know quite well the pain involved with dealing with an editor, peer reviewers, editorial committee, etc. The author's pain turns, in most cases, in a better, more rigorous work for the benefit of the readers. There are also constraints in the process, for example it would have been nice to see color maps and pictures in the book, but these days how many books do you know that are manufactured (on recycled paper) and printed in the US? It costs more but it gives you comfort knowing that jobs are maintained in the US with the added benefit to rest assured that the ink is not toxic.
Kerin O'Keefe book is well researched, both through in-depth analysis of historical sources and academic research, as well as extensive foot work by means of interviews, vineyards and cellar visits. Relevant aspects of history, geology, pedology, viticulture and enology, together with an excursus into the so-called Brunellogate (in Italy we called it Brunellopoli) are presented in a way that makes it attractive to read, not an easy feat. About 100 pages are dedicated to those subjects and they cover about one third of the book. The author loves pure Sangiovese expression and her arguments are quite convincing: Montalcino proves to be the best terroir for Sangiovese, but it has been planted in many unsuitable vineyards, which contributes to explain the heavy handed approach of many wineries in the cellar.
The other two thirds of the book - about 200 pages - are covered by 58 producer profiles of variable length, from one page to several pages. The choice, aside from the top producers by size which are included because of their relevance, is made by O'Keefe based on what she thinks are the best expressions of Sangiovese. So there are some tiny producers which are only turning out a few thousands bottles a year, which have a cult following in Italy, that I know are very hard, if not impossible, to find as personally experienced in my frequent visits to the US. The profiles are packed with information, but are written in a style that is pleasant to read. Tasting notes of recent and old vintages are at the end of each profile.
The Wine Spectator reviewed the book http://www.winespectator.com/magazine/show/id/47640
and, while praising it ("...well-researched, detailed work, is a must read for Brunellophiles.”), was somewhat critical as the author “...does the reader a disservice by not discussing several reputable producers whose wines are highly regarded by both American and international critics”. I find the logic of this argument tenuous at best, as it is auto-referential. It is like saying I do not like your choices as you have not included the wines I like. Kerin O'Keefe, an American wine critic based in Italy, has been writing for Decanter and World of Fine Wine for many years. Isn't she entitled to have her own preferences?
In addition, I find that WS tastes are getting closer to O'Keefe's tastes anyway, as Biondi Santi have moved from being “tired and acidic”, one of the few bad wines in “The greatest Brunellos ever” report published in WS in 2002, to getting high 90s scores for its recent vintages. Was 1997 Biondi Santi really that bad and the house that invented Brunello has now dramatically increased its quality, or has WS changed its mind on Biondi Santi's wines?
What do you think?