O’Keefe is a Bostonian wine journalist and author (published books include Franco Biondi Santi: The Gentleman of Brunello and Brunello di Montalcino) residing in Lugano, Switzerland (and therefore within easy driving-distance of Alba) with her husband, Paolo Tenti. She is responsible for numerous articles in magazines like this one and Decanter and is presently working for the American publication Wine Enthusiast as well.
A number of her articles have been on the subject of Barolo and/or Barbaresco, and she has spent years tasting the stuff (a happy fate, you might think; but that would be to underestimate the palate-coating, tannin-accumulating effect of Nebbiolo, which can turn the prospect of a 100+ lineup of individually excellent Barolo samples into a living nightmare). So, she is eminently qualified for the authorship of such a tome…
…Indeed, it’s a very useful tome to have to hand: measured, informative and very readable. I thoroughly recommend it.
I would have welcomed O’Keefe’s profiles when I started my Barolo Odyssey.
Her accurate profiles of producers I know make me want to explore producers profiled that I have not encountered. The strength of this book is that it gives a detailed coherent account of the present and immediate past of Barolo and Barbaresco. This is a complicated story that O’Keefe has researched very effectively as a professional journalist. …This is a well-told, unique story of two of the greatest of wines anywhere.
This is another fine study from one of the great wine commentators on Italy and is in the frame for wine book of the year. [Walter is also a big fan of this book and will be writing soon on one or two particular myths it exposes – JR.]
Barolo and Barbaresco: The King and Queen of Italian Wine by Kerin O’Keefe (University of California Press, £25) had me reaching for words such as “definitive” and even “magisterial”. Don’t let those rather pompous words put you off – it’s a good read, too.
The University of California Press has just published Kerin O’Keefe’s Barolo and Barbaresco: The King and Queen of Italian Wines (346 pp, maps, photos, index: $39.95). I’ve been wanting to announce this ever since, over a year ago, I read the manuscript for the Press and enthusiastically recommended publication: To my mind, this is the most important book on these two great wines yet published.
The great wines of Italy’s Piedmont have become important enough that it’s surprising a book like Kerin O’Keefe’s “Barolo and Barbaresco” (UC Press; 360 pages; $39.95) hasn’t appeared before.
But O’Keefe, Italian editor for Wine Enthusiast magazine, delivers an essential resource, with an invaluable level of both narrative and detail.
O’Keefe covers most major producers and a good number of minor ones, and offers some long-needed organization of the Langhe’s geography — important, given that Barolo is an area due for serious scholarship on its terroir.
O’Keefe began writing about Italian wine full-time in 2002, writing some excellent articles in Decanter, a British wine magazine; she continued writing for Decanter until 2013. She also has written for The World of Fine Wine–the Rolls-Royce of all wine magazines. In April, 2013, Kerin accepted a new position as Wine Enthusiast magazine’s Italian Wine Editor.
Barolo and Barbaresco is Kerin O’Keefe’s third wine book. Her first book, Franco Biondi Santi: The Gentleman of Brunello, was published in 2005. Kerin followed that with Brunello: Understanding and Appreciating One of Italy’s Greatest Wines, in 2012. Both books were critically acclaimed.
O’Keefe’s Barolo and Barbaresco is written in three parts: Part One covers the history of both wines, and the origin of Nebbiolo. Part Two, the longest section, profiles 43 Barolo producers. Part Three covers 29 Barbaresco producers. In these two parts, producers are listed by the village in which their wineries are located. The Appendix is highlighted by a Vintage Guide to Barolo and Barbaresco, starting with1945, and going up to 2010–the current vintage of Barolo available as of 2014. O’Keefe employs a “star” rating–one to five stars–to rank the vintages.
O’Keefe’s book is a tour de force, a magnificent, comprehensive tome that required loads of research. I am happy that she possessed the ability and passion to take on this herculean undertaking. I think that every Barolo and Barbaresco wine lover will benefit from reading her Barolo and Barbaresco.
Among the world’s great wine regions, the Piedmont in northwestern Italy, home of Barolo and Barbaresco, has lagged far behind in focused English language appraisals. Kerin O’Keefe’s “Barolo and Barbaresco: The King and Queen of Italian Wine” (University of California Press, $39.95) goes a long way to fill the void. O’Keefe, an American wine critic who lives in Italy, offers a comprehensive look at the history, geography, geology and issues faced in the Piedmont, and opinionated profiles of the producers she feels are the best and most important.
O’Keefe, who wrote a similar guide to Brunello di Montalcino in 2012, is thorough and authoritative. She is a critic in the best sense of the word, not shy with her opinions, which she offers without polemics or bluster. This book is not for novices; readers are expected to have an understanding of how wine is farmed and produced. But for those who have delved into Barolo and Barbaresco and want to know more about where the wines are made, the people who make them and the differences in terroirs, this book is inspiring and essential.
O’Keefe dishes all the secrets about who’s on the hillsides and who’s on the flats; and for those who would find it fascinating to know who makes wine from Montosoli (probably the second-most esteemed Brunello vineyard after Biondi-Santi’s Il Greppo estate) without bothering to mention it on the label, this is the source.
And a valuable source, too, because it gives the appellation something that it has deserved for some time: a critical voice who writes about Brunello with the affection and focus ordinarily reserved for the likes of Burgundy, and, more important still, one who appreciates Brunello for what Brunello is and not for what it can be when it’s dressed as something else.
Kerin O’Keefe’s authoritative book on Brunello is in the Broadbent/Coates tradition…
…Brunello di Montalcino is a wine that makes enthusiasts push the expressive power of language to its limits. Even the normally reserved O’Keefe lets herself go when describing Biondi Santi’s 2004 Brunello: “a true masterpiece, a monument to Brunello . . . layers of wild cherry, earth, and mineral and a hint of tobacco . . . . A stunning, gripping wine with Grace Kelly-like finesse and polish”.
I must confess I don’t have much time for tasting notes. My eyes glaze over when I survey either Parker’s romantic rhapsodies or Broadbent’s classical sonatas. But the world of wine is baffling, full of opaque terminology, hyperbole, snobbery and downright deception. It is easy to make expensive mistakes. Many will have had the experience of coming across some quite stunning wine and wanting to repeat the experience – but finding too that it can be hard to locate the very same thing again. So we need a guide we can trust; and those once seduced by the delicate complexity of a perfect Brunello could hardly do better than O’Keefe’s book.
Kerin O’Keefe’s Brunello di Montalcino: Understanding and Appreciating One of Italy’s Greatest Wines (University of California Press; $39.95) is a must-have book for lovers of Brunello and, in fact, for anyone at all serious about Italian wine.
Brunello has burgeoned in my wine-drinking lifetime from a few more than half a dozen producers, mostly clustered around the medieval hill town of Montalcino, to well over two hundred, scattered all over the very diverse territories of the Brunello zone. Keeping track of that highly differentiated production – much more making sense of it – is a monumental task. O’Keefe has managed to do it by dint of persistence and equally monumental effort. As she puts it, “Rather than merely sit in my office and taste thousands of wines every year, I’ve visited all the Brunello estates profiled in the following chapters, some several times, and many more that are not in the book. I’ve spent years researching Brunello di Montalcino. . . . I’ve walked producers’ vineyards, visited their cellars, and talked for hours with the winemakers and their families. . . . I take [lengthy trips] to Montalcino every year.”
That kind of leg work produces the detailed and accurate information that makes O’Keefe’s book a milestone in our grasp of Brunello.
In an era where there is so much misinformation about any number of wines and wine news, it’s refreshing to read the work of an author who not only knows her subject in great detail, but one who is opinionated and tells her story in an engaging fashion. Whether you are just discovering Brunello di Montalcino or have been enjoying these wines for decades, this book is highly recommended.
Kerin O’Keefe’s Brunello di Montalcino is not simply an enjoyable wine book; it’s one of the rare wine books that is truly important.
O’Keefe, an American writer with many years experience in Italy and, particularly, in Tuscany, sets out to explain what makes this wine so special. And in doing so, she takes a sledgehammer to the developments that have threatened to make Brunello just another wine, indistinguishable from the masses.
The author’s values shine through in every chapter. O’Keefe speaks for many, many fans of Brunello who dread the internationalization of these wines. Her tasting notes are impressive, and she takes a brickbat to critics who celebrate the ubiquitous chocolate notes now so often lurking in Italian wines. Those notes come from wood, not the land, and not the grapes, she explains.
Ultimately, Kerin O’Keefe has done a great service to Montalcino and to wine lovers who appreciate a sense of history and place. Tuscany, as she reveals, has some growing up to do. It is unlike Piedmont in the way that it has allowed outsiders to dominate the conversation and the production. This book comes at a time when the region has the opportunity to determine its identity going forward. Thanks to Kerin O’Keefe, that identity is more likely to be mindful of Montalcino’s riveting past.