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Wine Education

The Academics of Wine ~ Dr. Harvey E. Finkel ~ Wine Writer

The Wit & The Wisdom…

Since one of my ancestors, William Blackstone (five generations removed), helped to settle Boston (at the time it was referred to as “Shawmut”), it goes without saying that this is a favorite city for me. I was fortunate to not only grow up in the area, but to also give my three daughters great doses of Boston long before we moved to California in 1992.

This city is very much “home,” and the residents all seem like neighbors… Maybe that’s why I’ve found so many great neighbors with a similar interest… Learning “all things wine,” while writing and teaching about it, too.

When I asked one of my favorite Bostonians, Dr. Harvey E. Finkel, to help me with my wine academics research, he wrote back, “Happy to answer your questions, but be aware that my major degree is M.D., not Ph.D. If that disqualifies me for the study, so be it–just discard my response. I won’t feel bad: M.D. is the better degree anyway!”

I sure that this is argued by both sides of the doctor fence, but found it amusing and worth sharing so you could experience the witicism that I enjoy everyday from the cast of characters within my daily interchanges.

Harvey is a contributing editor to The Wine News magazine, for which he regularly contributes commentary on the interrelationships between wine and health, emphasizing objective medical science, to keep readers up to date on this important topic. He’s an award-winning wine writer, has contributed to a number of wine periodicals, and he co-authored one wine book. He writes, lectures and teaches extensively on wine and health as an authority on the subject.

Here’s a link to a story entitled, “The Key to Cardiac Health.”

Dr. Finkel is a clinical professor of medicine at the Boston Medical Center and consultant at several hospitals in the Boston area. He specializes in hematology and oncology, having published many scientific articles and one medical book. He is chairman of the Committee on Health and a member of the Board of Directors of the Society of Wine Educators.

Harvey’s answer to my question “What about your academic life most intrigues you?” is exactly what I’d respond, if someone asked me the same question about these writers with whom I have the privilege of interfacing. It’s about their quality. These academic writers don’t exist in quantity.

The following is our Q&A exchange:

Q: What is your academic area of expertise?

A: Hematology and oncology.

Q: What about your academic life most intrigues you?

A: (I’m now retired from all that.) I enjoyed the classic triad of patient care, teaching, and research, and interacting with colleagues of high quality.

Q: When did you start, and what prompted you, to start writing about wine?

A: My first wine writing was an account of a most rewarding (sensually and intellectually) wine tasting I constructed. At its conclusion, I was both stimulated (by the experience) and saddened (because only 12 or 14 people had shared the experience), so I wrote an account of the tasting and its implications, and sent it unsolicited to a wine magazine, which published it. That was 1974. I had already begun to explore wine several years before that.

Q: What aspect(s) of wine do you most enjoy covering?

A: Some of the technical aspects, the history, and wine’s influences upon health.

Q: Do you also teach wine classes?

A: I did teach for 10 years or more regularly; now on occasion.

Q: What’s your most memorable wine or wine tasting experience?

A: Too many to select one. The one in item #3 is important to me. I recall an “epiphany” when, many years ago, I tasted a Chateau Cheval Blanc 1955, and first realized how good wine could be.

Q. Do you have a favorite variety? If “yes,” which one?

A: Not really, though if forced at gunpoint I might chose pinot noir as in a great Burgundy.

Q: What’s your favorite wine region in the world?

A: Same sort of answer. Burgundy, I might admit doubtfully. I find both these hard to answer because I like and enjoy almost all wines, if good.

Q: Do you believe that there are better quality, lower priced wines today, than in past vintages?

9. On average, better quality, but perhaps individually the peaks were once higher (and troughs lower). Prices have escaled too high at every level.

Q: What’s your favorite innovation in the past few years?

A: Screw caps when used appropriately. Intelligent attention to the vineyard: controlling yields, etc.

Q: What’s your favorite food and wine pairing?

A: Too many to pick one. Springing to mind: lobster + Corton-Charlemagne; foie gras + Quarts de Chaume; osso buco + Barolo or Barbaresco; roast pork or veal, especially with prunes &/or apricots + Vouvray, etc.–but it will all depend on the individual dish and wine.

Q: Who inspires you (wine business or outside of it, it doesn’t matter)?

A: John Adams, Albert Einstein, J.S. Bach.

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