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Wine,Wine Writer

The Academics of Wine ~ Dr. Michael Apstein ~ Wine Writer #11

It’s Not About “What,” It’s About “Whom”

There’s very little that can be said about Boston that’s not already been said, given that it’s a city with so much history. Having grown up in Maine, spending part each summer with my Aunt Edith in Stoneham, Mass., I know the town well. I just didn’t know the history until recently. I was studying my own genealogy when I discovered that one great grandmother’s grandfather was the Reverend William Blackstone (1595 – 1675). In 1623, King James sent Blackstone to the new world to preach the King James version of the Bible. His property is now Called Beacon Hill and the Boston Commons… Ah, that I could have been an heir, had he not sold the land and moved to Rhode Island in his later years.

Fast forward to today in Boston… I know it so well that I feel very comfortable saying that Boston (and its surrounding area) comprises the US’s seat of intelligentsia. No other city can boast about so many colleges and universities in such close proximity; ivy leagues, potted ivys et al. From Harvard, to Boston College, Boston University, Tufts, Emerson College, Fisher, Wentworth, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northeastern, on-and-on it goes…

This kind of community, therefore, has many of its graduates settling in Boston, Cambridge, and all surrounding areas. It’s a thriving city with a hunger for knowledge that defines its heart and soul. I love Boston!

I had to chuckle at a sales manager once who said to me – and understand, he lives and works in Boston – “You can’t send So-and-So to Boston for a media tour. There aren’t any wine writers in Boston.”

“Yeah, sure,” thought I. “Dr. Michael Aptstein, Jonathon Alsop, Ken Sternberg, Dr. Bill Nesto, Stephen Meuse, Jim Concannon (not the wine Jim Concannon, the book reviewer), Tamara Wieder, Rich Levin, Dr. Fred Bouchard, Dr. Harvey Finkel, and Dr. Robert Bradford, for instance.”

What rock was he living under? And, how does he do his job well not knowing the real wine influencers in his market? Yikes! (PR has its frustrations.)

So, in the wine academics theme, I’m bringing out the doctors, lawyers, and Indian chiefs within the city’s borders, as well as traveling the rest of the country to highlight the highlighters.

Dr. Michael Apstein is in this list above, and a major wine influencer in the Boston area as a wine writer. His credentials are impressive, to say the least: Michael Apstein, M.D., is a frequent contributor to the San Francisco Chronicle, a wine educator for more than 20 years, a freelance contributor to many national magazines including The Wine News, James Beard Award winner for wine writing, wine columnist for the Boston Globe, contributor to Wine Review on Line, and a judge for numerous national and international wine competitions. Dr. Apstein is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and a member of the Division of Gastroenterology at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. He also lectures about wine and health.

Such a tremendous resource that he’s a natural for Wine Academics.

Here’s the Q & A with Dr. Michael Apstein:

Q: What is your academic area of expertise?

A: Physician with a specialty in gastroenterology and liver disease (That’s my conflict of interest).

Q: What about your academic life most intrigues you?

A: How the body works and why it sometimes doesn’t.

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

A: Early 1980s. I’ve always loved the subject and hoped I could convey my enthusiasm and knowledge for it to others.

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

A: How the same grape variety can produce such vastly different wines depending on where it grows.

Q: Do you also teach wine classes?

A: I did for 20 years, but only sporadically now for specialized groups.

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

A: About 20 years ago, I participated in a weekend long series of vertical tastings of Corton-Charlemagne from various producers, Latour, Jadot, Bonneau du Martray, Drouhin and others. The wines spanned 30 vintages, starting with Louis Latour’s 1959. We repeated the tasting—with most of the same wines—about 10 years later. It was incredible to see how these great white wines developed—and improved—with age.

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

A: Pinot Noir

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

A: Burgundy

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

A: Absolutely

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

A: Corton Charlemagne and steamed lobster.

[New Englander, through and through!]

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