Jay McInerney is best known for his first novel, Bright Lights, Big City (1984), which winningly combined sophistication and naivety. In The Juice (Bloomsbury, £14.99), his third collection of wine columns (most of them for House & Garden and the Wall Street Journal), he exhibits a similar mix of qualities, contriving to be both jaded and puppyish, sometimes simultaneously, as when he boasts of his ‘Bad to the Beaune’ T-shirt.
Like the character in the film Sideways, McInerney deplores what he calls the ‘ripe, fruity, oaky, over-manipulated Frankenwine’ that has been typical of so much New World production, and loves the subtle yet earthy charm of pinot noir, above all the sublime reds of Burgundy, which he writes about with knowledge, passion and wit.
In his keenness to escape ‘the musty, upper-class stench of oenophilia’, though, he can be excessively blokey. He is addicted to the prefix ‘über’, makes far too many meaningless comparisons with cars — ‘If Dom Pérignon is the Porsche 911 Carrera of the wine world, then DP rosé is the 911 Turbo’ — and tends to be sexist, as in his characterisation of Nebbiolos as ‘wines of cleavage, hey-there-big-boy reds’.
He also becomes embarrassingly excited in his account of the ‘high-testosterone world’ of ‘New York’s high-rolling wine community’, where Rob ‘Big Boy’ Rosania, a swaggering real estate mogul with ‘plenty of chest hair’, opens a $10,000-jeroboam of 1945 Bollinger with a sabre (at the third attempt), and praises another champagne as ‘Tighter than a 14-year-old virgin’.