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First Big Crush: The Down and Dirty on Making Great Wine Down Under Hardcover – Sep 18 2007

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; 1 edition (Sept. 18 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416537694
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416537694
  • Product Dimensions: 23.7 x 15.5 x 2.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 408 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,149,776 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Eric Arnold has been an awful stand-up comedian whose only measure

of success was selling a joke to Jay Leno for $50. He has been an

editor at Wine Spectator and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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By Gregg Norman on March 27 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This was a lot of fun. Arnold has a great sense of comedic timing, knowing just when to insert a zingy analogy or a hilarious, off-color metaphor. At the same time, the book is a bit unnerving as the author casually and constantly exposes the artificial underbelly of modern wine-making techniques. It can't help but make you think twice the next time you find yourself reaching for a bottle of "down under" wine. Overall, though, it was a very good read.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 14 reviews
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Of Grapes and Men Nov. 5 2007
By Barbara Hudgins - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Lately there have been a number of travel memoirs in the "how I took a year off and did something crazy in a foreign country" mode. Usually these travels have been inspired by a great emotional upheaval in the writer. Consider the current bestseller, "Eat, Pray, Love" in which the author goes off to Italy, India and Indonesia to recover from a love affair and reinvent her life. Or the past bestseller, "Under the Tuscan Sun" which also had a writer take off to find a new life after tumult in the old one.

However, there was no such sturm and drang in the life of 29-year-old Eric Arnold. He set off for a year to New Zealand to become immersed in grapes and the wine-making process for no better reason than he thought it was a good idea. After a few years of working at various hack writing jobs he decided to chuck it all for an up-close look at the burgeoning wine industry Down Under.
What we get is a short description of the farming community of Marlborough situated in the southern island of New Zealand, and a ton of details on the growing, pruning, and picking of grapes and then squeezing and squishing them through modern steel tanks.
During the year, Eric joins in the everyday work of the winery (which includes some close encounters with errant steel hoses and tank closures) and the more rarified tasks of tastings and competitions. This is winemaking 101 with a few side pictures of New Zealanders at work and play. While the men work 12-hour days during the season, play consists of mostly drinking, fighting, finding girls and losing their teeth at the occasional Rugby match.
The snobbism of wine sophisticates seems at a variance with the down-to-earth reality of grape-growing and wine mixing. Arnold points out that this is a farm isolated in the middle of a country where sheep outnumber people by a wide margin. He also throws in some off-color jokes to let us know this is testosterone country. Although he portrays himself as a slacker, he comes through all the wet, harried days to become a more mature man. Or at least a more mature drinker who can now judge wine with the best of them rather than just quaffing down the stuff to get a buzz. Since he now has a job at Wine Spectator he must have learned something. And he does his utmost in 245 pages to teach us what that is.
Barbara Hudgins, author of "Crafting the Travel Guidebook"
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Excellent read, from Marisa D'Vari of Sept. 6 2007
By Marisa D'vari, DWS - Published on
Format: Hardcover
So you've seen the film Sideways and know how geeky wine aficionados can get about their favorite grape. Hey, you've been there too after a few glasses of Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon. Once upon a time you felt pretty slick about your wine savvy, but now you're curious to learn more. How is wine made, anyway? What happens during the harvest? Are grapes stomped, Lucille Ball style, by humans standing in a large wooden cask, or is it a mechanical process?

Duly motivated, you zip off to the store and find dozens of books detailing how wine is made. Yet after skimming the dry, dense, detailed paragraphs that remind you of your high school chemistry textbook, your eyes glaze over.

Enter Eric Arnold, whose new book, First Big Crush, is a colorful, laugh-out-loud funny account of his tenure during a New Zealand grape harvest, filled with wacky real-life characters. Of course, I should have figured as much. The first time I saw Arnold, on a video clip, he was cleaning the interior of a wine tank, gangly jean-covered legs waving in the air. This guy, I thought, is up for anything.

What first brings Arnold, then an unemployed editor, to Alan Scott Wines in New Zealand is the prospect of getting paid to lazily drink wine in the sun. Very quickly, Arnold discovers winemaking is real work, and dangerous at that. One day, he shows up for his assigned task without boots, expecting to simply push a button. To his surprise, he's expected to kick a half-ton container of grapes, and nearly loses a toe. Instead of sympathizing, Arnold's New Zealand colleagues taunt him, asking why he's walking like a girl.

Arnold's first-person voice is candid and bold, his literary style so lively you won't feel you're reading text as much as you are experiencing the harvest at Arnold's side. In one scene, he is told to walk through the rows of grape vines with a bucket and randomly grab fistfuls of grapes. What activity could possibly be more repetitive and boring? Arnold must have thought long and hard about how to make the process of grabbing grapes colorful and descriptive for the reader, for here is how he chronicles it: "Essentially, you're simulating the world of a machine harvester, which doesn't discriminate, ripping everything off like it just got out of prison and the vine is the dress on a twenty-dollar whore."

In the course of these hilarious 245 pages, you also learn a great deal about Arnold and his twenty-something, slightly slacker-esque, and very male way of viewing the world. For instance, when discussing his relationship with a French girlfriend, he writes, "I'm afraid this isn't the part where I tell you that she took me back to France and taught me everything there is to know about Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne. She had so little interest in food and wine - plus she didn't smoke and she shaved her armpits - that they must have kicked her out of France for not being French enough."

First Big Crush is a highly entertaining but solid primer about the wine making process, told from the vantage point of a likable and very direct narrator. If you've ever wondered how wines are judged in competition, or what factors influence the pricing of wine, you'll see the process through Arnold's eyes. And if you ever fantasized about what it is like to work the harvest but didn't want to get wet and dirty, you can get the vicarious experience right here.

Building Buzz: How To Reach And Impress Your Target Audience
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A Rare Book Nov. 12 2007
By George M. Taber - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Anyone who thinks that wine books are pompous or boring has a pleasant surprise in store. This book is delightfully funny. Yes, there is a funny side to wine when Eric Arnold is in control. But it's not just funny; it's also informative. I am a huge fan of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and have even visited there. Nonetheless I learned a lot about the Kiwis and their approach to wine from the book. That is making my enjoyment of their wine even stronger. From screwcaps to terroir the book covers it all with a crisp freshness that is as enjoyable as one of those New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A Grape Read Nov. 25 2007
By Sherri Green - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Eric Arnold took a subject that could have been as dry and pompous as a California Chardonnay and actually made me want to read about it. Of course, I didn't retain all the information because I took his advice and read some of the chapters while drinking wine. I learned more than I really wanted to know about some aspects of the author's personal life, but that's part of what makes the book accessible for those who would rather drink wine than obsess about it.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Plow through the's enlightening March 24 2008
By Jimmy Mac - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The author's unrelenting use of tacky sexual simile might be difficult to deal with if the overall content of the book wasn't quite so interesting...his 'hands dirty' insight to this small piece of the wine making business is compelling, though, and I found myself ignoring his hormonal excess. This is one that I'll read again.