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The emails I receive from many readers all over the world (and sometimes even
further!) often ask me for my opinions about books, films and music, so I
thought it would be a good idea to include such reviews in my blog. Otherwise I
may run out of things to say.

Under development as a Hollywood movie. Does it make me a cynic to assume it will suck?    I’d heard good things about the BBC miniseries Lost in Austen, so I manfully set aside my manly disregard for romantic comedies and checked it out. I have to say it was awesome. No, really. Clever, funny, and totally satisfying. I also appreciate that it assumes a complete working knowledge of Pride and Prejudice (which I have because I am manly and sensitive), and it doesn’t waste any time bringing the viewer up tospeed. If you only have a passing recollection of the novel, then this DVD is not for you. If, on the othe hand, you can name all five Bennet sisters without hesitation, can recall the names of both Bingley’s and Darcy’s estates (special bonus points if you can name Lady Catherine’s — no internet cheating) then come on in, my friend. You are most welcome.Yes, the premise is silly, and the first few minutes of the film are almost too dippy to be endured, but once you get past the opening moves, everything clicks into place. The idea is that a Amanda, a young woman obsessed with Pride and Prejudice, somehow changes places with Elizabeth Bennet. It’s one of those vague moves you can get away with in television and film, but novelists would be nailed to the wall for attempting. This is my moment of resentment. In any case, while Elizabeth is off somewhere in modern day London, Amanda has to take her place in the world of P&P, trying to fit in, what with her modern ways and all, and working hard to keep the novelistic events rolling along the way they are supposed to.

The main thing here is that the writing is consistently and remarkably witty. British TV writer Guy Andrews knows and gets the material, and even the most cartoonish characters in Austen are rendered with sensitivity and insight. Indeed, some of the character revisions are very learned and so satisfying. And this is not a cheeky romp through a set narrative. Amanda’s incursion in the fiction world changes the characters around her, and they don’t do, say, or even marry the way they do in the novel. It all has a very playful feel – in fact, when, in one hilarious sequence Amanda asks one of the characters to act out a scene from the famous BBC production of P&P, she says, “This is very post-modern.” Indeed.

And what better way to enjoy a BBC comedy about Jane Austen than with a nice Valpolicella? I went with the 2006 Zenato Valpolicella Superiore Ripassa. I had high hopes for this one. Robert Parker gave it a 93, and while a 90+ rating from Parker doesn’t mean what it used to (he’s handing them out like crazy for over-extracted Australian swill), it still seemed like a good indicator. The thing is, if you check the on-line wine boards, you see two completely different descriptions of this wine. Some tasters report a big, jammy monster. Others a more subdued and subtle juice. Curious.

My experience was the latter. I found the nose to be very muted, but after breathing out of the glass like an asthmatic with his inhaler, I could get berry, date, a touch of banana cream pie, and a blast of vanilla. The mouthfeel was a bit thin, almost watery at times, but in the end I pronounced it medium-bodied with very nicely balanced tannins and acidity. I didn’t get any jamminess, but there was dark fruit, especially blackberry, fig, and prune and also a hint of diluted latte. Make no mistake, this is a very enjoyable wine, but I was expecting something bigger and bolder. Knocking ten buck off the price would probably have inspired me to add another point or two,
but at almost $30 a bottle, I want something a little more dynamic. I gave it an 88.

You can follow my hard-drinking, hard-living lifestyle on my CellarTracker! page, where I post all my wine info.

 Jane Austen taught men to attract women by being jerky and rich. 
 Elliot Cowan gets all Colin Firthy

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