Wine\'s a tease: it makes you want to talk about it and then a lot of what you say is nonsense. That\'s understandable, excusable, even inevitable. If you\'re lucky, life is full of things that are both wonderful and ineffable: what\'s love like? How does the cavatina of Beethoven\'s B-flat major quartet make you feel? Or the Carter Family singing \"Angel Band\"? The pleasure is something you might be inspired to communicate while its ineffing wonderfulness limits your ability to do it. That is one reason why some wine-talk still aims not to describe tastes and odours but metaphorically to evoke the pleasure they give. When Shakespeare described his lover as like a summer\'s day, he didn\'t mean that she was sky-blue and 20 degrees Celsius. He meant that she made him feel a bit like a summer day made him feel – only better. No one seems to object to that little passage of imprecision. The heyday of literary wine-talk was the high Victorian and Edwardian era. This is when Thomas Love Peacock wrote that \"The juice of the grape is the liquid quintessence of concentrated sun-beams\", when Robert Louis Stevenson said that \"wine is bottled poetry\" and when the literary critic George Saintsbury announced that the 1888 and 1889 vintages of Château Smith Haut Lafitte \"were charming. Browning\'s \'A Pretty Woman\' is the poem that reminds me most of them.\" Then wine got recruited in the class war: to be distinguished, you learn to distinguish. (This was more necessary in the States than in Britain, where there were more effective ways of knowing who was who.) Fancy wine-talk was a balloon just waiting to be pricked, and by the 1930s apparently sincere attempts at evocation were rebranded as posh tosh. In James Thurber\'s classic 1937 New Yorker cartoon, the host of a dinner party pompously pronounces: \"It\'s a naive domestic burgundy without any breeding, but I think you\'ll be amused by its presumption.\" Raymond Postgate visited New York the same year and sighed that the whole thing had got out of hand: \"You must be able to discuss vintages, and \'nose\', \'breed\', and \'roundness\', and I don\'t know what else.\" But precious wine-talk persisted, and, from the mid-1970s, it was targeted by the now-famous Robert M Parker, Jr, who offered himself as the Ralph Nader of the American wine market, protecting nervous ordinary consumers from the mystifications of the class-ridden Anglo-French wine trade. Don\'t tell me how a great white burgundy makes you feel, Parker said, tell me what\'s actually in the glass, what it actually smells and tastes like. He was inspired by the scientists of the viticulture and oenology department at the University of California at Davis, who had long been committed to identifying the chemical constituents causing specific tastes and odours. And so there was reckoned to be a scientific basis to a range of wine-caused sensations, and everything else you might say was accounted gibberish. Hence, all that approved talk about \"bell-pepper\", \"green olive\" and \"guava\" odours, a ban on descriptors such as \"lovely\" and \"nervous\" and a fatwa on any high-toned literary allusion. What was originally intended to demystify evolved into yet another occasion for consumer anxiety: can I really detect the notes of \"roasted lilacs\" or \"wet stones\" that the professional critic identifies? That made room for the new New Thing, and the internet helped to supply it – online consumer forums and demotic wine-rants on YouTube. A cool wine-blog on the web could make you an instant celebrity, but why not get a real celebrity? So in 1999 Condé Nast\'s House & Garden magazine had the bright idea of inviting the New York brat-pack novelist Jay McInerney to write a wine column, and, when the magazine folded, the Wall Street Journal offered him an even better platform. It was an inspired choice: McInerney was an A-list literary celebrity: his first novel, Bright Lights, Big City, was a zinger, a pitch-perfect capture of the hedonistic mid-1980s Manhattan lifestyle in which the author himself was a pack-leader. (\"The last Fitzgeraldian,\" he\'s been called.) But as post-dotcom bubble and post-9/11 Manhattan gradually transitioned from coke to Corton (with rest-stops for comfort cuisine), so too did McInerney, and what he brought to wine writing was a custom blend of literary pizzazz, celebrity access and an amateur\'s unfiltered enthusiasm. Commencing his critical career, he said: \"I want to write from the point of view of someone who knows something but not everything. And who\'s willing to admit he has no idea what the hell malolactic fermentation is.\" The Juice is the third collection of McInerney\'s columns to be published in book form, and the public response has been enthusiastic. The journalistic style is gonzo, and the evocations focus on fast cars and fancy women. (McInerney is now on his fourth wife, having traded up, up and up to the newspaper heiress Anne Hearst.) \"If Dom Pérignon is the Porsche 911 Carrera of the wine world, then Dom Pérignon Rosé is the 911 Turbo\"; shifting gears, \"If Domaine Romanée-Conti is the Ferrari of Burgundy, Jadot is the Mercedes\"; an Aussie Shiraz – a powerful \"leg spreader\", a \"big badass\" bevvy – \"reminds me more of a muscle car like a Dodge Charger or a Viper than of a starlet, more of Russell Crowe than Naomi Watts\"; a 2008 Savennières is \"a youthful and powerful beauty like Milla Jovovich in Resident Evil\", while the 2007 bottling \"put me in mind of Ava Gardner in The Barefoot Contessa\"; a Barbera d\'Alba is Angelina Jolie but a Barbera d\'Asti is Grace Kelly. McInerney says the only car he owns is an eight-year-old Audi TT, but he\'s well-connected with the Porsche crowd, and his wine writing often tells you what the stars drink – or in some cases sulkily won\'t drink. The megastar rapper Jay-Z was a huge fan of Louis Roederer\'s super-premium champagne Cristal, until the producer expressed worry about the effect on brand image. (There goes the \'hood.) Whereupon Jay-Z switched loyalties to the garishly bottled Armand de Brignac (about $300 a cork-pop) and featured the new brand in his smash \"Show Me What You Got (Pretty Lady)\" video. Glitz is coming back in the Big Apple, and so are fast cars, hot babes and big-ticket bottles – something I can confirm from the discourse of braying hordes of 20-something investment bankers at a Michelin two-star Manhattan restaurant several weeks ago, alternating their Bud Lites with first-growth clarets and preening themselves on the return of big bonuses. McInerney can remember the days when he knew nothing about wine, and, celebrated as he now is (\"the best wine writer in America\", according to Salon), he can still brag delightedly about the time when, overawed in the company of the Financial Times\'s Jancis Robinson, he bull\'s-eyed the right answer at a blind tasting. He\'s Everyman with a humongous wine cellar and, like it or not, he\'s probably the Wine Voice of his time and place. McInerney conveys infectious enjoyment at the same time as he stirs up enormous pots of green envy. He makes you want to be really rich, to drive a fast car, to have lots of celebrity friends, to be personally known and man-hugged by the sommelier at Le Bernardin. He also makes you want to drink good wine – not always bottles beyond your means – and to take great pleasure in it. And for that you can almost forgive him all the other stuff.