Wine is big business these days. Although people have been drinking the fermented grape juice for around 4,500 years, there has been a huge surge in popularity in recent years. It is a social drink, part of our culture. We drink it to celebrate, we drink it to wind down, we drink it in lieu of water to accompany our meals. If it was good enough for the Romans…
Nonetheless, if you want to go from being an ignoramus on the subject – if you want to expand your viticultural knowledge beyond that gleaned from The Wine Show (though haven’t Matthew Rhys and Matthew Goode been wonderful this past season?) – and if you want to be able to discuss with an air of intelligence the red, white, or rosé in your glass without having to gain the qualifications of a sommelier, then you’ll need to do some reading.
To this end, The Wall Street Journal’s Lettie Teague compiled a list of some of the best beginners’ volumes on the subject (and she should know, having written three books on wine herself!)
1. Wine for Dummies by Ed McCarthy and Mary Ewing-Mulligan
Now in its 6th edition, Wine for Dummies takes readers on a tour of old and new world wines, guiding would-be buyers on what’s in and what’s out. It even suggests wine and food pairings (a popular inclusion these days). Aimed specifically at novices to the wine scene, there is advice on collecting and tasting wine as well – not to be sniffed at (pardon the pun) when you realize that Ms. Ewing-Mulligan is Head of the International Wine Center in New York.
2. Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine by Madeline Puckette and Justin Hammack
Unlike Wine for Dummies, Wine Folly is replete with graphics, such as showing how many teaspoons of sugar are precisely in that glass of bubbles you favor. Compiled by the creators of WineFolly.com (a winner of the International Wine & Spirits’ Wine Blogger of the Year award), the book follows the standard “Style-Grapes-Region” format of most wine guides, but includes flavor wheels and maps, too.
3. How to Fake Your Way Through a Wine List: Tips and Tricks to Sound Like an Expert by Katherine Cole
Undeniably my favorite title on the list, this is the book to buy if you suffer from a crisis of confidence when choosing which wine to sip with which foods. Fear no more the appellations, chateaux, and vintages that dare you to translate them: this lovely book is here to help you with color-coded ease. A bit of a monster of a read, you won’t be slipping it into your handbag, but take your time with it at home (there are even role-playing vignettes!).
4. Windows on the World Complete Wine Course by Kevin Zraly
Sadly, the restaurant that gave the book its name perished with the World Trade Center, but some of its legacy lives on within these pages. Now in its 30th edition (with a new edition out next month), the Windows on the World Complete Wine Course is based on Zraly’s eight-week course that he runs at the JW Marriott Essex House hotel in New York, each “class” ending with a quiz. Probably the best choice for over-achievers who’ve an interest in becoming more rounded connoisseurs.
5. The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil
Now in its 2nd edition, The Wine Bible is a veritable tome of a book at almost 1,000 pages in length. MacNeil tasted more than 10,000 wines in the name of her research. Interestingly, the author includes wines from China, Japan, Mexico, and Slovenia, also (which makes me wish I’d paid more attention to that Bulgarian red someone gifted me not too long ago…) wanting readers to understand “the subtle interplay of variety, vineyard, and vintner”, there won’t be much you won’t know after consuming this book.
Which one will you select?
YouTube Channel: The Wine Show
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