Literary Review - WineWise - Your Complete Guide to Understanding, Selecting, and Enjoying Wine

12/20/2008 10:40

 

Wine Wise - Your Complete Guide to Understanding, Selecting, and Enjoying Wine

Written by Steven Kolpan, Brian H. Smith, Michael A. Weiss, and The CIA (not that CIA, the Culinary Institute of America)

 

If we were quoted on the book sleeve –

“A highly informative book that will make you feel smarter about wine. It is easy to read and is just as likely to end up in your bathroom library as it is on your coffee table.” – Samir Bhavnani, GotTannins.com

Organization –

Wine Wise is an 8 ½” x 11” hardcover book. It is approximately 300 pages and is relatively easy to navigate, with a clear table of contents and a comprehensive index. The book would be well suited as a coffee table book or a reference book in your library. And the sections on specific countries (the bulk of the book) makes for good bathroom reading. 

The book is broken up into 17 chapters. It opens with “Palate Pleasure” a chapter devoting to enjoying wine. It does a good job of simply explaining wine and offering up some wine basics. The next two chapters are devoted to giving an understanding of the major white grapes and the major red grapes. The introductory chapters make up pages one through 59.

Chapters 4 through 13 (222 pages) cover the world’s major wine regions. Two chapters are devoted to the United States, as the majority of Wine Wise readers are likely to reside. There are entire chapters devoted to the countries of France, Italy, Spain and Portugal; and an entire chapter devoted to a single state, California. Wine Wise also covers other regions in the US – Washington, Oregon and New York. Other regions covered include South America, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Germany, Austria, Canada and Greece.

The remaining pages (281-350) feature sections on pairing wine with food, living with wine (ex. how to do a tasting), wine in restaurants (ex. What makes a good list), and the authors selections for the best bargain wines.

What we liked –

  • The first three chapters of the book really shine as there is an education for both wine newbies (red wine there is a lot of skin left on the grape, rose a little bit, white wine there is no skin) as well as people who think they more about wine than they really do!

  • The writing style is very easy to read and written in a manner that makes it easy for the layman to understand.

As an example is found on page 12 when the author describe how the appellation system works:

“The Bordeaux Appellations

  1. You start with France, a national appellation.

  2. Inside France is Bordeaux, a regional appellation.

  3. Inside Bordeaux are several district appellations, one of which is Haut-Medoc.

  4. Inside Haut-Medoc are six villages, each an appellation in its own right. They are St. Estephe, Pauillac, St. Julien, Margaux, Listrac, and Moulis.

The Sonoma Appellations

  1. You start with California, a state appellation.

  2. Inside California is North Coast, a regional appellation.

  3. Inside North Coast is Sonoma County, a county appellation.

  4. Inside Sonoma County is the Russian River Valley appellation.

  5. Inside the Russian River Valley are two sub-appellations: one of them is Chalk Hill

  6. If more than 85% of the grapes used to make the wine came from vineyards in the Chalk Hill area, the label will include the name “Chalk Hill”

  • The chapters on the grape varietals and the level of detail on specific common varietals is a must read. In addition to overviews of the varietals, Wine Wise describes in great detail the reputation of specific grape by region.

    • The white wines selected by the authors were: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Gewurztraminer (guh-VERTZ-tra-meener) (it sounds better in English with a heavy German accent), Pinot Grigio, and Vigonier.

    • The red wines selected by the authors were: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Syrah (totally different than Petite Syrah BTW), Zinfandel, and Grenache.

  • We LOVED pages 295-300 of the Pairing Wine with Food Chapter. Wine Wise offers pairing tips for the most common foods in popular regions and countries. Wine varietal selections are given for dishes such as Sauvignon Blanc from Sonoma for coconut-milk based seafood curry (Thai), sparkling brut from the US for samosas (India), or Australian GSM (Grenache/Shiraz/Mourvedre blend) with Barbecued Ribs (United States “down-home American cooking”).

  • The way Wine Wise offers separate chapters on major wine areas is a real treat. The maps are very informative and the level of knowledge is clear. The visual representations of both well known and not so well known wines from each region will definitely help the consumer when they are browsing their local stores.

What we didn’t like –

  • Some inconsistency in the layout of the Regional Chapters. For example, the Spain chapter has a section called “Spanish wines: What’s Hot Now”. This section isn’t common to all the regional chapters.

  • The Living with Wine Chapter. It seemed like a hodgepodge of different wine topics put together. Some useful tips for sure, but then also random things like the author’s opinion on screw tops vs. cork, which didn’t seem to belong. The section on wine tasting at home was just alright.

  • The wine in restaurants section could use some more meat. The basics were there; however, this chapter doesn’t add a ton of value for the reader, especially when compared to the very valuable section on Pairing Wine with Food. As a reader I was interested in knowing which restaurant the authors were referring to in the section “The wine on the list should be the wine in the bottle.” I would also like to know w what to do and how to appropriately deal with a similar situation where what is delivered to the table doesn’t match what’s on the list.

  • Would like to have seen the Corkage in restaurants section expanded to include a list of reasons why someone should BYOB.

  • The last chapter, “Our Bargain Chapters” didn’t live up to my expectations. It was very valuable to understand the methodology used by Steven, Brian and Michael. However, the reader would benefit from two additional items, a short blurb on why the writer selected a certain wine, and how much it costs.

Overall Recommendation - 

A worthwhile read for yourself or a great gift idea.

If you are interested in purchasing this book, you can purchase it from Amazon.com. Published by Wiley on October 10, 2008, list price is $29.95 USA and $32.95 Canada. (Amazon has it for $20 bucks right now).

  

 

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Topic: Literary Review - WineWise - Your Complete Guide to Understanding, Selecting, and Enjoying Wine

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