Perhaps Better Late Than Never: WBC #1

Our assignment for the first edition of the Wine Book Club (WBC) came from David of McDuff’s Food and Wine Trail. He tasked us with a book longer than any I have read in the last 5 years, unless you count Harry Potter and law school case books. Yes, this makes me less than intellectual, but honestly, I don’t have much of an inclination to read any more. I got tired of it to be truthful, and I still read so much for work, that the thought of picking up a long book when I get home just doesn’t appeal to me. I clearly read a bit, I’ve reviewed a few wine books here for you before, and will continue to do so as I get more from PR people and publishers (in fact, I’ve got one for you soon, I read half on the plane to Atlanta and intend to finish is Friday on the way home!). So I must say, I was actually quite glad when Dr. Debs proposed the idea of a wine book club. Like other wine geeks, wine books pile up on my shelves, and I really should get around to them!

With that in mind, I picked up this month’s book, Vino Italiano, by Joseph Bastianich and David Lynch, and got to reading. It’s 531 pages including all indexes and appendices. It took me the whole assignment time, but I did it.

First thoughts: The organization, especially with the appendices and indexes, makes this the ideal reference book on Italian Wine. You can find anything about Italian wine that you never thought you wanted to know instantaneously. Each chapter has a handy guide at the end giving the quick and dirty on the region, the principle grapes, key vintages, etc. I found the guides to be one of the most useful parts of the book, if you aren’t inclined to read it in its entirety, and trust me, I’d be the last to blame you for that one, you can easily flip to the guides and get a fast overview of the region, which can assist you in deciding if the chapter is one that will intrigue you or not. I see myself turning to this book both as a reference in the future, and for more knowledge on particular grapes and regions.

Second thoughts: The stories at the beginning of each chapter kept me going to the next chapter, even when I felt a little bogged down in the weeds. They were fun and charming tales of a slice of life in each region, and I salivated over some of the food described, while feeling a bit repulsed by other “delicacies.”

Third thoughts: The book contains so much information, that it’s hard to digest all at once, and I think perhaps the pick and choose as you are interested in a region approach might be the best in tackling this book.

Fourth thoughts: Italian wines and varietals were on my list this year of things to learn about. So really this was a perfect book for me to read. I dove in, and was again astounded by the sheer volume of types of Italian wine. But alas, I came away a touch disappointed as I learned that many of the very small production local grapes are just not available here in the US. I guess that cements my desire to make our next BIG vacation to Italy…it’ll satisfy the classical historian in Matt and my desire to drink lots of Italian wines and gorge myself on priscutto drizzled with fresh pressed olive oil….::drifts into a daydream of cheese, cured meats, and wine::

And ultimately, that’s where Vino Italiano left me: hungry (thirsty?) to try more Italian wines (and cured meats), and to continue referencing the book to learn more as I am drinking. Which, I think might be my next adventure. Pick a chapter, find a wine from that region, and drink the wine while learning about the region.

Thanks to David for hosting this month and to Dr.Debs for the WBC idea!

Hip and Young?

*Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher as a press sample.

Are you between the ages of about 21 (let’s keep this legal folks!) and 35, give or take? Are you interested in wine, but find it hard to approach? Are you female? Do more lengthy tomes like the Oxford Companion to Wine appear to be way more information than you are ready to digest? Would you like a quick guide to the basics of wine that’s geared toward you? Then this book was written for you.

Hip Tastes: The Fresh Guide to Wine is a newly released book by Courtney Cochran. I fall clearly and squarely into the age group that this book is attempting to reach, mainly younger females. Its pop culture references such as rap stars drinking Cristal (or not so much anymore I guess) and calling parents “rents” flow through the book and its short, snappy titles appeal to those with not lengthy attention spans.

The chapters are brief, offering just a glimpse into each aspect of wine, tasting, hosting a party, shopping, etc. This is definitely a book for the beginner who wants a working knowledge of wine in order to feel comfortable asking a few questions in a restaurant or to confidently pick up a bottle or two at the local wine store. Overall, the 252 pages is a light and breezy easy read, taking me a flight to St. Louis to peruse.

If you are looking for an exhaustive resource for every nuance of the wine world, you aren’t going to be happy with this book. However, if you want an easy to read, approachable book stuffed with tidbits about the wines you are most likely to encounter at parties and restaurants as a young female, then this is a book for you.

Hip and Young?

*Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher as a press sample.

Are you between the ages of about 21 (let’s keep this legal folks!) and 35, give or take? Are you interested in wine, but find it hard to approach? Are you female? Do more lengthy tomes like the Oxford Companion to Wine appear to be way more information than you are ready to digest? Would you like a quick guide to the basics of wine that’s geared toward you? Then this book was written for you.

Hip Tastes: The Fresh Guide to Wine is a newly released book by Courtney Cochran. I fall clearly and squarely into the age group that this book is attempting to reach, mainly younger females. Its pop culture references such as rap stars drinking Cristal (or not so much anymore I guess) and calling parents “rents” flow through the book and its short, snappy titles appeal to those with not lengthy attention spans.

The chapters are brief, offering just a glimpse into each aspect of wine, tasting, hosting a party, shopping, etc. This is definitely a book for the beginner who wants a working knowledge of wine in order to feel comfortable asking a few questions in a restaurant or to confidently pick up a bottle or two at the local wine store. Overall, the 252 pages is a light and breezy easy read, taking me a flight to St. Louis to peruse.

If you are looking for an exhaustive resource for every nuance of the wine world, you aren’t going to be happy with this book. However, if you want an easy to read, approachable book stuffed with tidbits about the wines you are most likely to encounter at parties and restaurants as a young female, then this is a book for you.

1000 Best Wine Secrets

Several weeks ago a publisher contacted me, and by the looks of it, many other wine bloggers, offering a copy of the book 1000 Best Wine Secrets by Carolyn Hammond for review ( You can get it on Amazon for $11.01). I agreed and shortly after a copy arrived in the mail. Now, I’ve been meaning to write up the review for a while, but again, life got crazy, and I didn’t. However, I’ve noticed that Wino Sapien, Wine Outlook and Vivi have gotten their reviews up this week and it’s spurred me to get around to mine.

Organization: The book is divided into thirty chapters ranging from: Tasting Wine Like a Pro to Wine Myths. The short chapters make it easy to thumb right to the information you are looking for and to ignore information that isn’t relevant to your current question. Within each chapter, the tips are presented literally as a numbered list, from 1 to 1000. The tips in each chapter are a little disorganized for my taste, jumping in one chapter from a tip on how the best wines come from producers who are fastidious about every step of the wine making process (Tip 31) to a tip about respecting diversity in wines and not comparing (to paraphrase) apples to oranges (Tip 32). While both are good tips, I don’t think they are linked to one and other and the flow didn’t work for me in that respect.

Information: I did like that the information presented was in short blurbs. The book doesn’t pretend to be an end all for information about wine, instead, it (to make a bad joke) gets your palate wet and gives you a starting point to find out more if you are so inclined. Some of the more obscure facts were really interesting in an incredibly geeky way. Did you know that a newer Bordeaux house actually makes Bordeaux wine perfumes? (Tip 185)

Audience: At times I’m sure the audience for this book are those new to the wine world or those with a casual interest that would not merit purchasing a more in depth (and significantly more expensive) book such as the Oxford Companion to Wine. Then, it delves into California Cult Cabs (and give 4 or 5 tips on just Screaming Eagle) which I think might be a slightly off topic for those new to wine and looking to learn more about what various wines taste like and what sort of food goes well with them. But then again, it jumps back to a full page worth of tips on yellowtail (and we all know my opinion on the recent bottle of that I tasted) which makes me think that yes, it is a book for those just interested in getting their feet wet.

Overall: I think with a few exceptions that are probably personal to me in the organization, 1000 Best Wine Secrets accomplishes what it sets out to do. It presents an easily accesible, easy to read set of tips for those readers who are interested in wine and want to begin to test the waters. A reader’s curiosity could easily be piqued by any given tip to run and learn more about that particular wine or region. It’s a quick read and for $11 a decent value to those looking to get their feet wet and start with a user friendly book that doesn’t get bogged down in technical processes and debates about the merits of one Bordeaux producer over the other.

What Wine Books to Buy?

My very thoughtful parents gave me an Amazon gift card for Christmas since we wouldn’t be going to their home this year and they didn’t want to ship a ton of books to our house. I am now left contemplating what books I should buy. I have a few on my list and Matt gave me the Oxford Companion to Wine for Christmas already.

Currently this is my list:

How to Taste: A Guide to Enjoying Wine by Jancis Robinson
The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil
Red White and Drunk All Over by Natalie MacLean
Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book 2007
A History of Wine in America: From Prohibition to Present by Thomas Pinney
American Vintage: The Rise of American Wine by Paul Lukacs
The Accidental Connoisseur by Lawrence Osborne

What do you think? Any I should ditch? Any I should add? Thoughts on any of these books? Am I missing a quintessential tome that I just have to have in my collection? 🙂