Welcome to the June 2018 incarnation of the ongoing series in which I review samples that aren’t in liquid form. I am so, so, sooooooooooooooooooooo far behind in penning thoughts on various tastings and wine travels, but I’m also so, so, sooooooooooooooooooooo far behind in reviewing the never-ending flood of wine book samples coming my way that I felt compelled to knock off at least a small handful for this product roundup.
First up, we have the small-but-powerful 101 Wines to Try Before You Die (Cassell, 244 pages, about $12) by former Wine Magazine editor Margaret Rand. Generally speaking, I’m not a fan of list-style books, but Rand’s clever ploy here – in which she devotes two pages each to the wines on her list, including a bottle/label shot – is not to introduce you to individual wines per se, but to get people thinking more about things like Savennières, Hunter Valley Semillon, or Bierzo.
Rand gets bonus points for employing a writing style that’s equal parts matter-of-fact, personal, and humorous (included with each selection’s vitals, such as trophy vintages and whether or not to chill or decant the wine, is a “What Not to Say” section; my personal favorite is probably “Is it German?” under Hugel’s Riesling Schoelhammer entry). 101 Wines to Try Before You Die is an honest and fun, if not essential, walk through some of compelling bottles.
Next, there’s (Mascot, 144 pages, about $25) by Michael Biddick. Biddick is a sommelier with an IT background, and his upcoming book is essentially full of vignettes about some of the world’s most important wine regions, accompanied by a sort of info-graphic that displays the area’s major grapes, soils, climate, and recent vintages.
Now, at this point, you’re probably asking yourself “why the f–k did he pick 43 regions?!?” and the answer has to do with Biddick’s IT geekdom, and is the kind of thing that’s just begging for controversy…
Being an IT guy at heart, the author basically created a matrix/spreadsheet for each potential wine region in the mix for inclusion, scoring for categories such as composite vintage score 2000-2016″ and “weather and climate.” A total point score was then calculated for each wine region, with 50 points being the cutoff for making the book. I can feel you points-haters cringing at this (hey, I’m one of you, and I did, too). For sh*ts and giggles, here are Biddick’s top 20 and bottom 10, based on his algorithm:
Whether or not 43 Wine Regions will be your particular cup o’ tea when it comes to wine reference books will depend in large part on how you feel about this kind of full embracing of the American penchant for list-making, categorizing, and ranking.
Finally, we have a cute reference focusing on one and only one category of wine – Drink Pink: A Celebration of Rosé (Harper Design, 128 pages, about $12) by Victoria James (author) and Lyle Railsback (illustrator). James is a somm and beverage director, and, presumably, a big fan of pink wines. The pink-all-over cover and the clever/whimsical illustrations throughout will almost certainly have the more cynical among you (myself included) thinking that James and Railsback are capitalizing on the current boom in Rosé popularity; and while I don’t think that’s an incorrect conclusion, it doesn’t mean that Drink Pink should be overlooked. On the contrary, there’s a lot to like about this book: it’s unpretentious, gets into cool levels of detail (for example, in discussing the Cassis, Palette, and Bandol sub-regions within Provence), and offers Rosé-focused food pairings/recipes, and even Rosé cocktail ideas that don’t actually sound disgusting. A bit of Rosé history and production overviews round the book out, and it’s a solid gift idea for those who are not necessarily wine geeks but are enthralled with pinks.