blogger web statistics/a>
Book Reviews | 1 Wine Dude - Page 10

Posts Filed Under book reviews

Wine – The Book I Wanted To Hate

Vinted on December 5, 2008 binned in book reviews, wine books

I really wanted to hate this book.

I was sent a promotional copy of Wine (edited by Andre Domine, who has authored a number of wine- and culinary-related books), and form the moment that it arrived, I was primed to hate it.

It’s huge. It’s impossible to comfortably read it in bed (trust me, I’ve tried it). At well over 900 pages and what feels like nearly 20 lbs of weight, it seemed better suited to my workout routine crunches than my wine education.

My wife instantly hated it. With an eight-month-old baby in one hand and a full shopping bag in the other, my wife attempted to kick the shipping box in which Wine arrived from the front porch and into our house (the kicking, I mean – the book did not arrive from the front porch… ah, you get the idea), which she told me nearly broke her foot.

But a funny thing happened on my way to hating this book – I fell in love with it. And now this post is going to be precariously close to sounding like an advertisement for Wine. But I don’t care so much, because the book Rocks…

When I cracked open this book, I was thinking that the world needs another wine reference / introduction / tome like I need a hole in the head.

The first chapter states “Wine… has also become more egalitarian in that never before in its history has such a hige, high-quality range been available to so many people.”

You could say the same thing about wine books, I thought.


The truth is, if you’re a wine novice, you have dozens of decent choices when it comes to finding books to increase your wine know-how. If you’re a wine expert, there are a few key resources that you will undoubtedly tap into from time to time (especially the Oxford Companion). Newcomers to the wine world also have a good many wine resources available to them on the web, and most wine blogs are in some way geared towards the newbie.

Those of you who are past the point of being a beginner, but are not in the trade, or are otherwise someone with an ‘Intermediate’ level of wine knowledge, you have far fewer resources available to you.

Which is why most of you who fall into the “Intermediate” camp will probably dig Wine. It combines lucid and informed writing about all aspects of vino with some beautiful (but mostly functionally relevant) photographs, useful maps, and information on most of the world’s winemaking regions. In a way, it’s a bit like a one-stop-shop combination of the excellent Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia and the fabulously-illustrated World Atlas of Wine.

Worth a look – even if you might need to hit the gym and bulk up before being able to lift it…

Cheers!
(images: amazon.com)

"Wine on Tuesdays" on a Wednesday (Book Review)

Vinted on October 15, 2008 binned in book reviews

I figured that it was about time for another book review on 1WineDude.com, so I’m jumping back into the book review swing of things with my take on Debra & Keith Gordon’s Wine on Tuesdays: Be a Serious Wine Drinker Without Taking Wine Too Seriously.

[ Full disclosure: I received a media copy of Wine on Tuesdays. Not that Dude doesn't buy his own books, but... ]

The Low Down
Co-author Debra Gordon is no stranger to wine writing, having penned material for Wine Enthusiast, Wine & Vines, and Wine Adventures. She and husband co-author Keith are also dabbling in blogging.

Wine on Tuesdays reflects the Gordon’s writing experience – it’s well-written, accessible, and at turns funny and engaging. The tone of Wine on Tuesdays is lighthearted and its target is squarely on the wine novice, which puts it into the now-very-crowded field of wine introduction texts.

Which is the main problem with reviewing Wine on Tuesdays - it’s good, but (for me) lacked any real “wow” moments to give me a clear picture of its ideal target audience. While I found some topics covered superbly well (it has one of the best intro chapters on Champagne that I’ve ever come across), other topics (usually the more complex ones, notably dessert wines) are casually treated and maybe a touch oversimplified – which could be confusing for some readers, especially those new to wine… who theoretically happen to be the target audience…

Buy It or Skip It?
That depends.

Given the tone and overall style of Wine on Tuesdays, If you’re a budding wine lover you could do a lot worse than this well-written guide. Whether or not you will enjoy it is largely a matter of presentation – with so many great overall wine introduction guides available in the marketplace, the one best suited to you may really be down to writing style preference and the order of how the topics are presented. If you want to get into wine in a very structured way, starting with grape varietals first, then try Wine on Tuesdays. If you prefer a less structured approach, then there are better options.

It won’t replace my current favorite wine intro book, Oldman’s Guide to Outsmarting Wine, and it probably won’t make its way into my list of Essential Wine Reads, but Wine on Tuesdays is certainly a viable alternative for budding wine enthusiasts – enjoyable, and packed full of relevant and helpful wine info.

Cheers!
(images: amazon.com)

Book Review: Angels, Thieves and Winemakers (Wine Poems)

Vinted on June 23, 2008 binned in book reviews, wine books

Joseph Mills, author of A Guide to North Carolina’s Wineries and faculty member of the NC School of the Arts, recently released a book of wine poems titled Angels, Thieves, and Winemakers.

I was contacted by Mills, who asked if I’d be interested in writing a review of the new collection. It didn’t take me long to say Yes, since

  1. my undergrad major was English Lit, and I really dig poetry (not a well-known fact about me, I suppose), and
  2. I really, really dig wine (hopefully you’ve caught onto that one already).

In the realm of wine poetry, Mills doesn’t exactly have a ton of competition. Hafiz comes to mind, and I’m not sure 600+ year old verse is the best to go by for the purpose of comparative analysis. So, we’ll just have to review Angels, Thieves, and Winemakers on its own poetic merits.

How does Mills’ collection stand up?…

The Low Down
Dylan Thomas he’s not, but Mills has a gift for creating interesting and accessible verse, often including a subversive and thought-provoking twist.

Take, for example, the poem Opening Up which starts (quite humorously) by putting the reader in a familiar position:

As the dinner progressed / people’s comments / about each wine / became increasingly / ridiculous, and when / the woman beside me / praised the way a red / unfolded in the mouth, / I snorted so hard / I almost shot snot / onto my plate.

The same poem concludes a tad more soberly:

If we’re lucky / as the years unfold / we open up / until we reach a point / we can appreciate / one another’s complexities / and even the tart irony / of finding yourself / at the table’s next seat, / taking seriously, / so many of those things / you once mocked.

Buy It or Skip It?
Buy it – If you’re into wine, you’ll find something to like in Angels, Thieves, and Winemakers.

At their worst, Mills’ poems read a bit too much like the short-hand from a personal journal. At their best, they’re immediately accessible, clever, and offer nuggets of truth that are just dark enough to get you thinking.

I often found myself wishing Mills had ended a poem earlier to impart greater impact, rather than trying to tidy up his sentiment with an additional verse or two – it feels as though he sometimes errs on the side of playing it safe for the reader. In Sea Changes, Mills writes: “In college I read / the Iliad and Odessey, / and although I thought / they could be shorter, / overall they were better / than I expected” – I could apply the same critique to a number of the offerings in Angels, Thieves, and Winemakers.

But there’s no doubting Mills’ flair and cleverness, which alone make Angels, Thieves, and Winemakers a worthwhile read (preferably with a glass of interesting vino in one hand).


Cheers!

(images: fortscotch.files.wordpress.com, amazon.com, 24hourmuseum.org.uk)

Book Review: 101 Wines (or “Will Gary Vaynerchuk Save the World of Wine Reviews?”)

Vinted on May 12, 2008 binned in book reviews, wine books

You see, it’s like this:

Gary Vaynerchuk is the Howard Stern of the on-line wine world.

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last two years: Gary is the driving force behind Wine Library TV, an on-line video blog of wine reviews and palate-building tips that has become a sensation in the Wine 2.0 community.

In his chosen medium (in this case, web video), Gary – like Howard Stern – unleashes his slightly-irreverent style with over-the-top, grass-eating gusto. Depending on your demeanor, you might find Gary’s love-it-or-hate-it, in-your-face style endearing and energizing, or downright exhausting.

Off-line – also like Howard Stern – things are bit less off-the-cuff, and a bit more calculated.

Gary has stated that he is not in the wine business for the money, but “for my soul.” This assertion seems entirely genuine (otherwise, how could he sustain the energy levels on a daily basis!). But it only takes hearing a few sentences from his father (a sometimes-guest on his video episodes) delivered in a more straight-forward, no-nonsense approach to realize that business is business – and for business, it had better be at least partly about the money. That money comes by virtue of getting wine from the shelves of their N.J. family store (Wine Library) and into the glasses of wine consumers…

To that end, Gary has performed brilliantly, shrewdly parlaying his on-line exposure into business success: he has garnered TV spot appearances (4 minutes on Ellen will still get you far more exposure to more eyeballs than any on-line presence), spearheaded a tenfold factor growth of his family’s brick-&-mortar store, and purchased on-line wine social networking website Corkd.com (with trails leading back to Wine Library).

Well, performed brilliantly notwithstanding his poor taste in NFL teams of course.*

Gary’s approach is New Media, for sure – but it’s sagacious, old-school business sense all the way.

Gary’s latest foray into expanding his media media presence is the printed word: his first book, 101 Wines Guaranteed to Inspire, Delight, and Bring Thunder to Your World hits the streets in paperback tomorrow. Following is my review of Gary’s latest friendly assault on the wine world.

[ Full disclosure: I received 101 Wines from Gary's publicist for a review (under the condition that I could write any positive or negative reactions, of course). ]

If you’re skeptical about a wine retailer writing a book of wine recommendations (I had my doubts as well), take note that not every wine in 101 Wines is available via Wine Library. At least, not yet anyway… I know this because I checked it myself.

The Low Down

Like Gary’s video episodes, there is minimal wind-up (less than 15 pages of introduction) in 101 Wines, and maximum time (200+ pages) spent on extolling the virtues and colorful descriptions of his wine picks. For those bordering on ADD, the final 20+ pages of the book provide quick-hit lists of recommendations for holidays, or based on top his rankings.

“Without the benefit his exuberant live delivery, some of the written descriptions lack the punch they would otherwise have ‘in person'”

Gary’s enthusiasm translates to the printed page – mostly. Without the benefit of his exuberant live delivery, some of the written descriptions lack the punch they would otherwise have “in person” (case in point: a wine that has characteristics of a big guy in a barrel floating towards your mouth…).

Still, you have to give serious props to a self-described “wine guy for the average Joe” who isn’t afraid to recommend wines made from Charbono, Tinto Fino (recognizing the sometimes-neglected rising star that is Spanish wine), or who is bold enough to spotlight excellent Lebanese wines. Hardly the first choices that the average Joe might be looking for at their local wine shop.

Like wine itself, 101 Wines is best consumed in responsible doses. This is no knock on the writing, which is witty and expressive. It’s just an acknowledgment of the fact that reading about wine tasting is like trying to learn how to french kiss by studying a diagram. Fortunately, each wine in 101 Wines is given about two pages of focus, making every recommendation a quick-hit read so you can get on to creating a shopping list and finally tasting.


Buy It or Skip It?

Buy it. 101 Wines is an entertaining and fun read – likely, you’ll feel as though Gary is talking you through a gunshot-speed introduction to some skillfully picked wines. It’s geared towards the wine novice in its presentation of wine varietals and Gary’s vocabulary of wine descriptors. More experienced oenophiles will find value in Gary’s recommendations, some of which will surely surprise those that still doubt Gary’s palate.

101 Wines is an entertaining and fun read – likely, you’ll feel as though Gary is taking you on a gunshot-ride introduction to some skillfully picked wines.”

While the tone of 101 Wines is all-Gary, it’s also a slightly toned-down Gary. If you enjoy the Love-it-or-Hate-it style of Gary’s on-line video episodes, then you will likely enjoy his imaginative descriptors on the written page.

If you’re not a fan of descriptors like “badass flowers” and comparing wine to the theoretical taste of purple paint, then this book will NOT turn you into a “Vayniac.”

But if you haven’t yet checked out of WLTV, and if you like a no-nonsense wine approach, you’ll also probably enjoy this book.

In the book’s introduction, Gary discusses his view on changing the world of wine. In a nutshell, that revolution in wine appreciation boils down to this: By eschewing snobbishness and empowering the palates of the masses, wine consumers will no longer be shackled by the reviews of a handful of people critics in traditional media dictating the prices and styles of today’s wines. This wine 2.0 liberation will allow excellent wines that don’t fit the current mold of securing high Parker scores to be appreciated by a wider audience of consumers.

In a way, Gary’s popularity really is changing the wine world, and convincing a great number of people that wine, like beer, is damn fun. But as Spider-Man/Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben once said, “with great power, comes great responsibility.” As Gary rails against the industry impact of Robert Parker‘s points-based wine rating system, it’s worth keeping in mind that Gary himself uses a Parker-esque 100-point scoring. As Gary’s popularity continues to grow, securing him as the most influential wine reviewer outside of Parker (Robert, that is, not Peter!), won’t this surely add to the issue of winmakers “chasing the points” to increase their bottle selling prices?

Only this time, they’ll be chasing after the Vaynerchuk point?

Will Gary chose the Dark Side? Or will he deliver on the promise of his wine reviewer “Robin Hood” status?

Time will tell…

Cheers!

* Gary – got a bet for ya: If the Jets have a better record than the Steelers this season (yes, that’s the most difficult 2008 schedule in the entire NFL Steelers), I will personally record a video spot to air on your show – wearing a Jets jersey, & introducing you as “the master of all wine AND football. ” If the Steelers have a better record, then you can plug my blog on WLTV, mentioning me as “the guy who knows more about football than Gary Vaynerchuk.” I’ll also take a bottle of `04 Branson Coach

Now, the gauntlet has been thrown so please don’t go the route of Mary Ewing-Mulligan, who (to-date) has cowardly ignored my challenge to arm wrestle her for a bottle of `82 Mouton.

Here we go Steelers… HERE WE GO!

(images: opusseven.com, wikipedia.org, pictopia.com)

The Fine Print

This site is licensed under Creative Commons. Content may be used for non-commercial use only; no modifications allowed; attribution required in the form of a statement "originally published by 1WineDude" with a link back to the original posting.

Play nice! Code of Ethics and Privacy.

Contact: joe (at) 1winedude (dot) com

Google+

Labels

Vintage

Find