Posts Filed Under book reviews

Can A Wine Critic’s Opinion Really Be Trusted? (Dissecting the Pontifications of Bettane & Desseauve’s Guide to the Wines of France)

Vinted on June 13, 2011 binned in book reviews, commentary

Too much of a good thing, can, in fact, be had, especially when you’re talking about wine books; the sight alone of which used to bring me great pleasure but now fills me with a OMG-I’ve-got-term-paper-due-soon type of dread because I’ve not so much as glance at most of them let alone reviewed them.

First off, wine books tend to be weighty – as in, literally weighty, heavy, and requiring a lot of storage space. In the case of my current stock of wine book samples, they are taking up an increasingly alarming percentage of my office floor space, as they sit in grim admonition of my incapability to keep up even a modest a review schedule… MOCKING ME WITH THEIR SILENCE!!!

Anyway… I’ve been making a (half-hearted but) concerted effort to chip away at the wine book sample library that has now grown out of my floor space, and so picked up the nearest to my desk chair, which happened to be Bettane and Desseauve’s Guide to the Wines of France By Michel Bettane and Thierry Desseauve (about $25 at

Michel Bettane, France’s most recognizable wine critic, is (I’d argue, anyway) prone to pontification (something I noted when hearing him speak last year in Cahors). He lives up to that  reputation in this new guide – which in-and-of-itself is a capable, handy abd well-researched reference on a wide swath of French wine.  It’s in the guide’s Frequently Asked Questions section that the pontification is on display, when the authors directly address the question, “Can a wine critic’s opinion really be trusted?”

In this case, Bettane and Desseauve’s Guide to the Wines of France is not just weighty in heft, but also in tone; and the answer it offers to that potentially deep query is alternatively defensive, poignant, and downright… odd

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Georges Duboeuf Wine Book Of The Year Awards, Concluded (“Best Of The Best” Giveaway!)

Vinted on May 18, 2011 binned in book reviews, giveaways, going pro

Last week in my continuing saga as judge in the Georges Duboeuf Wine Book of the Year Awards, we took a look at the finalists that didn’t make my cut into the “top three” votes for the award (and gave away a copy of Charlie Olken’s excellent New Connoisseurs’ Guidebook to California Wine and Wineries in the process).

This week, we’re going to look at the three that did make that cut, with my explanations as to why I chose them, exactly as I reported them to the folks running the GD awards this year.  They’re listed after the jump in descending order, ending with my personal #1 pick for the award.  The official winner will be announced next week at Duboeuf’s annual Beaujolais Crus preview in New York on May 24.

This week, we’re giving away a copy of one of those ‘top three’ books – Mark Oldman’s Brave New World of Wine: Pleasure, Value, and Adventure Beyond Wine’s Usual Suspects!

Same drill as last week, people: you comment, and in one week I’ll randomly select a winner from the list of commenters!

You can see exactly where Mark’s latest release fell in my top three after the jump (for more on Mark, check out the interview I did with him back in October) – to make a long story short, his latest book kicks all kinds of wine learning ass. The main reason I picked Brave New World of Wine as one of my three finalists, however, was because Mark’s book reminds us of something that I think we spend too much tome forgetting – inherently, wine is supposed to make us happy; it’s supposed to bring joy, delight and (at the high end) some artistic measure to our days.

Do we miss the trick too much, and too often forget about the joy that wine is supposed to bring to us? Shout it out in the comments for a chance to win!

Enjoy – and good luck!…

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Georges Duboeuf Wine Book Of The Year Awards, Continued (“Best Of The Rest” Giveaway!)

Vinted on May 11, 2011 binned in book reviews, giveaways, going pro


For the next act in my continuing saga as judge in the Georges Duboeuf Wine Book of the Year Awards, I wanted to detail the awards finalists that didn’t make the cut for my top three candidates for this year’s award (the three is not an arbitrary number, by the way – as judges, we were asked to pick our top three selections for the award from the seven finalists chosen by the event’s organizers).

And, we’re going to give away a copy of one of those books – Charlie Olken’s excellent New Connoisseurs’ Guidebook to California Wine and Wineries – to one lucky commenter!

Most of you know the drill: you comment, and in one week a winner is randomly selected from the comments.

Personally, I find myself swayed at least a little bit when it comes to awards like this, in terms of my wine book purchasing decisions.  I suppose that a part of me figures, Hey, if some people took the time to judge this thing against its peers and say it was good, it’s probably pretty darn good – but all-in-all, when it come to wine book buying, I probably put more weight into jacket testimonials (especially when they’re written by people that I know and respect).  So the question I’ve got to get our comentarios del blog de ​​discusión started is this:

Do awards factor into your wine book-buying decisions? Or are they like most wine competition medals (i.e., kinda meaningless)?

My thoughts on all of the non-top-three-listed finalists’ books are below after the jump. I need to preface this by saying that these books are all worthy additions to the English-language wine book lexicon; they just didn’t make my top three for the Georges Duboeuf award based on the judging criteria.  That competition was stiffer than the graphite neck on those headless Steinberger basses that Geddy Lee used in the `80s, so not making the cut shouldn’t be treated as a slight; in fact, simply being included in the list of finalists for this year’s award is a nod to the quality level of all of these books.  Now that I think about it, I might be getting in trouble by listing these finalists, but technically no one involved in the awards has said that I can’t list them… so what the hell, here we go!

Next week: my take on the top three and my #1 pick for the award…

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Thoughts on "Summer In A Glass" And Finger Lakes Wine Finding Its (Red And White) Mojo

Vinted on April 12, 2011 binned in book reviews, wine books

Before I offer my thoughts on Evan Dawson’s recently-released Summer in a Glass: The Coming of Age of Winemaking in the Finger Lakes, I need to make sure that you thoroughly understand that this is NOT a book review.

It’s not really a book review because as a personal friend of Evan, and a fan of his writing in general, and a member of the Palate Press ad network (which is currently running ads for Summer in a Glass, some of which appear right here on this site), I am very likely incapable of producing an unbiased review of his first book.

In fact, I’m quoted in the book as well, and, now that I think about it, about the only way I could be more firmly lodged like a NYC prostitute onto the tip of this book would be if I were somehow receiving a percentage of the advance (I’m not).  So let’s just say that when I tell you that Summer in a Glass is not really a wine book, but is a humanist take on a local industry finally finding its mature footing, and just happens to be set in a wine region – and that it’s a total joy to read – I’m at least being subconsciously influenced into seeing the more positive gleams from the sheen coming off of its glossy cover.

What I can tell you without appearing like a total shill is that Summer in a Glass seems to be hitting the shelves at exactly the right time.  I’ve written in the not-so-distant past that the NY Finger Lakes wine region seems to have hit its best stride ever in recent years, with the levels of experience, industry camaraderie and wine quality all headed up a steep curve simultaneously.  If you want to settle into your fave reading chair with a book like Evan’s, there’s never been a better time than now to pour yourself a glass of Finger Lakes wine to accompany it – and that is NOT just Riesling, mind you; I include Finger Lakes reds in that group, as they are producing increasing amounts of high-quality reds like Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir (let’s not forget that the 2008 Red Tail Ridge Pinot Noir made my list of 2010 Top 10 Most Interesting Wines, people)…

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