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Book Review: Vino Italiano (The Regional Wines of Italy)

Vinted on February 25, 2008 under book reviews, Italian Wine, wine books

This post, the Dude is offering his review of Joseph Bastianich’s & David Lynch’s weighty tome on all things Italo-wine-related: Vino Italiano.

My review is part of a larger blog-carnival-type effort with near-simultaneous reviews of the same book happening at other wine blogs, called the Wine Book Club. You can check out some of the haps and conversation at the Shelfari book group. For more on the background of WBC, and a bit about the authors of Vino Italiano, check out my previous post on the subject.

The Low-Down
You’d think that a 500+ page book would warrant a lengthy review, but that’s simply not the case here (thankfully!). This is mostly due to the well-considered layout of the book.

Vino Italiano is divided into three sections:

  1. A primer on Italian wine history & wine laws (essential information if you hope to understand an Italian wine label!)
  2. A tour of each of Italy’s major wine regions in turn, starting with cultural interactions / story-telling, moving to well-written descriptions of the wine styles of the region, and ending with a recommended regional food & wine pairing
  3. Reference material, including a glossary of Italian wine terminology, and a wine producer directory.


How To Use This Book
Novices will find the first section particularly useful. When you’re dealing with Italian wine, expect to be confused – there’s simply no easy way to deal with it, so you might as well jump right in; this section will help make that jump as painless as possible.

Wine geeks like the Dude here will find the 3rd section the most interesting, if only for a handy reference to remind us what some of the Italian wine label terms mean, or digging up the detail on what is and isn’t permitted in some of the regional quality classifications, etc.

Most people, however, will find the book’s large midsection the most useful. That’s because the authors of Vino Italiano know what the Italians know: the only way to truly appreciate Italy’s regional wine treasures in full is to experience them as part of a larger picture – that picture including a unique blend of regional culture, history, and (most importantly) food.

The majority of Italian wines are meant to be consumed with their regional gustatory counterparts – the recipe and wine pairings (provided by Lidia Bastanich and household-name Mario Batali) at the end of each chapter are not after-thoughts – they are essential components if you want to “get” Italian wine. Personally, I’ve been hoping to try the Spagheti alla Luganica and Anglianico del Vulture pairing (see pgs. 330-331). If you don’t get hungry at some point when reading Vino Italiano, then you’re missing the point.

You needn’t read the book cover-to-cover – the book is structured so that skipping around to read about a particular region will give you a perfectly good understanding of that region and its wines.

Buy It or Skip It?
Buy it. Vino Italiano is well-written (Dude majored in English Lit. in undergrad, so he does not offer that sort of praise lightly!), and its harmonious blend of regional Italian culture, food, and wine make it a winner. It’s also a book that will provide benefit for a wine lover at nearly every stage of his/her wine knowledge development. This is one of the few instances where a book’s many accolades (on the jacket, and in its on-line user reviews) are well-deserved.

Cheers, and happy reading!

Wine Book Club 1st Edition, and Tasteless Exploitation of Naomi Watts

Vinted on January 31, 2008 under wine books


OK, so Dude is waaaaaaaaaaaaay late in giving this event props and publicity blogging love… But in the case of love, later is always better than never (that’s what I always say anyway – and I come from a fine, distinguished, and long line of justifiers!).

The on-line Wine Book Club has been launched earlier this month, with the first edition being hosted over at McDuff’s Food & Wine Trail. I met David McDuff recently at Moore Brothers and I can tell you from first-hand experience that the guy has serious wine smarties, especially when it comes to boutique Italian, German, French, and Austrian wineries. So by the Dude’s standards, David seems like a splendid choice to get the wine book club ball a’rolling.

The first wine book that will be reviewed by the Wine Club is Vino Italiano: The Regional Wines of Italy by Joseph Bastianich & David Lynch.

No, not that David Lynch!…


This David Lynch is the beverage director over at NYC’s celebrated restaurant Babbo. Also, I’m pretty sure that there aren’t any bizarre dream sequences in this book… or hot naked shots of Naomi Watts either… at least, not that I’ve come across so far in my reading (but a Dude can hope…!). And if you wanna peruse glossies of Naomi Watts naked (meaning she was naked in the pics, not you naked while perusing them), that’s probably best done while learning about Aussie wines. Not that the Dude spent any appreciable time considering it. Or for that matter searching the Internet for erotic-but-still-tasteful photos of Namoi Watts for this post. At least, not too much time.

Er, uhm, was I saying something about a book??

Anyway, this mighty tome on Italian vino (which also features Italian wine region recipes by Mario Batali, by the way) looks intimidating at first glance, but it’s actually a very quick read – and there is still more than enough time for you to pick up a copy, join the book club love over at shelfari.com, and contribute to the reviews (due date is Feb. 26). Future events may be coordinated from a new website devoted to the book club – so watch this space.

Cheers – and happy reading!

Calling All Wine Bloggers!

Vinted on December 13, 2007 under learning wine, wine blogging, wine books, wine how to

Calling All Wine Bloggers!

As some of you may know, I’m currently in the midst of a multi-part blog post detailing my experiences and recommendations of how wine consumers can ‘up their Wine IQ’. The first of these posts focused on Reading About Wine, and listed books and references that I have found the most helpful through the years in increasing my own knowledge about wine. Subsequent posts will tackle experience-building through Tasting, and finally I will interview a local winemaker about How the Boldest of wine lovers can work their way into the wine industry.

I’d like to extend this series to include input from YOU, the wine blogging community, on your own experiences and advice for others wishing to increase their wine knowledge.

I am pretty sure that the wine blogging world, and wine blog readers everywhere, would appreciate having the thoughts of experienced tasters, distributors, buyers, sellers, winemakers, critics, and passionate wine lovers on the joys and trials of life-long devotion to our favorite beverage.

So – if you’re interested in contributing, please send me a link to a post of your thoughts and experiences on building wine knowledge.

This could be a link to a similarly-themed article that you’ve posted in the past, or a brand new post on your Blog. Either way, send me the link – either via comment to this post, or via email to twowinedudes (at) yahoo (dot) com – and I will summarize in a post, linking to all of your indvidual posts from here. (If you don’t have a Blog but would like to contribute, I will publish your input in the post).

I’m a firm believer that nothing ever really gets done without having some kind of target date. So please send your input to me by December 31st, and I will post the results during the first week of the new year.
Thanks for your time, attention, and (in advance) thanks for helping the wine consumers of the world!

Cheers!
-Joe (the 1WineDude)

The Top 10 Wine Books You Really Need (How To Become a Wine Geek – Part I)

Vinted on December 8, 2007 under best of, wine books, wine how to, wine tasting, wine tips

This post is the first in a three-part series where Dude will give you a ‘wine insider’s’ take on how to seriously up your ‘wine geek’ knowledge (and hone your overall wine-tasting skills along with your “impress your party goers” wine profile).

When this Dude gives in-home wine tastings, probably the most frequently asked question is “How can I learn more about wine?” As Lao-tzu once said, “The Great Way is Easy” and he may have well been talking about obtaining wine knowledge, because Dude has been there and he can tell you that all it takes is three things:

  1. An open mind
  2. Patience
  3. More Patience


I usually recommend a three-step program, which I will cover individually in three posts (counting this as #1, with the others to follow relatively shortly):

  1. Read (see below)
  2. Taste
  3. Be Bold

Today’s post will tackle the reading bit, which I offer to you in Top 10 format. So without further ado, Dude presents:

The Top 10 Wine Books You Really Need

For Beginners

1. Oldman’s Guide to Outsmarting Wine by Mark Oldman
The book I wish I’d had as budding a wine novice. Mark Oldman provides what might be the best and most well-paced (not to mention most practical) wine introduction book on the market. As a beginner, you will not be disappointed.




2. Wine for Dummies by Ed McCarthy & Mary Ewing-Mulligan

THE starting point for your induction into the world of wine. I know the brother of one of the authors, both of whom really, really, really know their stuff.

3. How To Taste by Jancis Robinson
Great reading for the beginner who wants to learn more about how to enjoy wine, all done in an open and not-so-stuffy style. The important thing about this book is the emphasis on how to taste wine, which (as we will explore in Dude’s next post), is the single most important skill you can build to up your wine IQ.

Intermediate
4. The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil
A mighty tome of accessible wine knowledge, with excellent primers on the wine regions of the world for the beginner wine enthusiast, but also with tons of detail for the advancing wine geek as well. A fantastic achievement and a book that will prove to be a valuable resource for years to come (I still refer back to my tattered copy).

5. Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book
Updated every year, this book packs a ridiculous amount of handy wine information into an impossibly small amount of space. The abbreviations take some getting used to, but once you have them down you will wonder how you even wandered into a wine store without the handy reviews. It’s also a great reference to have in the kitchen when trying to match up wine styles with dinner.


6. The New Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia by Tom Stevenson
A reference that is so handy, I destroyed the binding on my copy within weeks from overuse! I know both wine fans and wine industry pros that use this book, and it’s handy – and accessible enough – for both. Plus, Tom does not hold back his opinions on developments in the world’s wine regions and in the progress towards top quality from each area’s most important wines – not watered-down, and therefore entertaining as well as informative.

Advanced
7. The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson & Jancis Robinson
A beautiful coffee-table sized book for the budding wine geek, it’s an essential reference for those interested in increasing their detailed knowledge of where their favorites wines come from and why that plays such an important part in why those wines taste they way that they do.

8. The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson
This weighty tome is *the* wine reference book for the wine geek and wine professional. Not exactly easy to read in bed, but when you find yourself absolutely needing to know what terms like Recioto mean, you need this book. Also handy for finding interesting wine blog topics (and by the time you’re ready for this book, you will probably have your own wine blog…).

9. Wine Report (Annual) by Tom Stevenson
Another reference updated annually, this one is for the wine professional (or only the most serious of wine geeks). A great read for finding out what’s new and noteworthy in the world’s major wine regions and the industry in general.

Essential at Every Level
10. Your Very Own Wine Journal
You need your own wine journal to capture your reactions to wines that you taste, build an understanding of what you like (and dislike), and sharpen up your wine tasting vocabulary. The importance of this will get explored in my next post – but for now, just trust the Dude and get yourself a wine journal! (dude recommends the Little Black Wine Book).

The bad news – The whole kit & kaboodle will set you back about $150 – $175. So buy ‘em in stages (don’t worry, none of these are likely to go out of print anytime too soon).

The very good news is that the general state of wine writing
– much like the general state of wine itself – has never been better, so you will get your moolah’s worth. Long-time, prolific, and talented writers like Jancis Robinson, as well as a multitude of fine bloggers, are contributing accessible and well-written wine knowledge. Come on in – the water is fine!

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

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