Posts Filed Under wine books
Giveaways have returned to 1WineDude!
I was recently sent giveaway and review copies of the latest Michele Scott “Wine Lover’s Mystery,” titled Corked by Cabernet. Michele is the author of other wine-related mystery novels, including A vintage Murder and the unfortunately titled Silenced by Syrah.
Giveaway copies mean, of course, that I’m gonna give them away – and YOU could be a winner!
Here’s an excerpt from the Corked by Cabernet book description:
Nikki Sands, manager of the Malveaux Estates in Napa Valley—and girlfriend of the owner—is blissfully happy. Until a guru’s devotee is killed on the famous Napa Valley Wine train and ruins her peace of mind.
Despite the fact that this book includes such potentially awesome story elements as a gruesome demise, spiritually enlightened gurus, prostitutes, and Japanese real estate tycoons, it’s still not really my cup o’ vino – so I asked a friend if she’d give it a whirl.
Her review (I’m paraphrasing):
“It sort of kept my interest. It feels like one of those Harlequin romance novels – if you like those and you like wine, then it’s probably decent Summer reading.”
So, there you have it. Corked by Cabernet also has a few wine and recipe pairings sprinkled throughout, including a chili recipe that I tried (which was very tasty indeed). That chili was spicy – but not spicy enough to make me want to kill…
Anyway, I’ve got TWO copies of Corked by Cabernet to give away, so let’s get down to the brass tactics. If you want to win one of these suckers, you need to leave a comment on this post by midnight ET on March 18 (yes, 2009), sharing your favorite wine book that is NOT a reference book. This means that way-cool tomes like the Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia and Andre Domine’s Wine are NOT eligible.
Using a top-secret process that involves my dog and used wine corks (you don’t want to know…), I will randomly select two winners from the comments, and reveal the identities of those lucky folks on Friday, March 20th.
To kick things off, I will tell you about my all-time favorite wine book that is NOT a reference book: Hugh Johnson’s The Story of Wine.
Simply put, The Story of Wine is a masterstroke. 2009 marks the 20th anniversary of the first edition, and few wine-related books have aged so well (unless they’ve had Johnson involved, that is). Johnson’s The Story of Wine gently unfurls the history of our favorite beverage, with attention to detail that brings the whole twisted tale to life in a way that, like a colorful balloon whose patterns aren’t fully seen until it’s airborne, can’t be truly appreciated unless you’ve taken it in as a whole. It might be the best example of prose ever dedicated to the subject of wine.
So, yeah, I sort of dig it.
If I have a problem with The Story of Wine (and of course I do, because I’m incorrigible), it’s that a better title might be The Story of Wine as it Pertains to the United Kingdom and All of Her Glorious Subjects, as the book has a serious bent towards wine history’s impact on western Europe, and England in particular. But that minor cavil doesn’t stop Hugh Johnson from seriously (and brilliantly) delivering the goods.
And I want to point out that I’ve penned this entire post without making any juvenile phallic references to the later author’s name. Or does that count as as a reference?
Anyway – let’s hear your favorites!
Despite having the word “Year” in its title, this article is not another cheesy 2008 recap post. Especially considering that I don’t need another one of those, since I’ve posted about 240 of them in the last several days. Or something like that, anyway.
I will not be recapping 2008 here, but I will be renaming 2008.
In terms of measuring wine blogging success, 2008 was The Year of Dr. Vino, a.k.a. Tyler Colman. Come to think of it, 2007 was nearly the Year of Dr. Vino as well, considering Tyler received a James Beard nod for his writing that year. So, basically Tyler is kicking all kinds of ass in the blogosphere, but what made 2008 the Year of Dr. Vino was Tyler’s superbad onslaught (both on and) offline with the release of two (very good) printed books.
You would probably expect a PhD holder in Poli-Sci to be a decent writer, so it’s no surprise that the books are well-written. What is surprising (to me, at least) was how accessible Tyler’s books are for the novice wine aficionado, and how well his blog writing style, which consists primarily of short articles that focus heavily on interactivity with his readership, translates to his longer format works. Capturing that accessibility is not a skill that most of the academics that I know posses.
While Tyler can be a quiet voice online (case in point, how is there justice in the universe when my twitter account has more followers than Dr. Vino’s??), he was all over traditional media in 2008: in addition to publishing two books, he could be found in the pages of major newspapers and wine mags, as well as on television. For example, Tyler is a semi-frequent guest on FOX Business, discussing the impact of the recent economic downturn on the purchase of luxury items like Champagne (see inset pic for how I might have handled this situation if I were Tyler).
This significance of this sort of credibility (not to mention shrewd brand building) should not be overlooked. Tyler is quietly – and successfully – positioning himself as an erudite opera-goer to Gary Vanyerchuk‘s Joe 6-pack. Both are important, and both are signaling the establishment of a new breed of experts active in the field of wine appreciation.
I won’t go into detail about Tyler’s first book release, Wine Politics, because with a 9-month old baby that will start screaming to be fed at any moment, I simply don’t have the time, except to say that it’s a compelling work that those fascinated by wine should check out, especially considering how dependent the world of wine is (and has always been) on the world of politics.
I will say a bit more about Tyler’s second book, however, A Year of Wine: Pairings, Great Buys, and What to Sip for Each Season, which Tyler sent to me several weeks ago, and which I’ve only recently gotten a chance to read (before you flame me for being lazy, remember: 9-month old!).
It’s not that A Year of Wine presents novel information that has otherwise eluded many of the other excellent books for budding wine geeks already on the market. In fact, it doesn’t really present anything totally new, even though it does have incredibly useful information (for example: how to successfully navigate the wine list when at an important business dinner for the first time).
The masterstroke is that A Year of Wine is a wine intro book penned by someone who has so garned so much credibility both on and offline. Put another way, Tyler speaks both Internet and brick-and-mortar.
While it can be enjoyed by just about anyone who is new to wine, A Year of Wine is probably best suited to those who already know what they like in their wine, but are looking to understand wine more fully and want a different approach then learning the basics and then exploring each region in order of importance / volume of production (which seems the typical layout for most wine reference material). A Year of Wine reflects Tyler’s post-grad writing style, but might also appeal to a much younger audience (see pic below – though this author had to remove A Year of Wine from that reader, as she’d found it compelling enough to begin eating the pages).
Anyway, if I have a criticism to level at Tyler (and of course I do, because I’m incorrigible), aside from a distinct lack of overall mentions to 1WineDude.com on his blog, it’s that Tyler needs to take his focus on interactivity with his blog readership and devote similar focus to his interaction within the community of online wine writers, retailers, and wineries. His voice is quiet within that space – it could benefit significantly from Tyler’s wisdom and experience, and his penchant for keeping things honest. Tyler, we need ya here, man!
(images: amazon.com, foxnews.com)
An alternative title to Christy Campbell’s The Botanist and the Vintner: How Wine Was Saved For The World might well be “How French Politicos Tried to Set Wine Science Back 200 Years, Putting All of the World’s Vineyards in Perilous Jeopardy, Yet Somehow Told Without Conveying Much Suspense.“
To be fair, The Botanist and the Vintner is well-written, impeccably researched, and expertly manages to make the topic of the phylloxera epidemic interesting (even for non-history-buffs, and non-wine-geeks).
Campbell’s chapter explaining the strange reproductive cycle of the phylloxera louse alone is probably worth the purchase price of the book. It’s no wonder that the complicated sexual life of the pest confounded some of the greatest scientific minds of the late 1800s – any species whose short-lived male variant has no anus, no mouth, and no digestive system is so frighteningly bizarre, there’s no way you could dream that up something that odd.
And yet, I walked away from this book feeling oddly underwhelmed and a little unfulfilled.
If you’re a fan of wine, eventually you will come across mention of the tiny vineyard pest that came perilously close to wiping out the world’s supply of fine vinifera. In summary (and this is a very, very high-level summary), the little sucker feasts on the vine, and uses various parts of the vine as breeding ground.
The trouble for European vinifera is that it didn’t evolve with the louse as did the vines in North America, so when international travel and shipping became viable in the 1800s, the pest finally had a means to travel from its native land. Many American vines have rootstock that can recover from the scars left by feeding phylloxera – most European vines didn’t, and they began to die at an alarming rate as the louse spread across Europe. Because of its complex sex life, it took 19th Century scientists years to come to agreement on how to stop the pest (grafting onto American rootstock).
The Botanist and the Vintner takes you through this journey of vine destruction, and exposes you to the frustrating world of European politics (which, by most accounts sadly has made little appreciable progress since the 1800s), which delayed action on recognizing and then implementing the final root cause solution to the deadly invasion.
Not to mention the sizable financial prize that was due to those that found the real cure, most of which never got paid out by the French government (let’s not go there).
The book handles all of this well, but during the telling suggests a potentially dire future facing the vineyards of the present day that are grafted onto seemingly “safe” American rootstocks. It appears that some of those rootstocks are again becoming susceptible to an evolving phylloxera.
But after teasing us with the potential of another winemaking Dead Zone, The Botanist and the Vintner decides not to go there. Which is a shame, because the book starts there in its Prologue, which begins by describing an aerial surveillance of spreading phylloxera infestations in California in 1994. We are taken back to the present in the Postscript… to take a look at wine conisseurs chasing after wine from ungrafted viniferia vines as if they were the El Dorado treasure of the wine world.
No modern phylloxera update. Why start there if you’re not going to finish there? It felt like a bit of unrealized suspenseful potential to me.
So, if you’re looking for the history of the first world phylloxera louse epidemic, The Botanist and the Vintner is your book. Just don’t expect a full-circle treatise on the topic for modern times.
(images: amazon.com, avenuevine.com, calwineries.com)
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.
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…