When it comes to wine books, there’s a lot of printed material available that make excellent cases for protecting the world’s forest land and leaving it untouched for our children’s children’s children.
I know this because I receive those books as review copies for consideration with nearly as much frequency as I receive wine samples for consideration.
There are, of course, those wine tomes that transcend the superfluousness of their wanna-be peers, two of which I was lucky enough to receive as updated editions of products that I already though highly enough about to have purchased them on my own. With actual money and everything!
And so, those two re-releases are the focus of this month’s wine product roundup. They are works that, I think, are indispensable resources (the first for budding wine enthusiasts, and the second for anyone – consumer or pro – who loves the world of vino):
Chapter & verse
The Wine Bible, 2nd Edition (Karen MacNeil, Workman Publishing, about $30)
MacNeil’s Wine Bible holds a sentimental place in my heart, which will probably come as a shocker to anyone who has seen Karen and I interact together publicly (a sight that is almost always a strange mixture of civility and awkwardness, as I am pretty sure that she has absolutely no idea what to make of me… and I can’t say that I blame her). As I told Karen a few years ago, I used the first edition of her book as a welcome escape during the frigidly cold couple of weeks I spent in Toronto while my younger brother was having life-saving heart surgery performed there. I’ve heard many criticisms of The Wine Bible over the years, none of which I felt held much water aside from the fact that the details in it were becoming outdated, a situation now rectified in the excellent 2nd edition.
My wine career arc has more or less followed the publication history of this book, from newly-intoxicated wine consumer at its first printing, to a guy who can nitpick the shorter entries on emerging regions and play with some authority the “agree/disagree” game with some of the hand-selected wine picks in the second edition.
Thankfully, MacNeil has changed little of the two elements that really make The Wine Bible work. The first is the country-by-country format, which is ridiculously intuitive and works as one of the best wine-focused primers for which any wine newbie could ask. The second is Karen’s populist-style writing, which clearly demonstrates that she was and still is ridiculously excited about her subject; MacNeil encourages the joy behind wine exploration, which is one of the most important resources we can provide to any new wine lover.
Witness the awesomeness (image: oxfordcompaniontowine.com)
The Oxford Companion to Wine, 4th Edtion (Oxford, Edited by Jancis Robinson and Julia Harding, about $50)
With almost 200 contributors, the Oxford Companion has received a rather serious and significant once-over. As insanely authoritative and useful as this new edition is, it’s a testament to how well-executed this (altogether too heavy) reference book has been over the years that the previous edition was still my go-to wine reference book, hardly showing its age.
Sure, you can find most of the info. in the Oxford online, but what you won’t get is the killer one-two combo of attention to detail and nearly flawless prose that makes the reference such a gem (for a great example, look up the term “wine writing” therein, and try not to chuckle and its poignant accuracy and subversive cheekiness). The usefulness and depth of the information presented is without parallel (an example: after two years of working with the FurmintUSA project, there’s little background information about the grape that I don’t know at this point… two pieces of which I read in the Furmint entry in the Oxford!).
Jancis will no doubt hear the shrill sound of freshly-clipped nails grating the chalkboard when I write this, but I found a few minor typos (sorry!). Minor enough, however, that they won’t stop me from saying that if you’re involved in wine in any capacity and don’t have this book, you’re probably an idiot.
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While I love Thanksgiving (eating, football, family time), if it weren’t for my daughter, I would loathe the Christmas season. Shopping, pressure, tinsel, pressure, and freezing temperatures? And pressure? Sorry, that just doesn’t sound jolly to me.
All the more reason to drown out the din of the real world with the alcohol content of fine wine, I suppose!
Anyway, I’m late on this (I would blame holiday shopping, but we both know I do that shizz online in my pajama pants), but I present below the 2014 November Wine.Answers.com article roundup for your reading pleasure:
- An Introduction to Organic Wine (with Bonterra Vineyard Director David Koball): From a recent trip to Sonoma, I returned with a lot of new knowledge about organic grape-growing and winemaking from Bonterra, who have been doing that stuff for just about as long and at just about as large a scale as anyone in the U.S. The added bonus is that their vineyard director is opinionated, which made for an entertaining and informative interview.
- Three Things You Didn’t Know About Lodi Wine Country: One of the benefits of attending tastings of wines from historic Lodi vineyards is that you also get access to the people who know those regions best, which for me translated into a collection of what I thought were fascinating tidbits about the region (but you’re a badass, and already knew all of the trivia in that article, right?).
- Wine Book Review: “Barolo and Barbaresco” by Kerin O’Keefe: O’Keefe has been on a tear lately on the Italian wine region overview book front, and “Barolo and Barbaresco” is a fine addition to her lineup (and are regions that were probably overdue for another overview treatment), if you can handle her terse writing style.
- Finally, in a significant departure for me in terms of the types of wine accessories I try out, I gave the wine-themed jewelry from Olive & Poppy a spin. You can check out their high-quality, relatively-pricey, and non-kitschy wares at oliveandpoppy.com.
There are moments that mark a sort of rite of passage for personalities in any field. With respect to writing on the topic of wine, there’s the first time you’re given a wine sample, the first time you’re invited to a tasting event or a tour of a wine region, the first time someone quotes your review of a wine, etc.
Like sex (okay, that’s a really poor comparison), they say you never forget your first time, and I suspect that in any case several of those first time events were almost as awkward an exchange as that first time.
I was recently involved in another first (for me) when it comes to being a wine personality (for lack of a better term): being asked to write a blurb for someone else’s wine book, the soon-to-be-released “Wines of South America: The Essential Guide” by Master Somm. Evan Goldstein.
On the finished product (a page proof copy of which I recently received), my blurb in support of Goldstein’s latest shares the back page with another blurb penned by the indefatigable Laura Catena of Catena Zapata; so I’m in very good company as far as covers go…
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It’s hard for me to believe, but since I started my gig as the Answers.com wine dude in the Spring I’ve penned 100 articles for the category (yes, it’s a paying gig; no, I’m not part of their recently announced guest blogger program).
So far, it’s been… well, great, actually.
I’ve been able to find a perfect outlet for product/accessory reviews and wine book reviews on Wine.Answers.com, as well as a means to offer beginner-style advice that otherwise here on 1WD might get flamed to a black, ashy crisp suitable for high-tasted barrel staves by you geeky people (and I love you for that!).
And so today I write not just as a round-up of some of the December 2013 Answers.com wine articles, but find myself reflecting on the past 100 articles and the several months I’ve spent authoring content for gig that are now under my thick black Santa-style Christmas belt. The short version of that reflection is that I’m enjoying the hell out of it, and as far as freelancing “day jobs” go, this one is rockin’ like Dokken (do they have a Christmas album?).
Anyway… here are a few of the December 2013 entries for you to peruse before your holiday libations have you too drunk to read any more…
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