Depending on who you ask, Wine Trials author Robin Goldstein is either the wine world’s Satan, or the wine consumer’s Savior.
Whether you feel that Goldstein’s powers are being used for good or evil, you can’t say that he harbors a fear of shaking things up. Goldstein became a polarizing figure in the wine world in 2008, when he ruffled the feathers of Wine Spectator by creating a fictitious restaurant whose wine list included some of their lowest-scoring Italian wines in the past two decades, and subsequently won their restaurant Award of Excellence. The aftermath caused one of the most heated debates of the year in the wine world.
Goldstein also coauthored The Wine Trials, the first edition of which is the bestselling wine guide (for inexpensive wines, anyway) in the world. The premise of the Wine Trials was simple: compare everyday wines to more expensive equivalents in blind tastings, and see which ones the average person preferred. As it turns out, most wine consumers – to a statistically significant degree – enjoy the less expensive options; more feathers ruffled!
Goldstein has a new website, BlindTaste.com, and the 2010 edition of the Wine Trials has recently been released. I tore through my review copy of The Wine Trials, and I found the first 50 pages (which describe the approach and science behind the book, and hint at its future implications on the wine industry) to be some of the most profound reading on wine appreciation that I have ever come across. The Wine Trials doesn’t just poke at wine’s sacred cows – it skewers them, grills them, and serves them up with an inexpensive Spanish red (Lan Rioja Crianza in this case, which took the Wine of the Year honors in the 2010 Wine Trials). A similar take on beer, The Beer Trials, is set to be released this Spring.
Robin kindly agreed to answer a few questions for our readers. I’ll warn you that you should be prepared for a quick and opinionated mind – and you might want to pad the walls of your wine world, because that world is about to get turned squarely onto its ear…
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Those looking to learn amore bout Spanish wine, and who are cool with receiving a freebie (I really hope that covers most of you out there) might want to check out Far from Ordinary, a free guide to Spanish wine available through Wines From Spain.
Wines From Spain is another government-funded promotional program with the objective of promoting a country’s wines and its wine regions (in this case, Spain – duh) to wine consumers worldwide. We’ve been seeing a lot of those organizations hitting the promotional trails lately, especially since the world economy took a sharp turn towards toiletville.
Far from Ordinary was written with the help of uber-wine guy Doug Frost, who is one of a (very) small handful of people to achieve both the Master Sommelier and Master of Wine credentials. Frost also supplies the tasting notes for the 130+ Spanish wines featured in the guide.
Personally, I’ve little experience with Spanish wines and it ranks right up there with Burgundy on the list of world wine areas that I need to learn (and taste!) more about. Apparently it has me in such a tizzy that just thinking about it causes me to end sentences with prepositions. Having said that, Spanish wine – when you can find it in the States, that is – is a hell of a lot easier to navigate than Burgundy in terms of not breaking both your heart and wallet when you find a dud. So, I’ve only got experience with a small amount of the wines featured in Far from Ordinary but I found the selections with which I’m familiar to be good buys and consistent with Doug Frost’s tasting notes (there – that sentence was better… whew…).
A primer on the major winemaking regions of Spain is also provided in the guide, and it’s bursting out with photographs so stunning that they might better be placed in a Spanish tourism guide – some of the shots will make you want to immediately open a bottle of Cava or Priorat and book travel to the Spanish countryside.
The guide is certainly worth a look (the price, after all, is right).
Well… does it?
I ask myself this question whenever I receive a review copy of a wine book, which has been… a lot lately, it seems.
So here comes four-time James Beard award-winner Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl, and her new book Drink This: Wine Made Simple. Another entry in a (very) crowded field. It also happens to be excellent, so I suppose the world could use another wine intro book. Drink This is excellent primarily because Grumdahl’s prose is lucid and entertaining. Her writing is also down-to-earth.
But excellent writing chops wouldn’t matter a hill of pomace if Grumdahl didn’t know what she was talking about, or if her method for learning about wine proved too rudimentary, too complex, or hindered by some wine-related prejudice. Thankfully, none of that proves to be the case. In fact, Drink This is so good that its overall quality makes up for the fact that Grumdahl uses the word ‘varietal’ as a synonym for grape variety (which it’s not). In fact, she does this so often that I nearly threw the book across the room (I say ‘nearly’ because my sample copy is a hardcover book, and I didn’t want to damage my living room drywall).
The thing that makes Drink This so compelling is that Grumdahl knew writing long before she knew wine. As a result, her method for learning wine (more on that in moment) is likely to work, because it’s the method that she used herself.
The method? Well, it’s a variation on simplification…
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I was recently contacted by Doug Pike, the cartoonist whose wine-related humor has been published on the subscription-only portion of eRobertParker.com for about four years now. Doug has released a collection titled Gone With The Wine, which pulls together about 100 of the cartoons that appeared on Parker’s website (Parker supplies the book’s foreword).
Doug came across 1WineDude.com via my recent contribution to CNBC’s Wines for the Holidays, and has become a fan “mostly because of your non-elitist approach to wine, which I share.” Amen to that, brother!
Doug was kind enough to send a review copy of Gone With The Wine and also give permission for me to post some of the cartoons from the book. While some of the cartoons are clearly geared towards the fine-wine-loving crowd that have made Parker a household name, I found myself chuckling more often than not at the fun being poked at wine geeks (myself included among those ranks) throughout Gone With The Wine.
The cold hard truth is that we really are that goofy – and long may we remain that goofy, so long as we take the wine – but not ourselves – seriously.
A few samples of Doug’s work appear below, with his permission – enjoy!…
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