In an attempt to whittle away at the growing pile of wine-related media samples that I can’t drink (at least not without a blender and then a trip to the emergency room), it seems high time for another round of product reviews.
Today, we have a trio of items, some of which might be worth putting under the Christmas Tree (or Winter/Religious Holiday equivalent) for your greedy-ass self the wine lover in your life.
First up is the 2020 edition of Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book (Mitchell Beazley, 336 pages, about $16). As already detailed ad nauseam here on these virtual pages, if you don’t already own at least one edition of this small but mighty reference, it should be at the top of your list. Containing an almost impossible amount of helpful info in a tiny package, the 2020 edition is more evolution than revolution on its core of detailing wines, regions, vintages, and the general state of affairs in the wine world. The finale portion deals comprehensively with the topic of wine flavors, and what affects them (place, techniques, serving, grapes, and culture/fashion, etc.). It’s nice to see this unmatched reference still going, and even nicer to see that the kindle edition only clocks in at $7…
The Atlas is, of course, the work of Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson, the former of whom I consider myself a fan-boy of, and the latter of whom I’m fortunate enough to consider an acquaintance (the first time that I met her, in Portugal, she tried to introduce herself to me, at which point I countered with something along the lines of “no, that’s not how this meeting is going to go down; you’re amazing, and I’m an insect!”… real smooth on my part). Its release is always newsworthy in the fine wine world; this is the first major revision to the tome since the 7th Edition back in 2013. it’s widely – and justifiably – considered an essential resource for anyone serious about obtaining fine wine knowledge, and it has no equal in terms of painting portraits of the best of the wine world’s terroir locations. But is it worth shelling out $60-some-odd?…
Has it really been almost three months since we did a wine product samples roundup on 1WD? Shame on me – though, in my own defense (against myself), my backlog of non-edible product samples, while certainly not non-existent, kind of pales in comparison to my backlog of drinkable samples (and those are usually more fun, anyway).
Since we are so long overdue… today I have a trifecta of samples from HiCoup Kitchenware, all of which I can recommend (one happily, another surprisingly, and a third, uhm… aesthetically-pleasingly?).
Available in too many finishes to mention here, our first item is their take on the trusty ol’ waiter’s friend corkscrew (my personal fave design for wrestling cork from bottle in almost every non-sparkling circumstance). This unit has good heft and stability in the hand, seems well-made in its metal sturdiness, and in my case featured an easy-on-the-eyes rosewood handle.
Interestingly, HiCoup’s is more-or-less identical to my current recommendation, the Barvivo, but slightly undercuts it in price. And I really do mean slightly… as in, by about one dollar. So, you more dutiful penny-pinchers out there might want to check this one out if the penny-pinching is getting particularly pinchy.
I have long hated the design of our next sample, a “wing” style corkscrew (see intro pic above). Like the Dallas Cowboys, there is almost nothing whatsoever to love about or redeem this design, which usually combines jettison-the-bottle-violently-off-the-table instability with a cartoon-super-villain-Mole-Man-underground-tunnel-borer style screw that apparently was invented to destroy natural cork both during insertion and extraction.
So… given all of that, I’m a bit shocked that I am actually recommending this product; because if you absolutely need one of these winged menaces, HiCoup’s is constructed well (though not as well as the waiter’s friend), and contains an honest-to-goodness thread (modeled after those on better corkscrews) that glides much more easily into the cork and doesn’t attempt to access wine by tearing the stopper to shreds.
Finally, we have a small stylistic wonder in HiCoup’s lead-free crystal, hand-blown decanter/carafe (see inset pic). This is a pretty thing to behold, and a fun item to use, and (more importantly) does a decent job of both decanting and adding a bit of aeration upon pouring.
The real meat with the potatoes, for me, is that, being hand-blown, no two will likely be exactly the same, and with that kind of construction and utility, you’re not getting fleeced on price just for a fancy, uhm, decanter-envy design. It’s stylish without being overtly ridiculous, and its only real drawback is that it’s probably a bitch to clean properly (I wouldn’t know, I am deliberately avoiding trying the latter until I have no other choice…).
It has been quite a good long while since we did a product round-up here on 1WD, and judging by the size of the pile of wine books samples in my office, it’s now high-time that we rectify that. Either that, or I’m going to have a hospital bill in my future after tripping on all of these dead trees…
Given the personal risk of the situation described above, I’m going to defer the final entry in my Southern Rhône series to next week, so that we can get you the skinny on a handful of new wine book releases (and perhaps save me a broken toe or two).
Does the world need yet another how-to-select-a-wine book? Not really. But the world doesn’t really need any more cat memes, either. Both the kitties photos and Find Your Wine have places in this world, however, because both are pretty adorable. Yes, I am really saying that about a wine book. Aimed squarely at beginners (assisting them in discovering personal tastes, finding wines to match, and learning more about the major grape varieties and styles of fine wine), Find Your Wine wins in its combination of making some rather complex wine topics seem approachable (to the point that even its quoted wine expert resources have toned down the rhetoric), and presenting everything in a layout that is so easily digestible that little children could navigate it without instruction. Which will either endear it totally to its recipient, or nauseate said recipient (see, that cat meme comparison really works)…
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