Posts Filed Under wine products
Closing out the fourth month of 2017’s spin around the sun here on 1WD means that it’s time for the monthly look at the wine product samples that we can’t drink (at least, not without the use of a blender, and not without probably being rushed to the hospital afterward).
For April, I’ve got only one recommendation, and once again it’s a wine book (because, hey, the market needed more of those, right?): Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan’s Rosé Wine: The Guide to Drinking Pink (Sterling Epicure, 184 pages, about $20).
Full disclosure: I consider Simonetti-Bryan to be like the childhood tomboy friend that I never had, and drink rosé wines all year long (and think that you should, too); so my take on this MW’s latest written release might be a tad biased.
In any case, there’s a lot to like about Rosé Wine, starting with the attractive layout and the hold-it-in-one-hand-while-drinking-a-glass-of-rosé-with-the-other design. This is a book very much geared towards beginners who love rosé, and want to take a deeper dive into it without getting the mental bends. A good portion of the book is devoted to understanding how rosé wine is made, why it’s popular, and what to expect from the various sub-styles on offer in the market (with solid recommendations in each that helpfully include label shots).
Simonetti-Bryan is a bit of a self-professed geek, and it’s nice to see how deftly and entertainingly she weaves that geekiness into the sidebar elements of Rosé Wine. For example, she offers advice on the proper use of the word varietal, facts and figures on moderate alcohol consumption, tidbits on wine region trivia, and results of wine-related scientific studies, all in helpful contexts and in a decidedly non-douchebaggy writing voice.
Is Simonetti-Bryan cashing in on the current market love affair with rosé with this book? Sort of, but that’s a minor cavil to levy against Rosé Wine, particularly when you consider how helpful and entertaining it will be to the novice rosé fan (and when you consider just how little coin wine books net for their authors in general).
In wrapping up March, it’s time for me to round up some of the wine product samples that are sent to me (the kind that usually aren’t physically digestible) for the month. And today, I’d like to highlight two very recent wine book releases that won me over to the point of garnering fairly high recommendations from this normally somewhat-skeptical reader…
First up is Essential Winetasting: The Complete Practical Winetasting Course by Michael Schuster (Mitchell Beazley, about $26). 2017 has us seeing a new edition of this oft-overlooked minor classic, which seems to fly under the radar just enough that ended up being ignored and re-released (in the USA, anyway) regularly over the last fifteen or so years.
Which is a pity, really, because Schuster is a fairly big deal in the UK when it comes to wine know-how, and his time as a retailer and writer are evident throughout nearly every page of Essential Winetasting.
The wit is sandy-British-levels-of-dry, and the true mastery of the book can be found within the first fifty-or-so pages, in which Schuster puts on a masterclass in detailing how our senses interact with wine as a product. If you’re too precious about preserving the mystery of the world’s greatest beverage, then this is decidedly not the reference book for you. But those who like to peel back the covers to see how things tick, and have a serious side to their hobbies, will probably love this book (I cannot speak to improvements over earlier editions, but I’m guessing that most of you reading this, like me, have had little-to-no exposure to those; so I’m advising anyone who doesn’t yet own this give it a good long look).
Next we have the cheekily-named Wine Isn’t Rocket Science: A Quick and Easy Guide to Understanding, Buying, Tasting, and Pairing Every Type of Wine by Ophelie Neiman (Author), Yannis Varoutsikos (Illustrator), (Black Dog & Leventhal, about $25).
It’s not often that an illustrator deserves equal billing with an author in a wine book, but this is one of those rare cases, for the cartoon-ish images throughout Wine Isn’t Rocket Science lend an approachable air to this beginners’ guide.
Where the book’s format really shines is in its middle section, where overviews of popular (and some not-so-popular) wine grapes and styles are presented. The visual aids detailing the grapes’ common aromas and flavors will be instantly appreciated by visual learners; and once you get past the cutesy kitsch of the “Love Rating” given to describe each grape’s popularity, you just may (as I did) find yourself learning something new despite yourself.
Here’s another entry in the monthly series in which I review the samples that I cannot drink without being admitted to the hospital.
First up, we have a long-form Johnson. Hugh Johnson, that is, who I would posit is the world’s greatest living wine writer. Mitchell Beazley has put together the 256-page collection Hugh Johnson on Wine: Good Bits from 55 Years of Scribbling (about $20). And if this is what Johnson considers “scribbling,” then the state of wine writing today, in the wake of his assumed retirement from the genre, is somewhat sad indeed (except for the “somewhat” part, that is).
Hugh Johnson on Wine is a collection of Johnson’s wine essays stretching back to the 1960s; as such, it functions in part as a sort of retrospective on the development of the modern worldwide wine industry, as viewed through the lens of his wit and prose (he has few equals with respect to either). One of the most entertaining aspects of the book are the margin notes, which Johnson annotates in his typically dry, erudite fashion from the perspective of his current, older self. In other words, the book is a gem for lovers of wine, and appreciators of dry British wit.
Second, there’s the Wine Aerator Decanter Vacuum Preserver, Foil Cutter, & Accessories By Artick (about $21). I know what you’re thinking: the last thing that we need is another f*cking wine aerator!!! And you’re right. Having said that, I can actually recommend this little accessories collection, primarily because it is, actually, a collection of accessories.
Now, none of the items in this lineup are particularly excellent, and none of them are of the very highest quality levels (the filter for the top of the aerator in my sample was slightly damaged, though still safely usable). None of the Artick accessories in this package perform at the top tier, either. Having said that, all of them do work, and work pretty well. They’re also easy to clean, simple to use, and relatively easy to transport.
So, for the price of about one aerator, you’re getting a nice little group of ad-ons, making this a pretty good choice for folks who don’t yet have any of these types of gadgets, and don’t plan on giving them more than a medium-high level of use.
This month’s edition of the Wine Product Roundup (in which I put to the test samples of wine wares that can’t actually be imbibed safely) just so happens to be themed, for your pleasure.
And pleasurable it is, because that theme is Champagne (and, well, bubbles in general).
First up, there’s the other Champagne guide to be recently released, namely Liz Palmer’s “The Ultimate Guide to Champagne” (palmergroup, 314 pages, $39.50). I’ve known Liz to be both energetic and knowledgeable, both of which come through quite clearly in this guide, which is both aesthetically well-executed and very well organized.
The Ultimate Guide to Champagne employs a lifestyle-oriented approach, eschewing producer-focused essays for broader topics such as Champagne history, tasting etiquette, production techniques, and serving Champers at corporate functions. The emphasis is on the elegance and fun of the beverage and its birthplace, but the material doesn’t devolve into sappy lightheartedness. Recommended, though the price is a bit steep for a paperback that’s on the smaller side.
Now, when you’re reading about Champagne, it helps if you’re actually drinking the stuff (I’m actually hard-pressed to come up with anything that isn’t helped by drinking Champers, actually)… which is where our second product comes in, the ChampagnePopper (ChampagnePopper.com, about $15). And yeah, it’s one word.
This device is basically a curved metal crowbar of sorts, with the added benefit of a bottle opener on the handle. Using it is pretty straightforward: you slip the tongs around a sparkling wine cork (that’s had its foil and cage removed… and is properly chilled for opening…), cover it with a dish towel (so the cork doesn’t injure anyone or anything), and sloooooowly pry the cork out.
Generally speaking, this thing works; that cork pops out, and it does so with minimal effort. Having said that, the loud POP! action that ensues isn’t really what you want happening with any medium-to-high-priced bubbles, because it’s indicating that you’ve let waaaaaay too much CO2 escape. If you’ve got physical concerns that make opening bottles of bubbles difficult, or you need to open a lot of budget-priced bubbles quickly, then the ChampagnePopper is a reasonable, solidly-built buy (you could probably knock someone out with this thing, honestly); just don’t let it near your vintage Champers.