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…
Next, we have a rather smart take on the near-endless decanter/aerator choices currently available to tempt away your hard-earned cash, the Eravino Wine Decanter Breather Carafe (about $60). It’s an ingenious idea: fitting a hand-blown, lead free crystal decanter with a topper that allows you to pour a full 750ml bottle into it without any spilling, while simultaneously aerating the vino as it goes down. When done drinking, if you have any wine left, you can either place the top closure over the pourer, or turn the decanter upside down and reverse the original process, putting the unfinished wine back into the original bottle.
It works well, and is dishwasher safe. The only mess comes when you try pouring the wine our of the decanter with the topper in place – it’s prone to splashing. Simply taking the topper out is the solution, though I found its fit a little too snug. Those are minor issues overall, however. Just bear in mind that when this thing aerates, it aerates – it’s an aggressive process, and so best reserved for opening up younger wines (rather than decanting more fragile, older wine to separate sediment).
Finally, there’s an item about which I have a few reservations: Italy’s Native Wine Grape Terroirs by Ian D’Agata (University of California Press, 384 pages, about $45). Now, I love me some D’Agata, but I found this book a bit confusing in terms of execution. A studious treatise, well-written, with the occassional chestnut of (very) dry humor interwoven throughout, it’s classic Ian, and a good companion to his other tome on Italy’s native grapes themselves. But… why are we talking about place and not showing pictures, maps, soil diagrams, and the like? I don’t quite get it, especially for the price. This is one probably best reserved for those studying for the Italian wine portion of a wine exam.