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.
I’ve been inundated with wine book samples this month (which I’ll note is November 2016, for posterity’s sake, and for those of you still sobering up from Thanksgiving), both the electronic and the good, old-fashioned dead-tree varieties. And so, I’m going to use this edition of the wine product roundup to give you a little taste of the current wine book scene (all prices noted are for hardcover editions).
Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine 2017: 40th Anniversary by Hugh Johnson ($16.99, Mitchell Beazley)
Bottom line: highly recommended.
Every year for the last several years, I’ve received a sample of the latest edition in this series. Every year for the last several years, I think that this insanely useful little gem cannot possibly get any more insanely useful. Every year for the last several years, I have been wrong, and 2016 continues the trend. The high bar that’s been set for this go-to reference book for the last forty years has predictably been matched, but I’d argue it’s also been exceeded, in that the “If you like this, try that” and “wine stories” article themes that have been reserved for this edition’s color pages sections are superb (and make the book even more useful). If you’ve skipped the last couple of editions, it’s time for an upgrade.
The 24-Hour Wine Expert by Jancis Robinson ($12.95, Abrams Image)
Bottom line: recommended, with reservations.
It’s not that The 24-Hour Wine Expert isn’t a very good wine book; it is, and Jancis Robinson brings her sharp prose and equally sharp mind to pop many a wine myth balloon within its short 112 pages. The idea, espoused by Robinson in the opening Welcome section, is to use the book to answer common wine questions (how is wine made?, how should one buy wine?, what hardware should be used?, etc.) as they come up. The trouble is, the book is positioned in a way that leverages the very kinds of sweeping generalizations and shortcuts that Robinson has spent nearly her entire career in the public spotlight battling against, and ignores a more comprehensive wine knowledge resource of which Robinson has become a particularly skilled champion: the Internet. There’s useful information here, no doubt, but the usefulness of a hardcover copy is debatable…
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