I’m interrupting the regularly-scheduled Monday mini-reviews for a bit of a long-overdue highlight of some of the wine product samples I receive that can’t be safely imbibed. So, consider this a special edition product review round-up (read: it’s helping me to feel less Roman-Catholic-raised guilt over not having posted product reviews in something like 10,000 months)…
First up is Master of Wine Lisa Granik’s latest book, The Wines of Georgia (338 pages, Infinite Ideas, about $37). There’s a growing gestalt of sorts among the wine cognoscenti that Georgian Wine’s time has come (note, please, that this is not Georgia the U.S. state, though they do make wine there, and some of it is pretty darned good). Not from a volume perspective – they still only make tiny amounts of the stuff destined for export, and so you’re unlikely to encounter Georgian wine by happy accident on a store shelf. But from a quality standpoint, Georgian wine is ready for its re-entry into the global wine market spotlight. Every such re-emerging wine region needs its champion within the media, and Georgia has found there’s with Granik. With her typically authoritative voice, Granik breaks down the entire Georgia wine scene in its current state in The Wines of Georgia, from its 8000+ year history and culture of wine, to its intriguing (though nigh-unpronounceable) grape varieties, to its most important sub-regions (along with key producers and maps). This isn’t a fluffy introductory piece – it’s a thorough, scholarly, and excellent take that’s also accessible to the layperson wine lover.
Next, we have Amarone Confidential: Everything You Should Know About Valpolicella Wines, a self-published ebook by Elisabetta Tosi (102 pages, about $8). Tosi is a trained philosopher turned freelance wine journalist who lives in Valpolicella, so she’s long had boots-on-the-ground knowledge of the Italian region’s famous (and famously unique) wine styles. The entire book is structured in the Q&A, call-and-response format that’s popular with articles one might find on Medium. It works surprisingly well for 100+ pages, though it’s definitely geared more towards the beginning wine lover who’s just discovered Ripasso and Amarone, and is looking for a a fun, educational deeper dive on those wines and the region from which they come. While self-published ebooks can be decidedly hit-or-miss, this one’s well worth checking out if you’re looking to expand your Italian wine knowledge.
Finally, we’ve got a rare product appearance that isn’t a review sample, but a gift that I received on my birthday: the VAGNBYS Champagne Saber ($160). This sleek number is a steel blade made specifically for sabering sparkling wines. As a disclaimer, I should note here that sabering bottles of anything – especially when they have upwards of 7 atmospheres of pressure built up inside of them – is not something that I personally advocate on the regular for the average drinker, and anyone who attempts it does so at their own risk. And it’s risky, because the edge created on the bottle after blowing off the top of it can be exceedingly sharp. Having gotten that out of the way, I can also tell you that I find sabrage incredibly easy. I’ve managed to do it with a pocket knife. But the VAGNBYS… ohhhhh, man, this perfectly-balanced, badass piece of equipment makes that job that much easier. Both sides of the blade are dull, which means that you can actually wield this saber like, well, an actual saber (with the hand guard facing the business end of the sabering action). Yeah, it’s pricey, and yeah, it’s basically a single-purpose gadget, but it’s the sleekest, sexiest version of this particular gadget type that I’ve ever some across, and I love it with a geeky intensity.