A number of new wine books arrived earlier this year. Sensing that I wouldn’t be able to find time to give reviews my full attention while in the final revision stages of Extreme Wine, I offered three of them to my university students for Spring Break reading. The only catch: they would have to write brief “tasting notes” for publication on The Wine Economist.
Celebrating Celebrity Wine.
Kayla asked to review Celebrity Vineyards: From Napa to Tuscany in Search of Great Wine by Nick Wise. This is an attractive volume, beautifully illustrated and printed on high quality stock. The book’s sixteen chapters provide detailed case studies of wineries associated with the A (for Mario Andretti and Dan Aykroyd) almost to Z (Formula One driver Jarno Trulli and football coach Dick Vermeil) of international wine celebrity. (I wish soccer star Zinedine Zidane would start a winery just to make the celebrity wine alphabet complete!) A nice mix of current stars along with figures from the past such as Fess Parker and even Thomas Jefferson.
Here is Kayla’s tasting note for the volume.
This book exhibits an easy-going style of writing that gets down to the core of why these select individuals are involved with wine. His sense of story is sure to appeal to wine enthusiasts as well as those interested in the wines simply due to the fame of their financiers. Wise organized this book in a way that would make it perfectly suitable for those who want to read one section at a time or just place it on the coffee table for guests to peruse. All in all, I found the stories both appealing and well written. Wise brings these iconic figures down to earth with their relate-able passion for one of the world’s most amazing and diverse beverages.
The French Connection
Kelsey wanted to read Into Wine by Olivier Magny and I couldn’t wait to see her “tasting note.” I gave Magny’s earlier book Stuff Parisians Like a very favorable review on The Wine Economist. As I read the first book I kept waiting for him to talk about wines that Parisians like. After all, Paris is the capital of France and France is the capital of wine, so how could Parisians not like wine? But I was wrong.
“It is very easy to spot tourists in a Parisian cafe,” Magny wrote, “They are the ones drinking wine.” Having a glass of wine gives the tourists pleasure. Not drinking wine is what Parisians like to do.
Magny, with obvious frustration since he runs a wine school there, enumerated all the reasons wine has fallen from grace in Paris. Once it was the default choice, he says, but now young people especially understand that they have many choices, most of which are easier to comprehend and have better marketing behind them. Water, beer and spirits — these are the go-to beverages of Paris now.
Parisians may like not like wine, but Magny hasn’t let this discourage him. Into Wine starts with Magny’s introduction to the world of wine as an occupation and then veers off into a number of interesting issues. Here is Kelsey’s note:
In his book “Into Wine”, Olivier Magny introduces the reader to the concept of terroir and highlights its importance throughout the wine-making process— from the vineyard to its consumption. At times, however, it seems like the book was less “into wine” and more into promoting organic lifestyles. It is clear from the outset that Magny is a terroirist, but his account of wine is definitely an eye-opener to the perils and shortcomings of the modern agriculture and wine industries.
The book made me rethink where my wine and food are coming from, what goes into their production, and the negative consequences of modern wine-making and agricultural processes. If you want to know more about what terroir is all about and why it is important, this is a good read. His footnotes (though excessive and sometimes distracting) are entertaining and even once poked fun at the modern-day “hipster”.
Overall, Magny is witty and his book definitely has something to offer those unfamiliar with the concept of terroir and its role in today’s wine industry.
The Color of Wine
Erin picked The Wine Lover’s Coloring Book by Louise Wilson. Her tasting note reads.
The Wine Lover’s Coloring Book by Louise Wilson makes learning about the world’s wine regions appealing and fun for wine enthusiasts and budding professionals alike! Wilson’s book is full to the brim with colorful diagrams and vital information, and the hands-on learning approach is particularly well suited to visual learners. This interactive book is the perfect blend of accessibility and educational content.
I liked the idea of this book quite a lot, but after paging through it twice I decided that I wanted more — more in the art or more in the text. Could the diagrams do more to illustrate the terroir (as opposed to basic geographic lines of wine regions)? Could more be done with the wines themselves? And is it possible to do more while still keeping to the appealing coloring book format? I dunno — maybe not.
But the author is plainly very creative (and a fine artist, too), so perhaps she will think of a visual way to take her readers to the next level in a future volume. In the meantime, as Erin’s note makes clear, this is a welcome addition to the wine education bookshelf.
Thanks to Erin, Kelsey and Kayla for their tasting notes. Thanks to the authors and publishers for providing the books.