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Wednesday, 25 July 2012 18:02

How to Taste: A Guide to Enjoying Wine

How to Taste: A Guide to Enjoying Wine

by Jancis Robinson

Simon & Schuster

ISBN 978-0743216777

208 pages; $25.

 how-to-taste

My Christmas wish for 2001 is that every customer would receive a copy of "How to Taste." Instead of hearing "I only drink Cabernet" or "They make a red Zinfandel, too?" it just might be "I’d like to compare a Marlborough with a Sancerre!"

Jancis Robinson’s "How to Taste, A Guide to Enjoying Wine" is a perfect gift for the wine novice who wants to increase his knowledge and enjoyment of wine. This book strikes a nice medium between the intimidating "THE OXFORD COMPANION TO WINE" that Robinson edited and the popular wine/travel/seen-and-be-seen wine magazines. I would highly recommend "How to Taste" to those who are new to wine and to my wine clients who are very savvy in certain areas of wine—those very comfortable with a few varietals, but who need to stretch their comfort zone to get a full appreciation of the world of wines.

"How to Taste" takes the reader through a well-constructed wine course that puts the importance on doing, or tasting in this case. Each point in the book is discussed in theory and then applied in practice.

The information at the beginning of each subject gives an excellent base on which the practice builds. Those new to wine will appreciate the easy to understand descriptors of each varietal that will make their reading of subsequent publications more enjoyable. Robinson also addresses subjects such as TCA (the foul-smelling compound trichloroanisole given off by wines stoppered with a tainted cork), storage, serving and judging the overall quality of a wine. Even the well-seasoned wine veteran will learn something new. While not as comprehensive as "The Oxford Companion to Wine," "How to Taste" will make a great resource for any future future wine questions.

As she states repeatedly, tasting is what it is all about. After the theory is a highlighted section on practice. Whether with a group of wine professionals or just the gang over for the evening, "How to Taste" will encourage lively discussion, as readers will discover new facets of their own palates. The emphasis of the practice is to have fun while learning about the wines and improving the ability to assess wines, all the while removing the mystique of wine and making it an everyday addition to the table.

The final chapter discusses food and wine pairings, the rules and how to break them, and a concise glossary that gets the beginner up to speed without approaching wine geek-dom.

Professional and to the point, this guide to enjoying wine will make an excellent addition to any wine library. "With How to Taste," Jancis Robinson confirms her place as one of the premier wine writer today.

 

--Reviewer Steve Graham is a wine merchant for the Nugget grocery chain in Sacramento, California.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012 17:49

Zinfandel: A Reference Guide to Zinfandel

Zinfandel: A Reference Guide to Zinfandelby Cathleen Francisco

The Wine Appreciation Guild

315 pages, $24.95www.wineappreciation.com

zinfandel 

As a kid I often looked for a series of books in the local public library called "All About" books. They were good for the beginner introducing himself to a subject but were written with a scrupulous attention to the technicalities that gave texture and structure to the subject as well. This book works similarly. If not "All About" Zinfandel, then it is a very good step toward All About.

What does this book say about Zinfandel? Organized alphabetically by winery the author tells us the name of the winery, its history, ownership, winemaker and winemaking philosophy. She sets out vintage notes for the 1998 vintage as applicable to the winery and its wines.

The book lists for each wine discussed: appellation, composition, vinification and, if applicable, the vineyard. She sets out next, the alcohol percentage, residual sugar, brix at harvest, harvest date, bottling date and production data. The winemaker’s notes let the maker tell us what he wants us to know about the particular wine, well probably just some of it. Some winemakers are generous enough with their knowledge of their wines to include suggestions for food pairings.

As a courtesy to the winery and help to the reader, the author provides winery location, information about visiting it, website and telephone number and a list of the winery’s other wines.

Ms. Francisco writes a glossary. If you have heard a certain term and wondered what it might mean, whether the term is an artful one such as "bouquet" or technical and scientific like "carbonic maceration", the glossary is helpful. By doing this she provides help to getting at both the magic and science of winemaking.

As a further aid she discusses blending varieties in a separate section called A Guide. She names various blending grapes and describes them in terms of what winemakers think they may contribute to a zinfandel. She includes the places of origin or common use of these varieties so the reader can do more research about their attributes. Ms. Francisco gives us a good introduction to tasting wines featuring those grapes.

She also provides a guide to American Viticultural Areas or AVAs. She tells us the origin of the terms in Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms regulations and its legal definition. The author tells us a bit about each California AVA and what it means for the grapes grown there and the wines made from them. In addition, she describes the requirements for the use of certain terms such as "county", "vineyard" and "estate" on labels.

The author succeeds in giving a reference guide to zinfandel and much more useful information about wine.

 

--reviewed by Mike Petersen