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08.2007

Massachusetts Beverage Business

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This Seasons Harvest of Wine Books

Article By: Bill Nesto, MW

BILL NESTO'S ANNUAL
REVIEW of WINE BOOKS
Malbec has taken the shine off Merlot.
New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc dazzles while Pouilly-Fume has slid off the table.
Wine is subject to trends and so is wine literature

Currently, there seems to be three dominant trends in recently published wine books. One trend is the rise of food-wine pairing books. Red Wine with Fish (Simon & Schuster,1989) by Joshua Wesson and David Rosengarten was the seminal book that got the ball rolling. Joanna Simon's Wine with Food (Simon & Schuster, 1997) took another step forward, followed a few years later by Fiona Beckett's How to Match Food and Wine (Mitchell Beazley, 2OO2). One of the newest books of this type is Evan Goldstein's Perfect Pairings (University of California Press, 2OO6). Goldstein takes another step forward by marrying his recommendations to mother-chef or chef-mother Joyce Goldstein's recipes. The book is a true modern marriage between wine and food.

Another trend is the rise of primers that use wine flavor categories to introduce the more difficult-to-understand topics of grape varieties and place. Fiona Beckett was the pioneer here with Wine by Style (Diane Pub. Co.,1998). Notable follow-ups were Andrew Jefford's Wine Tastes Wine Styles (Ryland Peters & Small, 2OOO) and Mary Ewing-Mulligan's and Ed McCarthy's Wine Style (Wiley, 2OO5). The new kid on the block is Vincent Gasnier's A Taste For Wine (DK Adult, 2OO6). The rise of "wine-style" education shows that there are many possible approaches to learning about wine. At a given moment in history, one approach is more relevant than another. The traditional approach to wine education was by location. Subsequently, categorization by grape variety became popular. Now, it's wine-style.

The third trend is books that mix narrative with explanation. Two current examples are Alan Tardi's Romancing the Vine (St. Martin's Press, 2OO6), an American chef's adventures living in Barolo country, and George M. Taber's Judgment of Paris (Scribner, 2OO5), which recreates the historical events surrounding the 1976 blind winetasting of French and American wines. While Tardi constructs his narrative based on his own personal experience, Taber creates narratives based not only on his observation but on research acquired through interviews and outside references. Taber therefore mixes historical fact, personal perspective and poetic license in a manner similar to what is called historical fiction, a sub-genre of fiction that dramatizes historical figures or events. This trend of using drama to explain history is even more vividly demonstrated by the new genre of docudrama (also known as docu-drama, drama-documentary, drama-doc, or docu-fiction). Docudrama employs the medias of film, television and theater to explain history to the layman. Food-wine pairing books, wine-style primers, and narratives that both entertain and teach seem to dominate new consumer publications about wine. These approaches are fertile ground for future generations of wine books.

AS a former sommelier myself, I know that diners usually use style groupings to describe the wines they would like to have with their meal. So the wine-style approach fits Gasnier like a glove. He creates 9 categories: light, crisp whites; juicy, aromatic whites; full, opulent whites; rose; fruity, lively reds; ripe, smooth reds; rich, dense reds; sparkling; sweet and fortified. For each category, he makes generic suggestions. For example for "Fruity, lively reds", he suggests Pinot Noir, Jura Poulsard, Sancerre Rouge, Cotes du Frontonnais, Saumur-Champigny/Chinon, and Beaujolais. He has "sub-chapters" to explore dimensions of what each category means. For example, the sub-chapters for "Fruity, lively reds" are "Taste Test: Fruit" which explores what the terms "fruity" and "lively" mean, "Taste Test: Vinification" which explores how winemaking techniques alter fruitiness in wine, and "Taste Test: Climate" which explores the effect of climate on Pinot Noir fruitiness. Beyond the style chapters there are sections on the history of wine, grape varieties, climate and weather, soil, viticulture, and vinification. This all goes to show that, in the end, there is no simple way to explain wine succinctly. There was once a wine educator who advertised that he could turn novices into wine experts in one hour! Not true! There are many different paths to being a wine expert, and all are more or less the same length and see more or less the same scenery along the way but perhaps in a different sequence. Near the end of A Taste for Wine there is a chapter on food-wine pairing. Gasnier includes a chart which ranks the success of pairings between his wine style categories and different types of cuisine. For example, with grilled fish, he strongly recommends either juicy aromatic whites or fruity-lively reds. This is an excellent and useful book that is written from a sommelier's perspective.
2OO6. DK ADULT.
ISBN: O7566235O2
Paperback. 352 pages. $2O

AS as a wine server at The Voyagers restaurant in Cambridge in late 197Os, I vaguely remember the news of the so-called 'Paris Tasting' of 1976. This was a blind tasting held in Paris in which French wine experts blind-tasted some of the best California and French wines. The California wines, to the surprise of all, (and to the embarrassment of the French judges) fared surprisingly well. Back then, I had no sense how valid the results were. So I really did not view it as a critical juncture in the ascendancy of American wines. Throughout the 198Os, the Paris Tasting was only occasionally mentioned. The 199Os was a time when the wine industry suddenly became a global phenomenon. The wines of the New World (the Americas, Australasia and South Africa) began to share the spotlight with French wines. As we wine lovers tried to understand the emerging pattern of events, we all could not help but look back on the Paris Tasting. This event began to signify for us the seminal moment when the world suddenly looked beyond France for great wine. Those of us who love wine and want to see the forest as well as the trees should learn about the Paris Tasting. Who better to describe it than the only journalist present at the actual event, George M. Taber. But Taber does much more. He meticulously sets the stage for the event by describing the wine world pre-1976 and then in the same detail describes how the wine world changed after the tasting. Taber recreates historical moments by having his protagonists speak in situations he vividly recreates. I marveled at Taber's ability to do this. He is a storyteller. Another strength of the book is that it teaches as it tells. If the reader at the outset has little sense of how grapes are grown, wine is made and the wine business works, Taber embeds that wine education in the narrative. The result is a multi-dimensional book and a multi-dimensional experience for the reader.
2OO5. Scribner.
ISBN: O743247515
Hardcover. 336 pages. $26

AS the newcomer, not the connoisseur, is the target of Matt Kramer's new book on Italian wine, he neither complicates the book with the endless precisions and imprecisions of Italian wine law nor does he feel compelled to comment on every producer in every region or on every wine type. He restricts his attention to a cross section of wines that a typical wine consumer would face in a well-stocked US wine shop. To set the stage of "making sense" of it, the first three chapters provide insights into the Italian mind. First, there is the Italian attachment to the personal flourish which Kramer tags, "bella figura". Then he explains the Italian obsession with the origin of everything. Kramer calls this "campanilismo". The last key impact on the Italian psyche is the impact of the dissolution of a centuries old sharecropping system, the "mezzadria". Kramer follows with some 37 chapters which bear the names on the "facings" (ie, labels) which consumers would likely see in a wine shop. These facings range from precise appellations (DOCGs or DOCs, such as Brunello di Montalcino and Soave) to whole regions (for example, Sicily and Sardinia), to grape varieties (for example, Vermentino and Lagrein), to wine types (ie, Vin Santo). He describes what each means, recommends relevant wine producers and local cuisine pairings. He also tells what facings are most worth our attention and curiosity. While the book lacks the pioneering impact of Kramer's Making Sense of Burgundy, which first convincingly explained the critical importance of "place" in the Burgundian psyche, and New California Wine which made convincing steps in doing the same with California, Making Sense of Italian Wine does succeed brilliantly within a more limited goal: to point out and explain what is relevant to consumers within the chaos of Italian wine. Kramer does this with his characteristic wit which can uncover three or four dimensions where there appears to be only one or two.
2OO6. Running Press.
ISBN: O7624223OO
Hardcover. 280 pages. $24.95

MASter Sommelier Evan Goldstein has partnered with his mother, chef Joyce Goldstein, to create a wine-food pairing workbook. The heart of the book is twelve chapters each based on food pairings with a varietal wine (for example, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, etc.). Chapters include descriptions of the typical appearance and flavor of the topic varietal wine along with explanations how different growing areas and common vinification techniques affect varietal wine style. In each chapter, Goldstein recommends what food pairings work with the wines he covers. He presents Joyce Goldstein's recipes and recommends producers whose wines would go with each recipe. There are similarly structured chapters on sparkling and dessert wines. For this book to really work, the reader should recreate the recommended dishes and food-wine pairings and compare his or her own assessment of the pairing with that of the Goldstein. Though Goldstein gives general pairing tips at the beginning of the book, the varietal approach does not fully equip the reader to pair blends of varietal wines (such as Meritage) with cuisine. Goldstein's book evidences his extensive experience, knowledge and enthusiasm. It has made a noteworthy entry within the emerging canon of food-wine pairing guides.
2OO6. University of California Press.
ISBN: O52O243773
Hardcover. 328 pages. $29.95

AS Alan Tardi faces the aftermath of the tragic events of September 2OO1, he makes the decision to sell his restaurant in the Flatiron district of New York City and move to Piedmont where he embarks on a new life and a new love. In this book he invites the reader to share his discovery of the vine-growing and wine-making world Barolo. Unlike numerous accounts of life in other celebrated regions of Italy like Tuscany, Alan takes the reader into the lesser-known region of Piedmont, world-renowned for its wine and cuisine. Through his experiences working in a vineyard, the author introduces readers to fundamental viticultural practices like pruning in Spring and the green harvest in Summer. The author also shares his experience of the Autumn harvest and the vinification of the Barolo wine. The narrative balances personal anecdotes with informative descriptions of life and work in the vineyard and cantina. As a chef, Alan also invites his readers to experience first-hand the delicacy of Piedmontese cuisine with the inclusion of several recipes throughout the book. Romancing The Vine is an authentic account of one man's adventures in discovering the world of Barolo. It makes for good reading for any Italian wine lover.
2OO6. St. Martin's Press.
ISBN: 978-O312357948
Hardcover. 368 pages. $25.95

AS soon as Fiona Beckett's first edition of her book, Wine by Style, was released in 1998 or shortly thereafter, the seminal influence of the book revolutionized how wine is taught to consumers. For example, Vincent Gasnier's A Taste for Wine, (reviewed in this article), similarly organizes wines by "style" rather than by the traditional tack of categorizing by location or grape variety. Sommeliers, too, have taken note. Increasingly, wine lists have presented wines in categories such as "Big, Hearty Reds" rather than "Red Bordeaux" or "Cabernet Sauvignon". This new second revised edition of Wine by Style makes slight changes to the first edition. It recognizes the proliferation of styles associated with grape varieties. For example, in the first edition, Becket, probably influenced by what dominated the British market of the late 199Os, Condrieu, categorized Viognier as an "Aromatic and Medium-Dry White". At that time, only the Northern Rhone Viognier's were plentiful in her market. In this new edition, Becket notes that recent Viogniers from the Languedoc and Argentina fall into the "Smooth, Medium-bodied dry White" category and that high-alcohol versions typical to California and Australia fit easily into the "Rich, Full-bodied White" category. She, in addition, notes the increasing alcoholic degree of today's "Full-bodied Reds" and the increasing diversity and sophistication of rose wines. She updates changes in wine technology such as the increased use of screw-caps. Both editions have excellent sections on food-wine pairing in which she pairs her style categories to cuisine categories. The book is well-organized, succinct and easy-to-read. This new edition simply has been changed to reflect how the wine market and world has changed since 1998. I tip my hat off to Beckett who pioneered so well this path now followed by many.
2OO6. Mitchell Beazley.
ISBN: 1845332OO8
Paperback. 120 pages. $19.95

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