It’s time once again for Ye Olde Wine Product Review Roundup, in which I turn my critical Sauron-like eye towards wine-related samples that are (usually) inedible. We’re back to hitting the books this month, because, well, I have a sh*t ton of wine book samples piling up at 1WD HQ. Like, seriously, I am tripping over some of them at this point…
First up is the 2019 edition of the perennially (literally) fantastic Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book (Mitchell Beazley, 336 pages, $17). If it seems like I talk about this little marvel of a wine reference every single year, it’s because I do. Once again, Johnson’s cast of contributing characters packs an almost unbelievable amount of useful information on most of the wine world’s important releases/producers/vintages/regions into an equally nearly unbelievably small space. Yeah, it really needs to be an annually updated or subscription-style mobile app at this point, but still, there’s good reason this book sits atop the best seller lists for wine guides for those of us who still occasionally pick up these things made from dead trees. The rotating essay topic this year’s Pocket Wine is Natural/Organic/Biodynamic wines, and it’s well-written and interesting, bringing a refreshingly non-partisan analysis of those categories and making a good case that, when it comes to fine wine production, being sustainable is actually quite mainstream.
Next, and finally for this roundup, we have Passion For Wine: The French Ideal and the American Dream (Favorite Recipes Press, 192 pages, $29), a colorful work co-written by my friend and fellow Philly-wine-person Marnie Old and the indefatigably flamboyant Jean-Charles Boisset, proprietor of the Boisset Collection of wine brands and husband of the equally indefatigable Gina Gallo, one of the most prominent figures in the global wine market today. The pages of Passion For Wine are all edged in a shiny gold foil, which will come as absolutely no surprise to anyone who has ever met Jean-Charles. The book is, in essence, an exploration of wine styles (“powerful reds” are compared to Elizabeth Taylor, and “voluptuous whites” to Marilyn Monroe), grapes, and Jean-Charles’ own brands. If Passion For Wine seems, at times, a little confusing in its layout and leaning a bit too heavily into self-promotion, we can forgive these minor sins when taking into account that it reflects nearly perfectly the zest-for-the-good-life style of Jean-Charles himself, and is tempered by Marnie’s accessible prose and her vast experience of how to relate complex concepts about wine in ways that the average wine lover can easily digest. It’s both visually stunning and useful, ultimately rising above its eccentricities and delivering the goods (an outcome that’s both a reflection of and a testament to the talents of its authors).
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