Pocket Full Of Passion (October 2018 Wine Product Roundup)

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.

 

Pocket Full Of Passion (October 2018 Wine Product Roundup)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).

Cheers!

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This Time, It’s Personal (September 2018 Wine Product Roundup)

Dude!

For this month’s edition of the Wine Product Review Roundup, I’m taking a break from the not-really-getting-any-smaller pile of yet-to-be-reviewed wine books, and instead tackling the wears of wine products that don’t come with bindings and covers.

This Time, It’s Personal (September 2018 Wine Product Roundup)First up is a customized, 1WD-themed package of goodies sent to me by Personal Wine, longtime purveyors of personalized wine labels and etchings. The PW folks decided to take the 1WD logo and work some of their magic on a wine box, as well as four bottles showcasing the possibilities with their labels and bottle etching.

PW has a fairly wide assortment of wines available at multiple price tiers, from $14 all the way up to about a grand (labeling is included, etching runs ab out $15 extra per bottle); from my sample package, I enjoyed the Wildcatter Cab (think dark and silky) and the Conde Laurel Cava Brut (admirably piquant for the price). The box is, well, basically a standard wooden wine box, but the etching is clean and the wood quality quite good. Overall, PW seems like a solid option if you’re considering personalized gifts for the wine-obsessed this holiday season….

This Time, It’s Personal (September 2018 Wine Product Roundup)

image: amazon.com

Next on the sample list this month is a pair of wine-themed gift ideas from VinoPlease, purveyors of accessories (bags, stoppers, coasters, and the like) printed with pithy, humorous wine-related quips. My care package from VP included a set of three Wine Jute draw-string burlap bags, and four reusable silicone wine stoppers.

This Time, It’s Personal (September 2018 Wine Product Roundup)

image: amazon.com

The bags are well-constructed and will fit most standard 750 ml bottles, and the stoppers do a great job of covering up open wine bottles (without having to deal with 3/4 of a cork sticking out), and I plan on making use of those suckers when bringing bottles outside (at least until the weather gets chilly in these parts).

While the printing on both the stoppers and the bags are high quality, the issue I have with the VP items is that the sayings printed on them are at best mildly amusing (“rough day”), more often a bit trite (“wine not?”), and at worst are mildly offensive (“Wineorexia?” really?… sorry, but I just don’t find mocking anorexia to be funny). YMMV, so be cautious with these, particularly if the person on the receiving end of these gifts is easily offended.

Cheers!

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Yin And Yang, Printed Style (August 2018 Wine Product Roundup)

image: Amazon.com

As my pile of (admittedly somewhat neglected) wine book review copies is growing ever larger, this month’s wine product review roundup will focus on two soon-to-be-released bits of printed vinous educational resources. Both of these books will start to see shelf space in September, both are priced at $24.95, and both are about wine, and both were written in English by carbon-based lifeforms… and those are about the only things that they have in common stylistically. So if you’re up for a bit of an interesting Yin/Yang of vinous-related reviews, by all means read on and try not to get too dizzy.

First, we have Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis’s Ten Grapes to Know: The Ten & Done Wine Guide (The Countryman Press, 189 pages, $24.95). Ten Grapes is an unabashed attempt at simplifying wine for the uninitiated, the premise being that learning about ten key fine wine grapes (Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Zinfandel) will provide pretty much all that one needs to know to begin successfully navigating most wine store shelves and wine lists, with the encouragement to branch out from there (provided mainly through recommendations of similar-but-lesser-known grape varieties at the end of each dedicated chapter).

Each of the chapters in Ten Grapes follows a similar pattern: historical/geographical/taste background of wine made from each grape, followed by food pairings and a recommended price-based shopping list, all sprinkled with anecdotes and concluding with a short quiz. While Fallis’s approach might strike the nerdier among you as overly-simplistic, it works primarily because it mirrors how most normal consumers actually start to experience and purchase wine, and if it has a fault it’s in prose that might be too friendly and familiar. Specifically, Ten Grapes has an un-apologetically feminine stylistic bent. To wit: one of the sections of chapter six, on Sangiovese, begins “I had a nearly religious moment outside the Ferragamo shop in Florence.” If you haven’t shopped Ferragamo in Florence (guilty!), you probably won’t be able to relate, but then it’s hard to fault Fallis for losing some of the audience in brief paragraphs, since there are entire wine books whose prose loses most of the potential audience…

Yin And Yang, Printed Style (August 2018 Wine Product Roundup)

Required reading from Goode’s latest (image: Amazon.com)

Next, we have the it’s-such-a-polar-opposite-that-I-think-I-just-got-mental-whiplash Flawless: Understanding Faults in Wine (UC Press, $232 pages, $24.95). Flawless is the latest from the mind of wine-obsessed scientist Jamie Goode, and it might be his driest and most academic wine work to date… which, if you know Goode, is really saying something. In Flawless, Goode tackles the causes, impacts, statistics, and rectification processes behind basically all of the major faults that can ruin wine, from Brett to oxidation to heat damage to greeness to volatile acidity.

Goode approaches each fault subtopic with his characteristic pithy sentence structure and lab-coat-donning thoroughness; personally, despite having spent more time than the average guy researching cork-related wine issues, I learned more in the thirteen-or-so pages of Flawless‘ cork taint section (Chapter 7) than I’d even known before about the causes and remediation of the cork industry’s biggest bugaboo (PSA: cork taint contamination percentages might be as high as 6-8% according to some of the studies cited in Goode’s book). Chapter 8, on smoke taint, should probably be required reading by the entire US wine industry, particularly those in Southern Oregon and Northern CA who will be reading this review during ongoing regional wildfires when their grapes are undergoing verasion, exactly when they are most susceptible to smoke.

Flawless is not without its faults (sorry… you knew that was coming), but it’s very close to being required reading on a touchy set of subjects, and while not exactly an easy read, it’s digestible for both the consumer and those on the inside of the wine biz.

Cheers!

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Copyright © 2016. Originally at Yin And Yang, Printed Style (August 2018 Wine Product Roundup) from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!

Pricey Reservations (July 2018 Wine Product Roundup)

This might be one of the earliest monthly wine product samples roundups here on 1WD, but I’m tending to a sick kiddo at the moment, and figured that I’d use the limited available writing window give you the lowdown on a couple of rather not-so-inexpensive wine products (no book reviews this month!) before I accidentally kill the brain cells housing my thoughts on them while they were still fresh in my memory.

Image: richardbrendon.com

First up is “The Wine Glass” ($112 for a set of 2), part of the 1 Collection, a collaboration between British Master of Wine (and friend of 1WD) Jancis Robinson and Notting Hill native designer Richard Brendon. The idea behind the glass, as per its creators, was to create a drinking vessel that can be used “for every wine, whatever its colour, including sparkling wine, port, sherry, sweet wines and anything else you want to savour and enjoy to the fullest… specially designed to maximise your enjoyment of all wines’ aromas, flavours and textures in the most practical way possible.”

That’s a lofty goal, and one that, in my testing experience, the glass mostly achieves. While I found it a bit large for dessert and fortified wines, it does a fair job on those, and an exceptional job on anything bubbly or still. Robinson describes the style as “gossamer-thin” and she’s right – The Wine Glass is so light that you might forget that you’re holding anything at all when it’s in your hand. This comes with the anxiety that it might break easily, but for its lack of thickness it is surprisingly durable, and handles stints in the dishwasher with ease.

It’s also a stylish item, and for that you are paying a dear farthing, my friends, at about $56 per stem. Is it worth it? I have serious reservations about answering that question in the affirmative; while The Wine Glass is superior in almost any measurable way to most of the stemware available designed for everyday use, it’s simply too luxurious an item to fit into such a category. This is especially pertinent considering that you can get nearly the same durability, style, and all-in-one applicability from Master Sommelier Andrea Robinson‘s The One stemware line, which currently goes for under $30 a pair. And lest you think $15/stem suggests an experience fit for inferior sipping, when I sat for the 2010 Romanée-Conti vintage tasting in NYC, they used Andrea’s glasses…

Next, we have an even more expensive item, the NewAir AWR-290DB Compact Wine Cooler (about $750). Here’s roughly how this product sample exchange went down over the past couple of weeks:

NewAir: “We want to send you a product for possible review.”

Me: “Ok, what did you have in mind?”

NewAir: “The AWR-290DB model.”

Me, looking at the price tag: “That’s f*cking crazy, you’re taking a big gamble on sending a sample that expensive.”

NewAir: “It’s on its way.”

Pricey Reservations (July 2018 Wine Product Roundup)

Image: Amazon.com

Well, don’t say that I didn’t warn ya, PR folks!

Here are the basics on the AWR-290DB: it’s sized for 29 standard 750 ml bottles, with super-cool-looking blue LED internal lighting; an upper area that can be adjusted between 40- & 50-degrees Fahrenheit (for reds), and a lower area between 50F & 66F (for whites, rose, sparkling, etc.); while it can be used as a free-standing unit, the dimensions are targeted at fitting into a standard trash-compactor spot under your kitchen counter; the combination of a stainless metal front and wooden shelving makes for a pretty stylish presentation indeed; it’s estimated to cost about $25-$30 a year to operate.

The pros: the dual temperature areas work exceedingly well, and cool down to their target ranges nice and quickly; overall, the unit looks great, particularly if you can get it under a counter and if the door front matches your other kitchen appliances; there’s a key lock to keep your teenage kids out of your stash; vibration (which wines do not like), while present, is minimal; the LED lighting is way cool; and this thing is quiet… I mean, really, really quiet… like, mouse-sneaking-around-when-it-knows-you-have-a-pet-cat quiet. Setup, by the way, was minimal – attach the door handle, and you’re pretty much done.

The cons: my sample cooler arrived with some exterior cosmetic shipping damage (bent metal in the back, and a small ding on one side); while the vibration is minimal, it’s still there, which could impact (very) long-term aging of some fine wines; I found the instructions a bit lacking (some parts have no explanation of their purpose, for example); while it’s not too heavy, it’s still a fairly major appliance and therefore isn’t exactly light, either; the door on my sample was a bit noisy when opening, and the door seal of all such units just smells odd, and even at this price tag the AWR-290DB is no exception (you can try using baking soda to mitigate this, YMMV).

The final verdict is that the AWR-290DB is a great wine storage solution, but given the lofty price tag (competing units can be found for 25% to 50% of the price of this particular NewAir model), I have some reservations about the shipping quality and the comprehensiveness of the included instructions.

Cheers!

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Copyright © 2016. Originally at Pricey Reservations (July 2018 Wine Product Roundup) from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!

101 Wines, 43 Wine Regions, And 1 Rosy Picture (June 2018 Wine Product Roundup)

image: Amazon.com

Welcome to the June 2018 incarnation of the ongoing series in which I review samples that aren’t in liquid form. I am so, so, sooooooooooooooooooooo far behind in penning thoughts on various tastings and wine travels, but I’m also so, so, sooooooooooooooooooooo far behind in reviewing the never-ending flood of wine book samples coming my way that I felt compelled to knock off at least a small handful for this product roundup.

First up, we have the small-but-powerful 101 Wines to Try Before You Die (Cassell, 244 pages, about $12) by former Wine Magazine editor Margaret Rand. Generally speaking, I’m not a fan of list-style books, but Rand’s clever ploy here – in which she devotes two pages each to the wines on her list, including a bottle/label shot – is not to introduce you to individual wines per se, but to get people thinking more about things like Savennières, Hunter Valley Semillon, or Bierzo.

101 Wines, 43 Wine Regions, And 1 Rosy Picture (June 2018 Wine Product Roundup)

image: Amazon.com

Rand gets bonus points for employing a writing style that’s equal parts matter-of-fact, personal, and humorous (included with each selection’s vitals, such as trophy vintages and whether or not to chill or decant the wine, is a “What Not to Say” section; my personal favorite is probably “Is it German?” under Hugel’s Riesling Schoelhammer entry). 101 Wines to Try Before You Die is an honest and fun, if not essential, walk through some of compelling bottles.

Next, there’s   (Mascot, 144 pages, about $25) by Michael Biddick. Biddick is a sommelier with an IT background, and his upcoming book is essentially full of vignettes about some of the world’s most important wine regions, accompanied by a sort of info-graphic that displays the area’s major grapes, soils, climate, and recent vintages.

Now, at this point, you’re probably asking yourself “why the f–k did he pick 43 regions?!?” and the answer has to do with Biddick’s IT geekdom, and is the kind of thing that’s just begging for controversy…

Being an IT guy at heart, the author basically created a matrix/spreadsheet for each potential wine region in the mix for inclusion, scoring for categories such as composite vintage score 2000-2016″ and “weather and climate.” A total point score was then calculated for each wine region, with 50 points being the cutoff for making the book. I can feel you points-haters cringing at this (hey, I’m one of you, and I did, too). For sh*ts and giggles, here are Biddick’s top 20 and bottom 10, based on his algorithm:

101 Wines, 43 Wine Regions, And 1 Rosy Picture (June 2018 Wine Product Roundup)

Biddick’s Top 20…

101 Wines, 43 Wine Regions, And 1 Rosy Picture (June 2018 Wine Product Roundup)

…and his Bottom 10

Whether or not 43 Wine Regions will be your particular cup o’ tea when it comes to wine reference books will depend in large part on how you feel about this kind of full embracing of the American penchant for list-making, categorizing, and ranking.

101 Wines, 43 Wine Regions, And 1 Rosy Picture (June 2018 Wine Product Roundup)

image: Amazon.com

Finally, we have a cute reference focusing on one and only one category of wine – Drink Pink: A Celebration of Rosé (Harper Design, 128 pages, about $12) by Victoria James (author) and Lyle Railsback (illustrator). James is a somm and beverage director, and, presumably, a big fan of pink wines. The pink-all-over cover and the clever/whimsical illustrations throughout will almost certainly have the more cynical among you (myself included) thinking that James and Railsback are capitalizing on the current boom in Rosé popularity; and while I don’t think that’s an incorrect conclusion, it doesn’t mean that Drink Pink should be overlooked. On the contrary, there’s a lot to like about this book: it’s unpretentious, gets into cool levels of detail (for example, in discussing the Cassis, Palette, and Bandol sub-regions within Provence), and offers Rosé-focused food pairings/recipes, and even Rosé cocktail ideas that don’t actually sound disgusting. A bit of Rosé history and production overviews round the book out, and it’s a solid gift idea for those who are not necessarily wine geeks but are enthralled with pinks.

Cheers!

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Copyright © 2016. Originally at 101 Wines, 43 Wine Regions, And 1 Rosy Picture (June 2018 Wine Product Roundup) from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!

The Shady, The Free, And The Godforsaken (May 2018 Wine Product Roundup)

image: amazon.com

It’s time once again for our monthly roundup of those wine-related samples received here at 1WD HQ that aren’t actually wine. While the last few months have focused on wine book releases, this month features… well, a wine book release, but also some other stuff that involve your wine-lovin’ eyeballs.

First, let’s get the book thing out of the way; my friend and fellow Philly-area-drinks-type-guy Jason Wilson has a new tome available for your reading pleasure: Godforsaken Grapes: A Slightly Tipsy Journey through the World of Strange, Obscure, and Underappreciated Wine (Abrams Press, 320 pages, about $20).

The premise of Godforsaken Grapes is that it’s a wine book that isn’t really a wine book, focusing on fine wine grapes like Ramisco, Bastardo, and Mencia that just don’t see the luv in terms of production volume, mind-share, and media coverage. The book also favors a quirky travelogue format, offering chapter titles such as Chateau du Blah Blah Blah, How Big is Your Pigeon Tower?, and The Same Port Dick Chaney Likes; so you know at a glance that you’re in for at least a little bit of Gonzo-style journalism. In other words, regular 1WD readers ought to love this tome.

The Shady, The Free, And The Godforsaken (May 2018 Wine Product Roundup)

image: freeart.com

Next, we move away from books but stay on print in what might be one of the stranger recommendations for me to have made in the wine product roundups; at least, until we get to the last recommendation in today’s post. I was contacted several weeks ago by the folks at FreeArt.com, who sent me over some of their free wine prints for consideration (the only difference between you ordering the free stuff and me ordering it is that I didn’t have to pay any shipping because review guy!).

There are thousands of wine prints available on their site, with the deal being that they will not charge you for the smaller sizes of said prints (but will charge shipping, framing, etc.). Granted, there’s a lot of filler/fluff among those images, but some of them are pretty badass, and the quality of the prints is very, very good. If you’re looking to round-out the decor for your cellar, or are a winery looking for tasting room art on a budget, this could be an interesting (and cost-effective) way to go…

The Shady, The Free, And The Godforsaken (May 2018 Wine Product Roundup)

image: vineyardsun.com

Finally, we have an item to help protect those weary, book-reading, artistically-discriminating eyes of yours: Vineyard Sun, a “lifestyle sunglass line” that was inspired by a trip that its founders took in Texas wine country, and employs a unique design in which much of the structural elements of the glasses employ cork.

Currently, there are two designs available, and each will set you back $70: Cabernet Sauvignon (with violet mirrored lenses), and Syrah (a Clubmaster-style model). Both have 400 UVA/B rated lenses, and while not flamboyantly styled, they’re not exactly wallflowers, either. The Syrah model that I checked out was well constructed, functional, certainly a conversation-starter, and seems more durable than you might first think considering how much of it is made from cork.

Regarding the price tag: it’s not cheap, and you’re definitely paying for the styling and the cool/kitsch factor… but then, I could say the same thing about a crap ton of actual Syrah and Cabernet releases, too…

Cheers!

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Copyright © 2016. Originally at The Shady, The Free, And The Godforsaken (May 2018 Wine Product Roundup) from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!

In Search Of… The Not-So-perfect (April 2018 Wine Products Roundup)

It’s time here on 1WD for entry in the ongoing wine product sample roundup articles series, in which I try out samples sent to me that are not directly vinous / edible in nature. Once again, I’ve tried to whittle down the pile of wine-related tomes cluttering my office floor, but I also managed to have a sort of battle with (yet another) wine opener-type-thingy…

image: amazon.com

First, there’s the book: The Search for Good Wine: From the Founding Fathers to the Modern Table, by John Hailman (University Press of Mississippi, 301 pages, about $29). Hailman has been a wine competition judge, has authored a couple of other books, and had a nationally syndicated wine column; The Search for Good Wine pulls from the latter, which is the both the book’s strongest asset and (for me) its greatest source of consternation. This is a compendium of Hailman’s well-written, often witty, more often informative, and always accessible column essays, organized into four main categories (people, places, tips, and humor). They are good reads. The trouble is that (too) many of the essays employ relative references (mostly regarding time), yet lack details about when they were written and published. Not a big deal, until you hit the twentieth or so relative mention, at which point the editor in me (and maybe in you) will want to scream. Anyway, it’s solid work if you can get past that possibly-not-so-minor cavil.

Finally, we have my run-in with Vineyard Elite’s “The Perfect Wine Opener” (https://theperfectwineopener.com, $69.95). With such a haughty moniker, and a price to match, you’d think that this thing would work exceptionally well. And you’d be very, very wrong (based on my usage trials, anyway)…

In Search Of… The Not-So-perfect (April 2018 Wine Products Roundup)

image: theperfectwineopener.com

The package comes with “The Perfect Cut” foil cutter (which I found average), three “Perfect Seal” wine bottle pump-stoppers (which work decently well, though they’re not really sized for bottles with smaller necks), and the decently-constructed opener itself, which employs an interesting design.

To use the Perfect Wine Opener, you pierce the cork with the unit’s encased needle, and pump air into the bottle, which forces the cork out with a POP!

Or, at least, that’s what’s supposed to happen.

I only managed to get it working about 50% of the time, and even then I was a bit fearful that I could end up breaking the bottle due to the added pressure (this is absolutely the type of product that should not be used on sparkling wine). Ultimately, this one just doesn’t up live to the price, let alone the name; and while you might have a better success rate using it than I did, I’d advise you to check out one of the similar, cheaper alternatives first (some of which can be found for about $16).

Cheers!

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Copyright © 2016. Originally at In Search Of… The Not-So-perfect (April 2018 Wine Products Roundup) from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!

Through The Past, Scholarly (March 2018 Wine Product Reviews)

For the most recent batch of wine product sample roundup articles, I’ve been focusing on reducing the pile of wine book sample copies currently littering the floor of my home office. And so for March, I am slowly whittling away at said pile by offering up two more hardcover tomes for your vinous reading consideration. You still read books, right?

image: amazon.com

Firstly, we have French Wine: A History by Rod Phillips (University of California Press, 319 pages, about $30). That’s an unassuming title for a book with such an ambitious scope. Actually, its scope is bordering on insanity. Beginning from roughly 2500 years ago, Ottawa-based historian Phillips carves up the topical elephant into almost-digestible-sized time period chunks: the period before 1000 CE, the Middle Ages, through to the Enlightenment, the onset of the World Wars, etc. I say “almost” digestible because even each of those chapters is sizeable in terms of the rich historical content and context of the topic (remember, wine involves chemistry, historical events, economics, farming….).

The ground zero / linchpin moment of French Wine if there is one, after which all is forever changed, seems to be the phylloxera epidemic of the late 1800s. Like the rootstocks of its precious vines, nothing in the French wine world was ever quite the same after the country’s vineyards were decimated by that little louse.

All of this is told in dense, matter-of-fact prose, but Phillips isn’t afraid to call out others’ opinions (even somewhat challenging the venerable Hugh Johnson at one point). It’s not a fast or particularly easy read, but ultimately a worthwhile one. And its conclusion is appropriately bittersweet: France is growing fewer grape vines, producing fewer bottles, and drinking less wine than in its historical apexes, and yet the standard-bearer wines (in terms of quality and prices) are still at the top of the global game; and while we may be seeing a dip overall, the country’s vinous development has been anything but uniform, as French Wine dutifully shows us…

Through The Past, Scholarly (March 2018 Wine Product Reviews)

image: amazon.com

Secondly, there’s Chianti Classico: The Search for Tuscany’s Noblest Wine by Bill Nesto MW & Frances Di Savino (also University of California Press, who presumably enjoy sending me sample books; 360 pages, about $39).

I have a few reservations about this book, though I suspect in time I will soften on those, considering that partners Nesto and Di Savino have crafted the most complete Chianti overview that has probably ever existed. Chianti Classico is part Chianti history class, part overview of the modern region/geography/winemaking, part review of some of its key and autherntically-minded producers, and part love letter to central Tuscany. This is a narrative that is ultimately scholarly, and quite informative.

But… it’s also a narrative that lacks a sense of cohesion. The style of prose is almost quaint, as if it came from an older time, in a charming way. That will endear Chianti Classico to some readers, and probably turn off others. And the price isn’t exactly on the cheap side. Having said all of that, it’s also a book that doesn’t have to be consumed linearly; and given its depth (history, geography, kick-ass ancient maps, etc.), it’s likely also one that can be consulted many, many times in the future.

Cheers!

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Copyright © 2016. Originally at Through The Past, Scholarly (March 2018 Wine Product Reviews) from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!

Wine And Place And Threats (February 2018 Wine Product Roundup)

For February’s wine product sample roundup (in which I cast a critical eye on wine-related stuff that isn’t actually wine), we once again hit the book shelves, with some mixed but ultimately geekily fascinating results…

First up is a long-overdue mention of Maximillian Potter’s account of the train-wreck-style-too-crazy-to-look-away story behind the 2010 threat to poison the vines of Burgundy’s La Romanée-Conti, which produce some of the most sought-after and expensive Pinot Noir wines on the planet (interestingly, the vintage under threat was the same one that I reviewed and – SPOILER ALERT! – everything turned out okay). The book is titled Shadows in the Vineyard: The True Story of the Plot to Poison the World’s Greatest Wine (Twelve Books, 289 pages, about $10), and if that subtitle sounds a bit fawning, it’s also an accurate indication of the book’s only real flaw.

Potter’s an accomplished and experienced former staff writer, and he knows both how to spin a yarn and how to meticulously research his topic, both of which come together masterfully in Shadows in the Vineyard. Be forewarned, however, that Potter also falls into the same trap that has snared countless others who’ve mentioned this fabled Burgundian top-tier producer, which is to mention so often that its wines must be the world’s best that your facial muscles might get a bit tired from all of the ensuing eye-rolling. I mean, we get it already. But in terms of entertaining wine-related reads, this is a top-notch tale…

Wine And Place And Threats (February 2018 Wine Product Roundup)Next, we have the potentially controversial Wine and Place: A Terroir Reader, by Tim Patterson &‎ John Buechsenstein, with a foreword by a long-time friend-of-1WD, the eloquent Patrick J. Comiskey (UC Davis Press, 329 pages, about $39). Wine and Place is meant to be an examination of the concept of terroir from several angles (scientific, folk, you-name-it) and using material from, well, all over the place (wine writers, critics, growers, winemakers, chemists…). You are unlikely to find a more current of thorough compendium of writing about terroir – both in support of and challenging its veracity – without the authors (or, more accurately in this case, editors) adding their own opinions on the matter.

It’s that last bit that is either the key to success or the fatal flaw of Wine and Place, depending on your preferred style of prose when it comes to controversial topics. At times, Patterson and Buechsenstein get seriously academic, which makes portions of this book a bit of a slog, but they seem so intelligent and involved that the reader (or this reader, anyway) can be left feeling a bit empty that they don’t take stronger stances on whether or not they view terroir as essential to the concept of fine wine, or as bunk. At this price, I’d wait for the paperback.

Cheers!

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Copyright © 2016. Originally at Wine And Place And Threats (February 2018 Wine Product Roundup) from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!

I’ll Be Here, Hiding Under The Blanket (January 2018 Wine Product Review Roundup)

It’s time for the first monthly wine product sample review round-up of the new year, which means you now have a couple of recommendations for vinous-related things to buy after you’ve returned the crappier gifts that you received during the holidays! You’re welcome!

Since it’s been as cold as Dante’s icy ninth circle of hell around here lately, I decided to focus on reading material, all the better to curl up in front of a fireplace with (drink in hand, naturally) and enjoy while hiding from the real world under a cozy blanket.

First up is Red Wine: The Comprehensive Guide to the 50 Essential Varieties & Styles, (Sterling Epicure, 288 pages, $27.95) by three people that I happen to know personally (consider yourself full-disclosure-warned): the affable World Wine Guys Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jenssen, and the legendary Kevin Zraly (who might actually still owe me some money). This well-designed book has been getting serious positive press lately, and I’m happy to report that it’s well-deserving of all of it. The subtitle is apt, as Red Wine focuses on being comprehensive rather than exhaustively deep. Having said that, for 98% of wine lovers, they will not need (nor are they likely to find) a better guide to world’s fine red wine grapes than this one. Each grape gets at least a two-page spread that includes wine color, a tasting profile scale that focuses on the wine’s acidity/body/tannin combo, tasting notes and food pairings with at-a-glance icon references, a photo, a brief write-up, and a list of recommended wines to try (from bargain through to splurge price-levels). More ubiquitous grapes get a longer treatment, focusing on stylistic variances between countries, as well as winemaker quotes, and a handful of obscure red varieties (Teran, anyone?) get short highlights. Mad props to Christine Heun, who is credited as the designer, for putting together one of the easiest to navigate references I’ve ever seen in the wine world.

I’ll Be Here, Hiding Under The Blanket (January 2018 Wine Product Review Roundup)Closing out this month’s roundup, we have the gorgeously-photographed (think major food-porn style) Drink Progressively: From White to Red, Light- to Full-Bodied, A Bold New Way to Pair Wine with Food (Spring House Press, 240 pages, $27), by Hadley & TJ Douglas, the husband-and-wife owners of Boston’s The Urban Grape. This is a food-and-pairing-focused wine guide, and includes recipes by Straight Wharf’s Gabriel Frasca. The main idea behind Drink Progressively is to focus on wine body above all else, and then suggest wines and recipes to match that body accordingly. The Douglases do this by moving wines through an increasing body scale of 1 to 10, which leaves us with shorthand terms like “5W” (to describe whites from Burgundy and Mosel, for example) and “9R” (e.g., for bolder reds from Dry Creek Valley, Mendoza, and Barossa). It’s a clever, seemingly-simple conceit that I found gets confusing very quickly. Having said that, this book might be worth the cover price for the recipes and wine recommendations alone, though the latter tend towards the geekier (and therefore probably more difficult to find) end of the spectrum. The unsung hero here is Beatrice Peltre, whose photographs are downright stunning.

Cheers!

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Copyright © 2016. Originally at I’ll Be Here, Hiding Under The Blanket (January 2018 Wine Product Review Roundup) from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!