On first flip-through, Jonathon Alsop's new Wine Lover's Devotional: 365 Days of Knowledge, Advice, and Lore for the Ardent Aficionado sounds like little more than a book playing off page-a-day calendars.
It is. Alsop makes it clear in the introduction that the book was intentionally "organized as a day minder, with entries creating a complete year's worth of information." But he adds that "the most important thing to remember is that you can use this book however you want." Once you do just that -- force yourself to get over the cheesy day minder format -- the Wine Lover's Devotional is an engaging desk guide to wine. The trick is figuring out exactly which wine lovers (first time sippers, not-quite-beginners, everyday wine drinkers?) the book is best suited for.
By using something completely unrelated to wine to organize the book (days of the week), Alsop can cover an astounding amount of ground for multiple audiences. Every Monday, you get a brief lesson on basic wine speak (how to read a wine label, what "corked" really means). On Tuesday, it's grape varietals, and by Wednesday, Alsop has moved on to wine and food pairings (recipes, wine and food pairings). Thursdays tackle "geography," which according to the table of contents is "a virtual world tour of wineries, famous wine regions, and places of legend" (but also covers seemingly disparate topics like accredited wine educational programs). On Fridays you wake up to profiles of winemakers and other wine personalities (French winemaker Jean-Michel Cazes and wine aroma wheel inventor Ann C. Noble), and the weekend entry (there is a single entry for Saturday and Sunday) covers what Alsop calls "weekend wine adventures" (vineyard tours, how to build a home wine cellar). All are told in brief, three to four paragraph entries that you can digest in less time than it takes your morning coffee to brew.
It's rare to find a wine guide that so effectively directs content to wine novices (how and why to swirl your wine before sipping), those who think of wine in terms of entertaining (Alsop includes party tips like how to plan a food pairing scavenger hunt and offers direction on writing a wine toast), home cooks who like to toss a little of what they're drinking into the pot (though the recipes are a bit too standard -- red wine risotto, chicken baked with mustard and parsley -- to inspire home cooks who already cook with wine), and even those who would rather get straight to the nitty gritty of specific wines (Domaine de Reuilly versus Domaine Mardon Quincy Sauvignon Blanc).
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And that broad overview and audience reach is exactly why we sort of love this book, sort of aren't sure exactly who it's for. Or you could look at it as the hardcover version of a Twitter feed on a topic as broad as wine, where there's a little of something, if not much, for everyone.