Before you buy a wine book, you really should figure that little detail out. Are you more the Good, Better, Best gimme-the-best-wine-already type, or more of a Sommelier Prep Course pensive swirling soul? Hopefully this Squid Ink review of two recent wine book titles will help you find your pouring point.
In the cookbook world, things are fairly simple. Get past the gorgeous photos, or alternatively, the church pot luck spiral binding, and it all comes down to one thing: would you cook those dishes or not? But in the world of swirl and spit, there are two distinct sippers: the drinkers, and the pontificators. Note that we don't favor one or the other; sometimes you just want to drink, on other dinner occasions, it's nice to think. Fine. But deep down, which are you?
The Tell Me What To Buy Already Types
You dig Robert Parker, or at least his holy point-system when it comes to wine. It doesn't strike you as odd that you don't buy Tillamook versus Cypress Grove based on an arbitrary point system, yet you already know which cheese you prefer. Then Good, Better, Best Wines: A No-Nonsense Guide to Popular Wine is for you. This is a book that blatantly lays out what's for dinner. You will love this book if you never, ever veer from that grocery shopping list and say, pick up that veal shank just because it looks lovely, as you know you'll figure out what to do with it later.
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Author Carolyn Evans Hammond lays out your grocery store Pinot Grigio bottles and tells you what to pick based on price (under $5, $5 t$8, $8 to $11, and $11 to $15). But to give Yellow Tail a "good" rating and Woodbridge the "better" rating in that $5 to $8 range is relative, yes, but also generous at best. Squid Ink has tried both and they were both immediately relegated to the "use for cooking with caution" pile. But then again, the bargain price point is the entire point of this book. So if you absolutely adore Two Buck Chuck (Note: adore is not the same thing as drink-by-necessity), Good, Better, Best Wines is the wine book you've been waiting for.
The Let Me Take Another Sip First Types
You don't like being told what to like and not like. You have formed firm opinions about Merlot, and then you tasted Duckhorn. And Hall. And that Stag's Leap merlot. The Sommelier Prep Course is for you.
The chapter titles, all 29 of them, include "Wine Tasting and Sensory Analysis," (yes, you need to be a bit of a palate geek to include this on your Amazon wish-list), 14 chapters on wine by country (including emerging regions), and as every good sommelier manual includes, a chapter on beer, distilling, as well as one on sake/mead/cider. It is the basic WSET course (Wine and Spirit Education Trust - the acronym that your local restaurant sommelier tosses around as he opens your Pinot Noir), in a very abbreviated and cost-controlled form. Will the $35 book get you the same education level as a $600+ live course? Of course not. Will you know whether you want to fork over the cash for the program? Perhaps. And if you read quickly, you'll be able to peacock-around at LA Wine Fest in two weeks.