In The Curious World of Wine today, uncorking a bottle is often more an invitation for criticism than enjoyment. Was that $15 bottle worth a repeat buy? Did the pricey Pinot Noir you served for Thanksgiving do your heritage turkey justice?

In his new book, Richard Vine, an industry consultant and Professor of Enology Emeritus at Purdue University, promises to provide a more “fascinating miscellany about the colorful characters, celebrated places, and quirky events surrounding winemaking,” according to the book jacket flap. Sure, Vine (a handy last name) includes a handful of softball sidebars, perhaps better suited to his former college-age students, on topics such as why drinking wine with a good meal is better than sex (“Condoms aren't required to eat or drink and there's never a risk of pregnancy”).

But primarily, the book is filled with curiosity-driven insights for the wine enthusiast. If you're underwhelmed by the glut of criticism in the wine market today, this pocket guide might just bring you back to those moments of wineglass-toasting fun. Get more after the jump.

The Curious World Of Wine Tastings; Credit: flickr user needlesspaces

The Curious World Of Wine Tastings; Credit: flickr user needlesspaces

Among the book's excerpts: the story of how Thomas Jefferson nearly went bankrupt trying to cure his vines from a devastating disease, and an enterprising Midwesterner's attempt to make an Ohio bubbly prior to the Civil War.

Chapters titles give you an idea of what other wine stories are here: “Wining with the Ancients,” “Legends and Lore” and “Fascinating Legacies.” The latter includes moments such as when “six bulk wine producers in southwest France were convicted of selling E & J. Gallo of California more than three million barrels of fake Pinot Noir during a three-year period before 2008.” We have a feeling only the critics noticed.

The book also includes plenty of fun quotes, such as one from George Washington from a letter he wrote to George W. Fairfax (June 1786): “My manner of living is plain and I do not mean to be put out of it. A glass of wine and a bit of mutton are always ready.” Over 200 years later, we might not have the mutton always at the ready, but we're still pretty set on wine side of things.

Scribble Washington's quote on a card and add a bottle of your favorite wine, and you've got a pretty great gift. Or actually, a wine tasting kit might be more in line with The Curious World of Wine. We have a feeling Washington would have gotten a kick out of the new holiday sampler from Emeril Lagasse (he chose six California wines that come in 50 ml tasting samples). Our favorite tasting note from the “kicked-up” chef who isn't exactly known for his healthy cooking: According to Lagasse, the 2010 Patz & Hall Sonoma Coast Chardonnay “has a great lean texture and doesn't weigh you down with butter.”

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