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I have had my eye on Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg's Food Lover's Guide to Wine since I first spotted it in the Little, Brown catalog several months ago. After a chance Twitter conversation with the authors, I was lucky enough to have received a signed review copy.
I am so excited to introduce you to The Food Lover's Guide to Wine because it is just the type of book my husband and I have been looking for. We own several wine books and most are one of two types: lists of wines with ratings or a detailed explanation of wine regions, history, and vineyards. Nothing ever seemed useful for two people who enjoy a glass of wine with dinner and want to know more about what they're drinking and what to buy.
I knew I was in the right place from the very first page, the very first line: "Drink wine. With food. Not too much." Yes, the nod to Michael Pollan is absolutely intentional and sums up Page and Dornenburg's own philosophy. Their wine book is a no-nonsense, easy to understand, and informative guide to figuring out which wines to buy or order to fit our own tastes and the food we plan to eat.
Our journey to confidence starts with talking to famous sommeliers. Wine experts from stores and restaurants around the world share their stories and tips in a conversational and decidedly non-snooty style. The authors ask the questions for us and then share the answers--for example: Is there a wrong way to enjoy wine? How do we learn what we like in a wine so we can find more of the same?
We also get terrific tips on how to think about wine and learn to truly appreciate it. For example, we're advised stop to notice the color and aromas before we sip. Then we should take a sip and try to identify the flavors. Very simple habits can increase our enjoyment of wine and open the door to new discoveries. The authors address the questions of decanting, glassware, serving temperature, and other wine mysteries and never, ever make us feel as if they were talking down to us. Instead, we, Page, Dornenburg, and the sommeliers are all in this adventure together. Everyone has more to learn.
What I love best about The Food Lover's Guide to Wine are the many charts, sidebars, and boxes for quick information. We can see at a glance a chart on the language of wine so we can better talk to a merchant or sommelier, a listing of 152 wines under $15, a guide to picking wine by style, a comparison of Old and New World wines, four things to know about Italian wines, how to read a wine label, and much more. In addition, there are dozens of tips and personal notes from wine experts to help us get a better feel for how to enhance our meals with a complementary wine.
At the heart of the book is a large alphabetical listing. But Page and Dornenburg's list is not set up by wine label; instead we look up wines by more general terms. For example we can look up wine by grape, region, country, season, and acidity. There is even listing for boxed wines. For each item we find information about sweet/dry, flavors, serving temperature, food pairings, tips, and producers in an easy-to-use format.
What's great about this list is that it will fit everyone, from experienced wine taster to those just starting out. If you're new to wine, you can skip right to serving temperature and food pairings. If you want to learn more, you can linger over the entries on sweetness, acidity, flavors, and texture. When you go to buy, you'll want to check out the producers.
Another plus is that vintages are not listed; this is not a book that will be out of date next year. The authors absolutely discuss vintage and how the growing season affects the quality of wine. But instead of recommending a vintage that will soon be impossible to buy, they concentrate on the grape and the winemaker. This information will help us make an informed choice no matter what the year.
After the master list, the authors delve into specific pairings by course and main ingredient. Here we find sane, usable advice on picking wine for salads, seafood, steak, pasta, game, cheese, and dessert. They offer simple ways to make quick pairings (the darker the food, the darker the wine) but also discuss reds that go with fish and whites that go with steak.
It's important to realize that Page and Dornenburg's earlier book, What to Drink with What You Eat, focused on specific, detailed pairings. The purpose of The Food Lover's Guide to Wine is to help "food lovers along their journey of discovering wines and expanding their enjoyment of them," whether we're looking for everyday table wines or something for a special feast.
There is so much more to this book than I can write here. I have four pages of notes and a ton of sticky flags marking pages. The Food Lover's Guide to Wine is a book that I'll use and read over and over again. It's the best wine book I've seen that is specifically geared to foodies, and I love that it offers layers of information so I can I get more out of it as my wine knowledge increases. Cheers!
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