20 November 2010

Weekend Cooking: The Wine Trials 2011 edited by Robin Goldstein et al.

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If you follow me on Twitter or know me at all, you know that I am a wine drinker. When Workman offered me the chance to review the 2011 edition of The Wine Trials edited by Robin Goldstein, Alex Hershkowitsch, and Tyce Walters, I of course said yes.

I have heard of the wine trials, now in its third year, but never read one of the books. The wine trials involve about 6000 wines, hidden in brown paper bags, served to more than 500 tasters. The wines come from all over the world, cover pretty much every grape, and span the price range. The tasters represent a broad spectrum of wine drinkers, from noted experts to everyday wine enthusiasts.

The trials were developed to eliminate as much as possible what the authors call the placebo effect, which is being influenced by price, region, vintage, vineyard, and/or grape. The wine trial tastings are totally blind. And what the organizers discovered was that the under $15 wines more often than not beat out the expensive wines in terms of taste.

The opening chapters are full of interesting information about the wine-tasting world, including my favorite: When tasters are given two glasses of the same wine from the same bottle, they often rate the two glasses differently! They expect the wines to be different, and their brains and taste buds confirm their exceptions.

Not everyone agrees with the facts and statistics presented in The Wine Trials 2011. But the authors do not shy away from their critics. For example, they mention specific articles by Eric Asimov, the New York Times wine reviewer, that took the trials to task (click here, for one). I admire their openness at showing both sides of the arguments.

The heart of the book is the results of the wine trials and the wine reviews. The winners of the trials are 175 wines from around the world that generally sell for under $15 (US) a bottle. The wines are presented in lists and in individual reviews. Most of the wines are readily available, although some were produced in limited runs.

I live in Pennsylvania, a state that makes you buy wine from a state-run liquor store. As a result, I do not have access to every vineyard and multiple vintages. Regardless, I was pleased to find that many of the wines and the specific vintages reviewed in the book are available even to me. Our prices run between $2 and $3 more than those given in the book, but I expected that.

Mr. BFR and I tried four wines listed as winners in the wine trials. We really liked the three reds we tasted and will definitely be buying two of them again. We didn't like the white as well, but I think a 75 percent success rate is pretty good.

I recommend this book as a starting place to find great wines at low cost. I especially like the authors' attitude that fine wines are in the palate not in the wallet.

I cannot (it's my profession, give me a break) leave this review without commenting that I found a number of copy-editing errors, which put me off a bit. In the end, though, the content of the book won the day, and I will be turning to The Wine Trials 2011 throughout the year.

For more information about the trials and about wine, visit the blog Blind Taste.

Published by Workman / Fearless Critic Media, 2010
ISBN-13: 9781608160167
YTD: 103
Rating: B
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


Marg 11/20/10, 6:08 AM  

I am terrible at trying new wines. Tend to go for only a couple of brands because I know them. I should see if there is a similar guide for us.

Mary (Bookfan) 11/20/10, 7:37 AM  

Sounds like a useful resource. I drink wine occasionally and woke up this morning wondering what I should offer my guests on Thanksgiving since we're hosting. I need to figure that out soon! :-)

Julie P. 11/20/10, 8:45 AM  

This sounds wonderful. I might be getting this for my husband for Christmas!

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks 11/20/10, 9:28 AM  

I like the way the trials are run -- and am picturing all those plain paper bags!

It would be fun to choose a selection of wines from the book and have a blind tasting party with friends (and compare results with the book)

Jen - Devourer of Books 11/20/10, 9:36 AM  

I need to really look through this book, I'm hoping to do a taste-testing with my Mother in Law.

bermudaonion 11/20/10, 9:41 AM  

I don't drink much, so I never know where to begin when I need to buy a bottle of wine. This sounds like a good resource.

Sheila (Bookjourney) 11/20/10, 9:57 AM  

My hubby would enjoy this book. He is fascinated by the differences in wine and loves to have a glass with a nice meal. I struggle finding one I like... they always look gorgeous in the glass but the taste is not something I have ever really enjoyed.

Melissa 11/20/10, 11:41 AM  

We have similar posts, in a way, for this week's Weekend Cooking ... wine is mentioned!

Margaret @ BooksPlease 11/20/10, 11:51 AM  

This sounds a very good and useful book.

My post this week is about the Blondies (a variation on Brownies) that my husband made following one of Nigella's recipes. I was most impressed.

Margot 11/20/10, 12:58 PM  

I'm going to find a copy of this book. I'm out here in wine country and I feel very intimidated when it comes to buying wine. I know what I like when I'm tasting it but I'm at a loss when I go into a store to buy. I need a good list. Thanks for sharing the book.

Leslie (Under My Apple Tree) 11/20/10, 1:43 PM  

I'm a wine lover too. So true about the price. I've tasted expensive wines of the grape that I prefer and blech. And some reasonable priced ones were superb... until everyone found out about them and then the price jumped! I like the taste test the same wines trick. I'll have to try that some time.

Michelle 11/20/10, 2:09 PM  

Sounds like a great book and a great test to take! ;)

Peaceful Reader 11/20/10, 4:59 PM  

I have the 2008 version of this book and love it. I should maybe update with this newer version but I find I can locate most bottles in the book. I love good, inexpensive wine-such a treat! Thanks for the wonderful review.

Troy 11/20/10, 7:20 PM  

This is my first time linking up with this party.

I have to confess a complete ignorance of wines. I cook with a few, but know nothing about whick ones taste best with which foods. A book like this would be educational!

Alice 11/20/10, 11:38 PM  

Hi Beth, thanks for the suggestion to link my post (sparkling wine with dim sum) post in your Weekend Cooking post this week.

This book you're featuring looks great!

Rebecca Rasmussen 11/21/10, 10:12 AM  

I am also a wine woman! This books sounds wonderful--I have heard that tasters often pick wines under $15 when in a blind test. So interesting. And I used to live in PA and gosh I remember those state run liquor stores. I heard they are doing kiosks in certain grocery stores now...

Bonnie 11/21/10, 11:32 AM  

This sounds like an interesting book and great resource on wines. I like white wine and my husband likes red so we usually like different wines. I have often found the "cheaper" wines are often as good as the more expensive ones.

Gilion at Rose City Reader 11/21/10, 5:08 PM  

What an interesting book! It looks like one my hubby would definitely enjoy. He's always cutting out newspaper and magazine articles with headlines like "best wines under $20." Looks like a Christmas item!

Eva 11/22/10, 12:00 AM  

I bet my mom would like this, since she loves wine! I wonder if my library has it. :)

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