HHermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Great Wine Made Simple: Straight Talk from a Master Sommelier by Andrea Immer Robinson.
This introduction to the complexities of drinking wine demands, as its title suggests, no prior knowledge. I came to it with some experience and ad hoc appreciation of the subject, but found plenty to learn.
It is a model of technical writing: clear, well-organized, punctuated with funny anecdotes and chatty confidences. The book’s approach is “immersion”: learning through drinking; and it is structured around a handful of basic concepts, punctuated with a programmed series of comparative tastings. While I haven’t carried out anything close to the full program of tastings, I’ve used them for reference in designing little experiments to further my own palate–and those of my friends!
I suppose there are a fair assortment of books available to educate oneself regarding wine. Immer’s does a fine job, not only communicating what one might want to know, or even how it is the case, but why people come to learn all of this detail: she has an enthusiasm about the subject that leaps off the page. Her background as a sommelier-cum-buyer sets her apart from the general run of her writing peers in this field, and her contempt for the wine criticism genre is sometimes quite evident. She’s happy to say what she likes, but espouses the uncommon notion that different people will (and should!) have different tastes.
When it was published in 2000, this edition included timely notes on production and market trends. A 2005 second edition included some updating, but is now as outdated as the original was when revision was thought to be needed. (The global economic crunch of the last couple of years has had, I gather, unpleasant effects on wine importation.) Still, the core concepts of the book are resilient, and the presentation is entertaining. [via]