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ThirtyFifty - Hens

How to Choose Wine by Vincent Gasnier
90 out of 100

Published 28 August 2010


This book is a introduction to wine, geared not at the complete novice but certainly those enthusiastic amateurs. It follows the traditional structure of a foreward talking about the influences on wine such as climate and soil, how to read a wine label and also a good section on the yearly cycle of a vineyard and how to taste wine.

There are two roots taken by authors to laying out a book like this, either wines are listed by country and region or by style. Vincent has gone down the less commonly used style route. Light crisp whites, juicy aromatic whites, full opulent whites, fruity lively reds, ripe smooth reds, rich dense reds, sparkling wines and dessert wines.
The styles are in the second section and make up 211 of the 352 pages. Each style is explained and given a very diverse range of wines that fit into each category. As with things like this some of the wines are squeezed into a style that sometimes I thought may have fitted better elsewhere. But this is a problem with generalisation and his compromises are acceptable. Each wine is given a brief overview as well notes on colour, aroma, taste, buying, enjoying and extra regions.

While this is all good so far it is the last section on wine and food that I enjoyed the most. Given Vincent is a Master Sommelier I would have hoped the book would have had a larger section than the 13 pages, however he effortlessly maps the styles described earlier to a range of food styles and explains the reasons why he thinks the food matches. These are driven by his 10 golden rules which give interesting insights. For example, I know that protein rich food softens the tannins in red wines. I also know that fruit flavours hides tannins, but I had never thought that if fruit hides tannins then tannins can also hide fruit, so by masking the tannins with proteins it in effect unmasks the fruit in the wine, hidden by the tannins. Not brain surgery but I had never thought about the relationship between protein and fruit. It opens up another set of inter-relations that I had not thought about. This is brilliant.
Another insight that caught my attention is that big berried grapes with thin skins ripen faster than small thick skinned varieties. As such cool climate grape varieties tend to be big thin skinned varieties. This is the first time I have heard of this and off the top of my head I can’t think of any examples where this is wrong, although I am sure there must be. Certainly more skin means more tannin for red wines so more energy to ripen them, but I thought ripening was more complex than this. It seems strange that I have not come across this before and its something I will look into further.

The surprising insights in the book are amongst its strengths, perhaps because many 'introduction to wine' books are written by wine critics who taste a lot of wine, but have never made wine yet alone worked as a sommelier who interacts with wine in a different way. For example, a wine critic may love a wine, but Vincent knows that 50% of his customers will like a wine while 50% will hate it. This to me is more interesting than one person’s opinion.

All in all, I really liked this book, it is similar to many books I have read but with a slant that makes it more interesting. In the end I rated this book 90 out of 100. A good book for the beginner or enthusiastic amateur.

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