The authors of the Wall Street Journal’s “Tastings” Column have put together a user-friendly book that advises wine-lovers on how to select wines for “every day living” and for special occasions, too. The premise of the book is that selecting a bottle of wine should be a fun, enjoyable event – and not something borne out of “fear” of needing to select a pretentious bottle of wine. Gaiter and Brecher love wine and they give equal respect to all wines and hope to inspire readers to branch out in selecting new, interesting wines for a variety of occasions and to have fun in the process.
Rather than creating a heavy tome of overloads the reader by a discussion of grape varietals, wine regions and select producers, this book is organized by “events.” Different wines are recommended depending upon what type of celebration, gathering or holiday is taking place – whether it be a wine-tasting party, celebration of a newborn, a special holiday (Valentine’s Day, Passover, Christmas, Thanksgiving,” or more casual events such as settling down in front of the television at home to watch The Oscars or a football game. The authors do a good job of recommending wines of various varietals and price along with a description of color and taste. I especially like the fact that the recommendations include less expensive wines. Not everyone wants to (or can) shell out hundreds of dollars for one bottle of wine.
Two of my favorite chapters advise on wine shopping and selecting wine from a wine list while dining at a restaurant. The authors recommend that readers “think outside the box” when wine shopping or ordering from the restaurant’s wine list. They suggest trying something new and explain that so many wine drinkers continually gravitate toward California wines – simply because that is what is popular (though not necessarily better). A few paragraphs are devoted to selecting wines from grocery stores, which is helpful because so many of us purchase wine when we are food shopping simply because it is convenient. For grocery stores, the main premise is to stay away from the “jugs” of wine and to eliminate Chardonnay (too popular) and “the familiar” – instead, take your time exploring the wine aisle, look closely at vintages (“old bottles” are not typically a good thing in grocery stores), and eliminate the larger bottles (no boxed wines and MD 20/20, either).
The book is nicely concluded with a “101 Things Worth Knowing” chapter that provides definitions for wine terminology. If you are seeking a friendly guide to selecting wines, I recommend that you pick up this book and the authors’ spirited love of wine and knowledgeable recommendations may make you fall in love with wine all over again.