|THE WALL STREET JOURNAL GUIDE TO WINE|
by Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher
If you've been searching for a book of helpful wine basics that doesn't proclaim your ignorance to all the world in bright yellow, then this is the one. First of all, it's from The Wall Street Journal -- size XXL smartie-pants. People will think you're not only a connoisseur-collector of first-growth Bordeaux, but that you also keep your eye on the hottest dot-com companies. But best of all, the book's actually instructive and fun to read.
If, like me, your idea of a good newspaper includes crossword puzzles (easy ones), TV listings, comics and the occasional alien-autopsy report, then you're probably not aware of a weekly column called "Tastings," which appears in the Journal. But it's there and it's good -- try to borrow someone's copy on Fridays. Your boss will be impressed. The writers, wife-husband team Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher, relate their firsthand experiences buying and tasting wines in an easy, personable style that's always true to their #1 philosophy: wine should be fun. The book's "an outgrowth of these columns."
A bit surprisingly, both book and columns are rather un-WSJ. Talented and seasoned journalists themselves, Gaiter and Brecher provide openly personal and subjective reviews of wines that are actually available and affordable (at least in New York City). I was pleased to note that they don't accept free wines or incentives, but that all wines are purchased outright, at the same prices, stores and restaurants where readers would find them.
Wines reviewed range from about $6 to $50, with suggestions of which ones to spend more on and why. The authors employ a simple but descriptive rating scale: Yech, OK, Good, Very Good, Delicious and Delicious! They're quick to add that a number of external factors, especially the company and context within which a wine is enjoyed, can affect their impression of the wine and thus its rating. They encourage readers to experiment, but also to follow some basic guidelines when choosing a wine.
Since the book is hardbound, making it durable but less effective as fish-wrapping than its weekly counterpart, you'll find fewer actual names and vintages reviewed and more emphasis on wine basics, such as grape types and wine types (about 30), growing regions, wine and food pairings, and storage. Some personal favorites: "Italian Whites... and Blue Suede Shoes," and "How to Open Champagne without Killing Anybody."
I highly recommend this book. In fact, I like it so much I hope I get to keep it after the review. (At $25 per copy, that's the only way I'll get it.) It's well-organized, with a fun, anecdotal approach, an extensive index, find-able example wines and a good balance of stories and instruction.