“Now say one of the following:
If it’s a recent vintage: ‘Quite developed for a young wine.’
If it’s an older bottle: ‘Lovely developed aromas coming through’
If it’s from the New World: ‘Clearly New World,; lovely, vibrant fruit’
And so on. I imagine most in the wine trade have similar ‘stock’ descriptions when tasting an unliked wine just poured with pride by the winemaker for example, or when, after a whole day sipping and spitting you really cant think of anything meaningful to say, let alone actually taste anything distinctive. I certainly do. So if it works for the more experienced it can only be sound advice for the novice!
Such light-heartedness peppers the pages. In the opening chapter for example, the making of wine chapter, offers advice if you ever happen to be a grape picker in Canada faced with bears – scarper! The tone is light, easily absorbed but not lacking in the detail, the specifics and the useful.
Good, sound, realistic advice is offered on buying wines from corner shops, supermarkets and from independent specialists. Follow this with sections on the basics of matching food and wine, making use of a restaurants sommelier, poking a stuck cork with a pen and ‘if you like this… you might like’ sections and that’s the basics dealt with in the first 60 odd pages.
The remainder covers the regions, countries, grapes and styles of wine. While this can be a dull formulaic list in other books, here, thanks to the fresh design and light writing style it’s a pleasure to read; accessible too. Take the grapes of Alsace. Where else have you seen them acquainted with dog breeds? Riesling is a greyhound, Gewurztraminer a dyed pink poodle, Pinot Gris a Labrador and so on. Personally it seems a bit of a stretch to mark a Muscat as a dachshund mind.
“Like a dachshund, a dry Muscat can be appealing in an almost ‘cute’ kind of way – certainly distinctive, but not to everyone’s taste.”
Italy seems a little light in content with only Tuscany, Piemonte and the Veneto given coverage. And poor old Portugal is given one single page. A shame seeing the huge diversity, quality and interesting wines available from both countries, at least here in the UK. Perhaps the unusual grape varieties would put off the new wine drinker? But then Greek wines and their Xynomavro, Mavrodaphne and Assyrtiko receive fuller attention; but I would counter their wines are far harder to find.
But what a pleasant surprise in the final pages – an appendix on visiting English wineries (but then why list Nyetimber when visits are not accommodated? A minor quibble.
For someone just stumbling into their first experiences of wine Drink ME! How to Choose, Taste and Enjoy Wine by Matt Walls. Jauntily written in an accessible uncomplicated style.
“It’s a myth that you need some kind of special abilities to be able to taste and enjoy wine. If you have a nose and a mouth, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy it just as much as anyone else”
Drink Me!: How to Choose, Taste and Enjoy Wine is currently listed by Amazon.co.uk for £6.62 and is set for release from the 24th May 2012. The book is part of the New Voices in Food Series that includes Comfort and Spice by Niamh Shields.