February 26, 2008

Wine Book Club: Vino Italiano The Regional Wines of Italy

By Andrew Barrow In Wine Books

vino Italiano The Regional Wines of Italy

I realise now why my order for Vino Italiano took an absolute age to come via Amazon and why it wasn’t available for loan from Oxfordshire’s fine library service – the book is American, through and through. Amazon must have shipped it from the States just for me. It only cost £7.79 so not a huge expense.

Even though it only arrived yesterday I’ve been flicking through its many pages and reading an anecdote here, a tasting note there, a regional description here. I can’t work out what type of book it is supposed to be. There are figures on production quantities and vineyard areas (yawn), so a reference book initially. Some entertaining anecdotes, maps and ‘wine touring advice’ (a travel book?) and a smattering of regional recipes (a cookbook?).

Any book detailing vintages has a problem with lead times. Even before it hits the shelves any vintage data is going to be out of date. In the case of Vino Italiano it stops at 2004. I actually hate talk of vintages; bores me rigid. I was at some wine-makers dinner several months back with some old codger rabbiting on about Bordeaux vintages, boasting about all these different wines in his cellar. He turned to me with some dumb-arsed question about how I must agree with his prognosis on the 2004’s or some-such and I just said I don’t care as I had drunk all mine. The look he gave me was one you reserve for a paedophile murderer; but I digress.

Food and wine matching does interest me; but does listing a wine regions speciality foods and not suggesting a wine to accompany really help anyone? There are recipes with wine suggestions – Branzino Arrosto (Roasted Whole Sea Bass) with a Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi or Verdicchio di Matelica for example under Le Marche.

As an American book I assume the wine recommendations, there are three or four listed against each region, are for wines readily available in the States. One area I know quite well, Prosecco, lists four producers I have never heard of (no mention of Bisol for example) and none of the regions famous foods are mentioned, although the Prosecco cocktail recipe sounds delicious. They do suggest that for the Venetian-styled Crostini with Grappa Cured Salmon you cure your own fish. Takes 3 days, if you are interested.

The anecdotes and regional backgrounds do make the book a worth-while purchase and there are some interesting food notes too (if you have ever wondered why Vin Santo is served with almond biscotti you will find the answer on page 215). My gripes boil down to one overriding impression – the generalisations run across the board and detract from some good, informative, engaging writing.

Vino Italiano: The Regional Wines of Italy by Jospeh Bastianich & David Lynch is available from Amazon.co.uk for a rather reasonable £7.79.

  1. Dr. Debs February 26, 2008

    Interesting. My almost complete lack of knowledge of Italian wine made me either miss or overlook the generalizations. I do agree with you, though, about the hodge-podge of it. This made it easy for me to pick it up and put it down over the course of the two months, but it does make you wonder what the guiding ideas were in writing the book.

  2. Sean February 28, 2008

    Hi Andrew,
    I also had to get my copy from Amazon Stateside and wholly agree with your general comment — this is a very American read; but how could it not be, given the writers and contributors involved.
    I think that trying to appeal to an international audience is one of the great writing challenges, especially for wine writers (print, press, and blogs included) as they have to contend with divergent sales markets and complex import regulations. This book resoundingly fails to succeed and might explain why it is out of print in the UK.
    There have been many times when InterWined.com has read or written a review praising a wine that proves almost impossible to source outside of the reviewer’s home state or country.
    At least with food writing you can substitute ingredients.

  3. Andrew February 28, 2008

    It is one thing I have been ‘troubled’ with over the years here on Spittoon. Do I concentrate on UK-specifics – news as well as wine notes – (and risk alienating the substantial non-UK readership) or offer something a little broader?
    I palmed off really specific UK stuff (wine tasting announcements, merchant offers etc) onto UKWOL but I don’t really have the time to maintain the site as much as I would like. So have been wondering over the last few weeks if I should bring those posts back to Spittoon…

  4. Samantha February 28, 2008

    Awww, that’s disappointing to hear that this book mainly deals with wines only available in the U.S. (I was debating a preorder). I love to travel and would actually relish having some aptitude in italian wines not being sold abroad. Can you recommend any resources or books?


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