In my younger days I was a beer aficionado. Not a beer snob, per se, but a person who enjoyed beer of many styles and many brewers. From a Bud Ice Light to a Chimay…there was a time and place in my life for it. But then as I got…ahem…older, I found that drinking two beers caused me to gain three pounds, almost instantaneously. I still don’t understand how that works, but these days I drink very little beer and my tastes have moved on to wine.
Not satisfied to simply drink wine, I find myself almost compulsively driven to learn about the wine. What is the difference between a vineyard and a winery? What varietals are good for which regions? What is God’s name is terroir? Naturally, for a person like me that leads to not only drinking wine, but wine books.
A roughly 300 page book, it is perfectly suited for what I would term the advanced or “serious beginner.” The first 60 pages or so are what you would find in a typical wine book intended for a coffee table or someone with little experience understanding wine. The first section, roughly 50 pages of the book, is in fact called “Wine Basics.” There is nothing remarkable here, though the content is well presented and makes great use of excellent illustrations.
For me, I found several charts particularly helpful which lay out many common and uncommon varietals on a spectrum, helping me to better understand some of the subtle differences between say, a Tempranillio and an Anglianico, or perhaps between a Albarino and a Piquepoul. I actually have had each of these four varietals and, while I enjoyed them all, Wine Folly helped me to understand the subtle differences between what I was tasting. In some cases it even helped me to understand what and why I was tasting it and that has enhanced my enjoyment of all wines.
The last 240 – 250 pages are so are not exactly for reading, though I wouldn’t be above paging through on a Sunday afternoon with a chilled glass of Rose’. They are reference pages, organized first by Grapes and Wines, and then by Wine Region.
The section of Grapes and Wines spends a page or two for each grape, digging relatively deep into where the grape typically grows, how to serve it, and what it should cost. But most importantly, extensive page and print are expended of the various flavors you’re likely to smell and taste. This is invaluable information for anyone serious about, but new to wine.
The remainder of the book is spent on Wine Regions, what grows where, and why. Again, these pages include tasting notes that will be extremely valuable to the serious beginner.
Why do I keep emphasizing “serious beginner”? Because this book in insufficient if you’re studying for the Master Sommelier exam. There are many more detailed, painfully researched, and more expensive wine encyclopedias available. But for most of us, Wine Folly: The Master Guide by Madeline Puckette and Justin Hammack is more than enough to enhance our wine tasting and drinking experience, launching our knowledge past our friends and family. With raised glass I recommend it to you with a hearty, “cheers.”
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