Wine Basics: 7 Books for the Sommelier-in-Training

Wine Basics: 7 Books for the Sommelier-in-Training

When the chief wine critic of the New York Times issues a “memoir and manifesto” called “How to Love Wine,” your instinct may be to brace yourself for gushing tales of French wine country and long-winded digressions on how he developed his personal palate. But snobbish and insular Eric Asimov is not: “How to Love Wine” is both a candid memoir of the critic’s career in wine and food writing, and a layperson’s guide to discovering and developing their own personal taste.

Whether you’re a collector of coveted vintages or a curious newbie, these books—from travelogues and bargain guides to stories of dedicated connoisseurs—are sure to bring out your inner oenophile.

For the ‘wine anxiety’-prone
Addressing what he calls “wine anxiety”—the fear that one doesn’t know enough about wine to truly appreciate it—Asimov writes in “How to Love Wine”: “This sense of obligation and anxiety, with its accompanying feeling of inadequacy, is the biggest single obstacle to deriving pleasure from wine.” Above all, he argues, “the primary purpose of wine is to provide pleasure and refreshment.”

For the traveler
In “The Juice: Vinous Veritas,” McInerney tackles the many tastes of the vino world. He jumps from France to New Zealand, South Africa to California in search of the old guard and the new wave. The Wall Street Journal wine scribe captures it all with his trademark eye and attention to detail. 

For the eccentric
McInerney‘s earlier effort, “A Hedonist in the Cellar: Adventures in Wine,” is a collection of House & Garden essays that offer a snapshot of the wine world. He focuses on the personalities behind the bottles as much as the vintages themselves, ferreting out the true eccentrics in an already off-kilter profession.

For the history buff
Before there was McInerney and the rest of the new world wine gang, there was Robert Parker. Elin McCoy‘s “The Emperor of Wine: The Rise of Robert M. Parker, Jr. and the Reign of American Taste” chronicles the connoisseur as he becomes the most influential wine critic on the planet. McCoy, who covers wine for Bloomberg, Food & Wine, and others, examines the man behind the 100-point rating system.

For the bargain hunter
“Unquenchable!: A Tipsy Quest for the World’s Best Bargain Wines” finds sommelier and journalist Natalie MacLean traipsing around the globe for more than a decade in search of the cheap and the wonderful. The “Red, White, and Drunk All Over” author heads to the ends of the earth and meets Sicilian vintners, pairs meals with vintages, and finds humor even in the most serious discussions of wine.

For the Francophile
Roy Cloud owns Vintage ’59, a Washington D.C.-based wine shop that specializes in French wine. Before he could import, however, he had to learn, and “To Burgundy and Back Again: A Tale of Wine, France, and Brotherhood” details this journey. A young, innocent Cloud heads to France with the intention of discovering all he can about the business. He returns with his tongue, and his mettle, tested, but he’s richer for the experience.

For the Merlot fan
Miles and Jack take one last trip through wine country in “Sideways,” by Rex Pickett. They drink a lot of pinot, have a few grand adventures, and find themselves. The novel, which turned into a motion picture that sparked a tourist explosion in northern California (as well as a unilateral discussion of Merlot), is part road trip, part tale of friendship, and all heart.


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