Tuesday, October 21, 2008


We recently received a copy of WineWise a new book written by Steven Kolpan, Brian H. Smith, and Michael A. Weiss, all CIA Professors in Wine Studies at The Culinary Institute of America (CIA). It is the size of a standard coffee table book - but without the standard fluff usually associated with these publications. Instead, WineWise contains volumes of facts in an easy to read format. It starts by explaining why some wines cost more than others - siting geography, grapes, wine making methods, and of course, what the market will bear. The introduction also describes brands versus "terrior" and introduces appellations. One fact we never recognized was that different regions in Europe use different bottle styles. For instance bottles from Burgundy, Rhone, and Bordeaux will all be shaped differently - giving the consumer an easy target for selecting from that appellation. The next two chapters discuss actual wine grapes and we were happy to see Riesling and Gewurztraminer profiled in the Major White Grapes section and Zinfandel and Grenache profiles in the Major Red Grapes section. In addition the writers include small notes on wine production in several American states, outside of the big three.

The guts of the book, and what differentiates it from other wine books, is their complex insight into global wine regions. Starting with California, the writers discuss several major wine appellations (Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, etc) their AVA system and any sub-appellations, their climate, the major wine grapes, how to read a wine label from that region, and the major wine producers. This process is repeated for Oregon, Washington, New York, Canada, South America, Oceania, South Africa, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Austria, and even Greece. This is a wealth of information. From our recent trip to the New York Food and Wine Festival and a recent wine tasting at Finewine.com, we have become more interested in wine from Sicily. Turning to chapter nine, the book provides a map of southern Italy showing the grape growing areas, plus states the major DOCG and DOC wine regions, grapes, and major producers. From this chapter we were also able to talk about the Falanghina grape and its Greek origin at the Finewine.com tasting. Thanks for the insight. The section on Piedmont wines was also a favorite. The other chapters are just as insightful. Ever wondered where grapes are grown in Chile or Argentina? South Africa? Portugal? The information is all there. We can't wait to finish the chapter on Greece and wish we had the book before our trip to Sonoma and Napa. Is there anything we didn't like, you ask? Yes, its size. This is a heavy book and not easy to carry to a wine store to help read the labels. Maybe it does fit on a coffee table, but keep it within reach - it is a valuable resource.

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