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Jan 5, 2007 07:10 PM

Advise for a wine newbie

Is there any particular books or guides that someone could recommend for the person that wants to learn more about wine,everything from varieties to terminilogy, techniques for storage,etc.? The guides that I have seen so far seem very specific and geared towards the more experienced wine drinker. I hate the thought of buying a Wine for Dummies book and hoping for some less embarassing titles. My wife and I are newer at this and tend to lean more towards Italian red wines. Thanks for your suggestions. By the way, we are taking a course in New York on Wine 101 which I am sure will help the cause.

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  1. Most, if not all, references cited in the link below are very relevant.

    1 Reply
    1. re: RicRios

      Maybe I did not read all of the replies in that thread, but I did not see Andera Immer's (now Robinson) "Great Wine Made Simple," ISBN 0-7679-0477-X, or Kevin Zraly's "Complete Wine Course," ISBN 0-8069-7649-7. Might have just missed them. Though the two are slightly incesteous, as Immer trained under Zraly, both are great introductions to wine - via tasting the stuff! The "homework" is woth the price of either, or both.

      I would not discount "Wine for Dummies." Normally, I find little to like about that series of books, and I do admit that my gifted copy languished on the shelf for some years, before I ran out of wine-porn to read. I was greatly surprised. It's by Ed McCarthy & Mary Ewing-Mulligan, ISBN: 1-56884-390-9. The series also has a "red," and a "white" edition, but I do not know if they are by the same authors, and have not read either.

      Janscis Robinson, Oz Clarke and Michael Broadbent are great resources, but I'd put all of them down the list, until someone decides that they want to know "all there is" about wine. Same for R Parker, Jr, and James Laube. Matt Kramer, OTOH, is a good read, usually, but still down the list of "must haves."

      Wine courses and tastings are the best way to learn what you like. Maybe that is why I really liked both Immer (Robinson) and Zraly - they are both about tasting, and learning through your sensory perceptions.

      I'd also recommend heading to a good neighborhood wine shop, and befriending a salesperson. Talk openly about what you like, and what you do not like about the wine(s) that you have had. I'd think of buying a mixed-case, or two, and tasting these, both with, and without food. Get a Vac-u-vin and a few stoppers and stick the opened, but unfinished bottles in the fridge. Just let the whites warm up, before you pour, and the reds a bit longer. There is plenty of time to start thinking about buying cases, or even half-cases, of any particular wine. That will come later. Take some notes, noting the temp, the food that was served, and all of your impressions - good and bad. This will help you with that salesperson later. If they recommend a wine, that you like, let them know. If you encounter one that you do not find to your liking, let them know that, as well.

      You like Italian reds, so pick up some examples and explore that full, and wonderful world. See if there are some older Barolos avialable - splurge a bit and see if you like those with a few years on them. Most of what you will most likely buy will be new releases. Some wines change with age. You may like those, or long for the young, vibrant fruit of the recently released ones. This is something that you have to find out for yourselves. Tastes differ. In most areas of the country, that I have lived, the Italian Consulate (probably through the Italian Wine Importers Assoc.) sponsor tastings. Do not be initmidated. Sign up. In NYC, they probably do a half-dozen events per year. Wine Spectator is there with a major tasting, usually in Nov. Decide to spend the $'s and sign up. Explore and enjoy, while you learn.


    2. My favorite wine book, EVER is "The Fear of Wine". It is light easy reading that makes it fun to read.

      1. Here's another thread on the subject:

        For a reference book on Italian wine, *Vino Italiano: The Regional Wines of Italy*, available in soft cover for under $20, is probably your best bet these days.

        1. I have found drinking wine is way better than reading about it, though I do both. I enjoy entering the name & vintage of a wine I have especially enjoyed into Google, etc. It's amazing what you can find out about each particular wine. I guess I'm really average because most wines I've liked a lot are on that top 100 list or have won multiple gold metals in major competitions. Of course, I have special favorites from little wineries that don’t compete. Reading the reviews on wines I've enjoyed gives me an idea of what to buy based upon descriptions either written or from wine shops. The best education I got was going to the Piemonte and drinking Barolo, Barbaresco, Dolcetto, Langhe Nebbiolo, Barbera d’Asti, Barbera d’Alba, Moscato d’Asti, etc. That’s where you need the book because there are a zillion small wineries. There is a wine shop in Cherasco run by a master sommelier who gives a course/tour on Barolo viniculture I‘m going to try to take this winter. Wineries there use certain rows from specific vineyards not whole vineyards like in the U.S., so there are many little wineries in each town. You can see the soil differences between the rows by the different weed growth. I think there may be over 200 Barolos produced in the town of Barolo. Then there is La Morra, Monforte D’Alba, Cherasco, etc., each producing dozens of Barolos. The point of this ramble is that one could probably never completely master wine. You might concentrate on one wine and never master all the knowledge, so drink’em all and enjoy.

          1 Reply
          1. re: BN1

            I followed your same route in Piemonte in truffle season 2005.
            Spectacular wines purchased, and even made some friends among the fantastic Piemontese wine growers which I couldn't possibly have found without the wonderful Duemilavini guide:


          2. Oz Clarke's Introducing Wine is a lovery very beginner book that is concise and may be a little too concise for what you describe.

            The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil is also geared for beginners and has a lot more detail than the above book, including many of the things you mention.

            I've heard very positive things about Andrea Immer Robinson books but I do not have any myself.

            Jancis Robinson is another good author whose books I'd give some air time to when trying to decide.