Good Reading - Printable Version

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- Jenaroo - 03-16-1999 09:16 PM

I am wishing to expand my appreciation and skills of sensory evaluation which are presently very minimal. Have "Jancis Robinson's Wine Course" and am looking for some good (interesting) reading, bearing in my by "Novice" status.

- Jerry D Mead - 03-16-1999 11:57 PM

There is a book published a few years back called The Vintner's Art by Hugh Johnson and James Halliday that really explains wine from the ground up...literally. Growing it, making it, tasting it and so on. Both are critically acclaimed (one Brit, one Aussie).

There's something called The University Wine Course by Dr. Marian Baldy, based on her wine appreciation class taught for some umpteen years at a California university.

Eventually, you should acquire The Oxford Companion to Wine...the be all, end all, of wine tomes. Just about everything you'll ever want to know about anything to do with wine can be found within.

If you have trouble finding any of these books locally, you can order them from The Wine Trader Book Services (800) 845-9463.


- Karena Shannon - 03-17-1999 02:32 AM

The easiest way for you to improve your sensory perception is to taste widely. Either find a retailer, or visit wineries, or get involved with a tasting group and taste a lot of wines; improving one's sense of smell isn't something you can pick up from a book. A contraption called an "aroma wheel" can help you put names to smells, most wineries should have one, or be able to direct you to a place that does.
As far as books go, Jerry's given you some great choices. I'd simply add the book, "Wine for Dummies," as an excellent guide for the novice to intermediate taster.
(Hint: by the time you blow out the binding on it, you'll be ready for the Oxford Companion...)
Hope this helped,

- Thomas - 03-17-1999 08:56 AM

I think the reading material mentioned, and the tasting experience (more important than reading) should do the trick.
Me though, I would never spend money on a book that started with the premise that I am a dummy.
Why do Americans like to flaunt ignorance?

- IVYCHEF - 03-18-1999 12:08 AM

Foodie -

I don't want to get off the subject here, but do you really think that the "Dummies" series is flaunting ignorance?? When I wrote my first business plan, I bought two books on writing a business plan - Kiplingers and "Business Plans for Dummies". Kiplingers was so full of legal and technical jargon that, for me, it was almost impossible to read. "Dummies" OTOH was an easy guide. Just think that if I had a choice of learning how to build a nuclear bomb from a MIT PhD or a Dummies book, I'd pick the Dummies book (but DAMN that is a scary thought - Nuclear Bomb Building for Dummies - Sadam would have a ball [img][/img])

Back to the question...taste, taste, taste and take notes. I used to sit down with a Parker, WS, WE, F&W, etc. review of the same wine, taste the wine, and see if I could find the elements they found. I quickly discovered which reviews matched my palate. Learning how to taste from a book has some merit like what areas of your tongue and mouth sense certain sensations or flavors. But to REALLY learn these things, tasting is the only way to go.


- Thomas - 03-18-1999 09:01 AM

As you and I said, cannot beat the tasting experience, no matter how many books one reads.

Perhaps this is for the Rant section, but just a comment on the Dummies stuff.

When I operated a tasting room I struggled daily with how best to approach the subject of wine ignorance. A vexing problem was that many people passing through seemed to not only be ignorant about wine (among other things) but they seemed to enjoy telling others of their ignorance, like it was a badge. And they were the hardest to enlighten.

I remember in grade school how, once teachers labelled the "dummies", it seemed even more difficult for those kids to learn.

- n144mann - 03-18-1999 09:53 AM

Since we are sort of off the subject anyway,Foodie, just a couple of things in response to your comments. Maybe the people you encountered who "wore their ignorance as a badge" were compensating because they were intimidated, nervous, insecure, who knows?? I think its human nature. See it in kids all the time. Maybe those who were hard to enlighten had no real interest in learning about wine?? No interest?? In one ear out the other. Frustrating, but common.( I cut gemstones, most are types not found in jewelry stores because they are not commercially cut in Thailand etc., some people look because they have a genuine interest, some look just to say they have seen it. We should also keep in mind that some people poke fun at themselves just because they think life should not be taken so seriously, and learning is best done with fun and humor. Ask any GOOD teacher, and she/he will tell you that fun and learning go together.

As someone still in the process of learning, I find the tasting most helpful. The more info I can get about the wines prior to tasting the better. Really helps with learing the descriptors. Someone mentioned an aroma wheel?? (something like that) That sounds really helpful also.

[This message has been edited by n144mann (edited 03-18-99).]

- amshih - 03-18-1999 04:16 PM

I couldn't resist putting in my two cents, even though I know we're getting off the topic.

As someone who's trying hard to make people feel more comfortable around wine, I've noticed two types of people at tastings: people who act like they know it all and people who act like they know nothing. Both of these behaviors are traceable, I believe, to the snobbery that is so pervasive in the wine world. The self-effacing comments appear to be a defense mechanism -- most people I meet are intimidated and insecure around wine. All those names, years, labels, grapes, jargon, regions, etc! No wonder people would rather grab a beer!

Because I'm under 40 and look about 25, I've been treated like crap by enough wine merchants and snobs to understand why people tend to do a "pre-emptive" poke at themselves on their wine knowledge or lack thereof. I've done it myself. The best way to reach these folks is with a lot of patience and understanding that yes, wine is a complex subject, and not everyone needs to know everything (or anything!) about it to enjoy it regularly.

Feel free to move this comment to Rants and Raves.

- n144mann - 03-18-1999 05:21 PM

Amshih, I agree completely. I was trying to make similar points, but you said it much better than I. As for the wine snobs...get that to some extent also. Actually had a guy who was hosting a tasting pull me up and with a "you wouldn't know a good wine if it jumped up and bit you on the nose" attitude, critqued my wine purchases after tasting what he was offering and saying that I was not interested in buying any. I was very polite too. Thought it was incredibly rude. Fortunately, I had just been with the manager of the store, and together we had picked out some new wines for me to try, so he couldn't find one thing wring with them.

[This message has been edited by n144mann (edited 03-18-99).]

- Woodman - 03-18-1999 08:56 PM

Nancy, did you attend a tasting with ENOPHILE? Just wondering......

- n144mann - 03-18-1999 10:12 PM

Nope, don't think so. [img][/img] To be honest, I am sure I didn't look like your "typical" wine drinker at the tasting that day. It was an informal tasting, I was in jeans,nascar t-shirt ( Go Mark Martin!! yes there are nascar fans that drink something other than beer) and tennis shoes, with my hair in a pony-tail.....but it was still rude!!

Is this a common thing to have happen??

[This message has been edited by n144mann (edited 03-18-99).]

- Jerry D Mead - 03-19-1999 03:43 AM

It is common for all kinds of merchants to misjudge their clientel based on first impression and appearance.

They should be nice to everyone...these days that chap in sneakers and a t-shirt may be a stock broker or a rock & roll star. You haven't been able to judge bankroll by wardrobe in decades...but some people never learn...and some others just aren't nice.


- n144mann - 03-19-1999 08:09 AM

Well, don't know if this guy will do it to anyone else in the future, but I've seen him at tastings a couple of times since then, and he has treated me VERY well. Woodman, why were you wondering if I had gone with Enophile??

- Woodman - 03-20-1999 05:36 AM

<<Woodman, why were you wondering if I had gone with Enophile??>>

Ahh....long story, inside joke, but suffice to say that Marshall has been known to have some very strong opinions about wine.