Books are the focus of this year’s gift suggestions for wine-lovers.
By Lou Marmon
Gazette Newspapers November 27, 2013
Did you know that 90 % of the wine sold annually in the US retails for less than $12? Jeff Siegel certainly does. He has been a tireless proponent of well-made, value-priced wines for many years and his most recent book, The Wine Curmudgeon’s Guide to Cheap Wine, provides a road map to finding and appreciating wine’s inexpensive gems. Jeff eschews the use of scores and other techniques utilized by the “Winestream Media” that he believes confuses and intimidates wine consumers. He makes it clear that “cheap” does not necessarily mean “bad” and that the most important aspect of a wine is whether it is enjoyable. The book explores why all wines have gotten better (including the less expensive ones), how a wine is priced, what a wine label reveals, the questions to ask in a wine store, where in the world the best values are currently being produced and how to find good, low-cost wines.
Just because he has focused on “cheap wine” (he says it’s what he can afford) doesn’t mean that Jeff doesn’t “get” wine. On the contrary, I have been with Jeff in a cellar filled with wine industry folks and he was the only one in the room that was able to correctly identify and reproduce a difficult varietal blending. His knowledge and experience is exceptional and his writing style is clear and unpretentious. Jeff’s blog (winecurmudgeon.com) has long been a popular source of wit and wisdom for those who would prefer not to spend a lot to enjoy a good glass or two of wine. As a result many of us were happy to contribute to the Kickstarter campaign to get this book published (even though I do quibble with his critique of the use of various flavor descriptions – full disclosure – Jeff has been a friend for years and he is really not that cranky). The Wine Curmudgeon’s Guide To Cheap Wine is as much an important resource about the wine industry as it is a valuable companion to those looking for excellent wine values.
Eric Asimov has been justifiably described as the perhaps “the best wine writer in the world” and his musings in the New York Times are a must read for anyone who enjoys the fruit of the vine. His autobiographical How To Love Wine: A Manifesto and Memoir is another example of his delightful prose and insightful understanding of the nature of wine. How can you argue with his premise that wine “is for drinking, not for tasting”? And yet consumers seem both enthralled and addicted to reviews, which he points out, may be contradictory. He encourages us to explore wine without preconceptions, to make it an important component of our meals and to essentially become our own experts by figuring out what about a particular wine give us pleasure. Asimov’s adventures along the way from blind tasting beers to wine writing stardom are a fascinating illustration of how an interest can become a passion and eventually one’s life work.
Few subjects are more fraught with dread than pairing food and wine. Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page’s award winning What To Drink With What You Eat is a comprehensive guide to matching nearly every type of meal with an appropriate beverage. While much of this information can be found on-line, this is a wonderfully illustrated volume, impeccably organized and filled with astute and entertaining vignettes from numerous food and wine authorities including Daniel Boulud, Joseph Bastianich, Traci Des Jardins, and Frontera Grill’s Jill Gubesch, and Alinea’s Joe Catterson.