Drink in these spirited reads
Delight wine lovers with these books, Dave McIntyre says.
Now that the grape harvest is in and the 2018 wines are peacefully fermenting and aging in the cellar, it’s time for this year’s crop of wine books. Here are three delightful new reads that will be welcome gifts for your wine-loving family and friends. Wine fiends — those of us who spend an inordinate amount of our time, energy and money thinking, drinking and talking about vino — will be thrilled to know that Terry Theise has written a new book. What Makes a Wine Worth Drinking: In Praise of the Sublime (Houghton Mifflin, $36) is Theise’s latest effort to explain that ineffable quality of transcendent wines that transport us in a spiritual way, but often leave us at a loss for words to explain our fascination to someone content to get a $7 buzz from a plain old Chardonnay. Theise’s annual catalogues of the wines he imports from Germany, Austria and Champagne through Skurnik Wines and Spirits of New York have become cult classics of wine writing. They led to his first book, Reading Between the Wines, published in 2010. What Makes a Wine Worth Drinking is less memoir and more think piece, but Theise’s fans, as well as those just meeting him for the first time, will revel as he leads us on an existential tour of wine. Just don’t be looking at your watch. As a tour guide, Theise has a Doctor Who quality about him, and a corkscrew is his TARDIS. We never know what adventure is coming on the next page. He frequently turns off his mental GPS to take us on a detour to some thought-out attraction a little out of the way, which may lead even further afield before ultimately delivering us to our destination. For Theise, it’s all about the journey. Novices who may not yet be ready for Theise’s time-bending tour of the vinous galaxy will enjoy the down-to-earth treatment of Wine Folly: Magnum Edition, by Madeline Puckette and Justin Hammack. They are the creators of the popular Wine Folly website and authors of 2015’s Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine, which I called “the best introductory book on wine to come along in years.” The magnum edition is an expanded version of the original, and it’s beautiful. Puckette and Hammack are masters of infographics, and they present the essential information anyone needs to know about grape varieties, wine regions and those indecipherable terms on wine labels in a simple and visually appealing way. Kevin Begos jumped in, with the zeal of a seasoned journalist, after he was entranced by an Israeli wine he found in his hotel room mini-bar while reporting from the Middle East. The result of his subsequent quest is Tasting the Past: The Science of Flavour & the Search for the Origins of Wine (Algonquin, $38.95). Begos veers off into sensory science once in a while, but when he escapes the laboratory and starts trekking the mountain vineyards of Israel, Georgia and elsewhere, he weaves a fascinating story that mixes personal exploration with cultural enlightenment. By searching for the origins of wine, Begos helps us understand how that wine we tasted on a long ago vacation still resonates in our memory, our palate and our cultural identity.