Drink in these spir­ited reads

De­light wine lovers with these books, Dave McIn­tyre says.

Montreal Gazette - - WEEKEND LIFE -

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.

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