Title: Wine (full title: Wine, the basics of wine)
Author: Filip Verheyden, Romana Eschensperger, Fiona Morrison
Publisher: Tong Magazine
Wine is a new wine book with great ambitions. It wants be an introduction for the beginner and also something for the avid wine enthusiast. It wants to cover almost everything in the field of wine: how to make wine, the world’s wine countries, how to taste and drink wine and so on. It is ambitious, sometimes good, but it does not quite reach all the way to its goal.
[Important notice: this review is based on the Swedish translation of the book Wine.]
Wine is small and handy in size, but chubby. Nearly 300 pages. The book is written by three authors, Fiona Morrison (vineyard owner and Master of Wine, MW), Romana Echensperger (sommelier and MW student), and Filip Verheyden (publisher of the Tong wine magazine and MW student).
In the preface they put their aim high:
“[the authors] want to spread ‘real’ knowledge based on professional expertise.”
Unfortunately, this is precisely where it fails.
But the book has many positive sides.
It is elegantly designed and invites you to pick it up and leaf through it. With a neat and easy to handle format that makes it easy to browse and jump from topic to topic.
It is an excellent introductory book for anyone wanting to dip their toes into the world of wine, without going into depth. You get a quick introduction to the most varied areas of the world of wine.
The book is divided into four sections: how to drink wine, wine and food, the vineyard and how to make wine.
“How to drink wine” is about all practical sides around to how to buy and to consume wine. It also includes a brief introduction to the most important of the world’s wine countries.
There is a big and useful section about how to combine food and wine. Most of it is good and sound advice with pointers to exciting combinations even if it sometimes goes a bit too much into the (debatable) theory of wine-and-food pairing. What is especially nice here is that you often get very exciting and inspiring wine suggestion to the food. Many unusual wines that are absolutely interesting to try. That one (oddly) has specific wine pairing suggestion for sandwiches might be explained by that one of the authors is Belgian? It is this section that feels most well composed and most inspiring.
“The vineyard” goes through the most important grape varieties and provides an introduction to what the winemaker does in the vineyard.
“How wine is made” takes the reader into the wine cellar and talks about different techniques in winemaking.
Most of it is well written (and also generally well translated into Swedish; not always easy).
But sometimes the text gets too tangled up in complicated constructions and unnecessary technical terms or obscure reasoning instead of being straightforward and clear-headed.
But… Wine contains too many factual errors and questionable assertions. This is strange, considering who wrote the book. Some examples (quotes are not verbatim):
- “Brettanomyses is more commonly found in wines with low pH” (no, the other way around)
- “Under poor growing conditions the vines produces more grapes with more sugar” (no, the other way around. Or at best, it depends.)
- The difference between mass selection (sélection massale) and clonal selection seems misunderstood or at least very strangely explained
- “When the champagne is degorged you put the bottleneck in liquid nitrogen” (no, in a glycol solution)
- “It is common in Bordeaux to soften the tannins by whisking 2-6 egg whites into each barrique” (no, it’s very unusual to use egg whites. They typically use technical albumin and generally for clarification rather than to influence the tannins)
- “European rosé wines are always made from black grapes” (no, white grapes may be used, even outside of Champagne)
- “Bituminous coal is used to clarify wine” (no, it is forbidden to use bituminous coal)
There are unfortunately too many dubious or incorrect things in the text to give a completely reliable impression. (This is just a few examples.)
That one also dismisses wine blogs as largely peripheral with (for example) the sentence that “bloggers publish very subjective views and opinions” (which wine writer does not?) seem strange at a time when less and less substantial information about wine is printed on paper and more and more is written on the internet.
It is also unfortunate that the images are generally more used for their graphic elegance (and the result is very attractive!) than for their relevance to the subject. For example, the section on organic farming is illustrated with a picture of a moon (why not something that has something to do with organic wine making?); the chapter on bottling is illustrated with some bottlenecks (why not a picture of a bottling process?), and so on. A missed opportunity to contribute useful information.
As a conclusion: an elegant, ambitious and nicely constructed book but that does not reach its goal because it contains too many inaccuracies or debatable statements. It can be recommended (with some caution) primarily to those who are a little curious about wine and want something inspiring and easy to leaf through but who are not too concerned with all the facts and details.
This post is also available in: Swedish