A quick glance suggests it to be rich in rudimentary information in a very reader friendly and non-intimidating style. When I was reading through it, many people wondered if I was reading the latest fiction but also why I needed to make notes inside the paper-back.
This is a book for the wine novice anywhere in the world and possibly for intermediate levels in the countries where people are not surrounded by wine-talk. Beverley Blanning recognises her readers' knowledge and holds hands in a warm and not 'I-am-the-MW' way. 'If what matters to you most is the status of the names on the bottle, or how much you can impress by the price you paid, this book is not for you,' she clarifies in her introduction, cautioning against wine snobs and bores, stressing that learning about wines should not turn you into one.
Following the interactive theme throughout, she coaxes the readers to be bold and be experimental and adventurous, exhorting them to indulge in multiple tastings in the privacy of home as well outside with confidence.
She may be faulted for keeping an all text format (the wine region maps of the countries not withstanding) but the paperback structure perhaps restrained her ; but she is visual and fluid enough in her writing that the reader doe not miss the pictures that the serious hard-cover wine books are usually adorned with.
The book covers several facets of wine enjoyment, including the grape varieties, regions, styles of winemaking, buying, serving and storing wine. Starting from the basics on what and how to taste in wine, she has tried to put the reader on a pedestal like a king who should be able to take wine decisions according to his own tastes rather than being dictated by an expert; always experimenting and enjoying the tasting journey.
Banning has divided the book into four parts. Starting with how to taste wines in the first part she heads quickly to the second part, the flavours of wines. She deals with grape varieties, climate, the winemaker and understanding your own taste. Part three relates to the wines of the world where she talks of 'how to identify wine styles and the producing regions - divided into the Old World and New World. Wine regions consume 47 pages out of the total of 236. China merits 3-line mention out of the 5 lines attributed to the Rest of the World, so it is not surprising that India does not find a mention.
As is traditional in such books, maximum coverage has been given to France. But the general information is sufficient and useful to the beginner who comes out after reading the book without being confused and frustrated.
The tasting suggestions are a positive feature of the book, appearing throughout, starting with the early chapters based on style (taste a Champagne vs. a Cava vs. a Moscato, advises Beverley), to the last section, "buying, serving and storing wine", where there are even suggestions for exploring bad food and wine parings in order to make you understand your palate.
'This unique blend of insight and information will show you how you can learn to really love wine-on any budget and in every situation. You will learn how to develop your tastes, and how to select and buy wines that you really like,' is her objective.
A trove of practical tips will keep the reader glued. For a super concentrated, intense high alcohol she suggests dropping a couple of ice cubes for immediate burst of aromas. If you expecting wine to be left-over, she suggests keeping an empty half-bottle ready to be filled up with the wine not to be drunk in the evening ( a perennial problem in the house for many in India) and storing it aside.
She advises getting to know the taste of oxidised wine by keeping some wine in the opened bottle aside and tasting it later so you can appreciate the difference.. Most young wines in the restaurants need decanting so don't hesitate to request the waiter to do so. Drink the wine stored for ageing, a year or two before rather than after it reaches the prime, is the experience she shares with the reader. Using a vacuum pump to keep wine fresh may keep it fresh longer but it may suck out some of the volatile aromas too. The list of practical tips is large.
It is a practical, easy to read, introductory teach yourself wine guide from Hodder Education in UK after being earlier published last year by McGraw Hill in the US. Listed at £9.99, it is available at significant discounts at Amazon.com and other websites. Unfortunately, it is not yet available in India-where it would make an ideal gift for someone you want to start having a love affair with wine.
Beverley Blanning is an independent London based freelance journalist. She writes regularly for several newspapers and magazines including Decanter, Wall Street Journal Europe, World of Fine Wine, Quarterly Review of Wines and Sommelier Journal. She also educates the public about wine through tastings, corporate events and Christie's Wine Course. She is a regular contributor to Tom Stevenson's Wine Report. The much awarded Master of Wine is also an experienced international competition judge.