Monday, March 05, 2007

Book Review: 1000 Best Wine Secrets

1000 Best Wine Secrets by Carolyn Hammond

This new wine handbook, written by Carolyn Hammond, founder of the Wine Tribune and contributor to Decanter magazine among others, covers everything from selecting the perfect bottle to storing wine and talking the talk. Carolyn clearly knows her stuff and it is apparent in many of the book’s sections — particularly Tasting Wine Like a Pro — that she holds a diploma from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust. Admittedly, Vino Girl only reached the Advanced Certificate level but can still appreciate the depth of knowledge that WSET imparts.

There are heaps of information for wine neophytes and connoisseurs alike, most of it useful. We at Drink the Good Stuff can appreciate any book that exposes the fact that not all wines on a restaurant wine list are ready to drink. We also loved the pointer on how to make sure the wine you bring to a dinner party is served that evening — arrive with it decanted. Brilliant!

One of our favorite sections is the Wine Myths chapter which dispenses valuable clues on assessing quality Champagne, using vintage charts — but not overusing them — and decanting. The book overall is well written and does not speak down to novices nor does it come across as remedial to those of us who know a thing or two about wine.

There were a few “facts” that we found not so useful, even misleading. Relating heavier bottles with better wines is oversimplification at best. We would argue that heavier bottles are simply a marketing ploy and, frankly, a nuisance to fit in most wine fridges. In the end, however, our only real complaint is that this small format book is almost too exhaustive. Perhaps it just deserves a larger format.

It’s a great gift for someone who wants to casually learn more about wine. You could conceivably read a tip or two each evening and be on your way to swirling and sniffing with the pros.

Forgive me, Caroline, while I let the wine snob in me tiptoe out for just a second. I sincerely hope that any friend I might recommend this book to does not serve me Beaujolais at their wedding (see tip #265).

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