For the last couple of years, I have been trying to improve my very limited knowledge of wine. I’ve read several books, but to be honest, a lot of the material is pretty much Greek to me. They throw around terms like dry-farmed and clonal selection…am I the only person who doesn’t know what that means? They never explain.
However over the holidays I stumbled across a refreshingly different book. It’s called “Great Wine Made Simple” by Andrea Immer Robinson, and for the first time, I get it! She explains things very simply and clearly, and encourages taste testing along the way that really helps unlock the mysteries of this intriguing drink.
What’s brilliant too is that she includes what she calls a flavor map. The idea is that wines have different flavours depending on whether their grapes have been grown in a cool climate or a warm one. For instance here in Canada, a white wine will most likely have hints of apples or pears, and a red wine could taste of cranberries or red cherries. A wine from the Mediterranean – say for example from Southern France or Italy – would carry more the flavours of dark fruits like black cherries, peaches, blackberries, etc. Go for an Australian wine and you can expect to taste mangos, pineapples, papayas, bananas or figs (fruits that need a warm climate to grow).
What I find so helpful about this map is that I can now go into a liquor store or a restaurant and, just by knowing the wine’s region, I can pretty much know what I can expect from my wine (at least with regard to the flavours). That, plus knowing the general characteristics of the major grape varieties, means I’m much better armed in terms of taking the guesswork out of wine selection.
I have come to know that the wines I like best are in-your-face reds from France, Italy, Spain, or South Africa. This book is helping me to understand why. By the way, that screaming you are hearing right about now is my oldest brother, who is very loyal to Canadian wines. Yes Gary, there are Canadian wines I love too, but there’s a whole world out there that I am having fun exploring.
Just on that, this book is encouraging me to wander outside my comfort zone and take another look at some of the wines I had earlier decided I didn’t like…things like dessert wines or Reislings, and reds from parts of the world I typically don’t focus on when buying wine.
Anyway, if you are at all interested in this subject and are looking for a starter book, I would say this is a winner.