A Wine Blogger’s Guide to Wine
This has been a good year for Tyler Colman, the first Wine Blogger to go mainstream.
Earlier in the year he saw published, and has since gained a great deal of publicity for, "Wine Politics"—— a book about its title that I loved. On November 11th, Tyler will begin swimming in the deep end of the mainstream wine media with the publishing of:
This book has been written before. In fact, the same book is published numerous times each year. Of course I'm talking about the Wine Drinking Guide genre of wine books. Like it's numerous duplicates, "A Year of Wine" seeks to educate the average or budding wine drinker on the ins and outs of all things wine. The key, of course, is to try to re-write this book in a unique way and with a unique and authoritative voice.
I think Colman has succeeded on both counts.
In this rendition of the wine guide, Tyler introduces readers to a variety of subjects by categorizing them by month and season. After an introductory chapter in which the reader is tutored in the various characteristics of different red and white wines, how to choose stemware, pairing food and wine and other basics, Tyler jumps into January. Here we get riffs on the "Resolution" to take better wine notes, on visiting Australia during their summer while it's winter in the northern hemisphere, and a primer on Port, the wine that will keep you warm.
By July Tyler is discussing "Independence Day" and American winemakers worth seeking out, Rose for the warm summer months, and an introduction to box wines for the summer picnic.
The final December chapter gives Tyler the opportunity to discuss giving wine as gifts, what to do about New Years celebrations, and tips on what to drink in honor of December 5, the anniversary of the end of Prohibition.
You get the idea. Tyler's a pretty darned bright guy and could have found any number of themes
by which to organize his vast wine knowledge into a guide for the beginner and semi-experienced wine drinker. The seasonal approach is very clever and works. This organizational format make the book something more of a "read" than a "flip through". The pages are filled with various wine recommendations, interviews with sommeliers, solid and easy to digest primers on various subjects, and some creative approaches to otherwise common topics for these guides.
Plus, Tyler has an authoritative but not boorish voice that comes though with clarity in the pages. You get a sense for a dedicated, educated, enthusiast who has has no hint of the classic wine-snob-educator, a type that used to write these wine guides. I suspect this book will sell well over the next two months and beyond.
My favorite part of the book is the Introduction where Colman lays out his main themes: Drink outside the box and try new things, appreciate wine in he context of the moment and place it is drunk, match your wine choices to the season. His voice is most prominent in this part of the book too.
Tyler's blogging background, while spelled out on the cover of the book ("Author of the award-winning wine blog Dr. Vino.com"), comes through also in "A Year of Wine's" pacing. The entries in each chapter could all be blog entries. Within each month you have self contained entries that could stand alone as a blog post…and I suspect some of them probably have in one form or another. But beyond this, there isn't much on the topic of blogs and blogging.
As I said before, this is a big year for Tyler. The publishing of two wine books in a single year increases his visibility in numerous ways and puts him in line for serious consideration for a number of year-end awards and honors. I hope he gets them.
If this review of "A Year of Wine" isn't as enthusiastic as my review of Tyler's "Wine Politics", it's only because the subject matter of his new book doesn't appeal to me much. However, I'm not really the target audience. That said, "A Year of Wine" is a terrific addition to the Wine Guide genre that will enlighten many a wine drinker by making their relationship to wine deeper and more meaningful…and probably more fun too.
For me, however, this book feels like a graduation ceremony. Its appearance seems to to me to announce Tyler's graduation from the Wine Blogging Community into the Mainstream Wine Writing Community. This isn't a disparagement of Wine Blogging. It's an acknowledgment that good writers in the blogosphere who hold a deep knowledge on a subject tend to be identified quickly by publishers and are plucked up and given a wider stage.
This book should also serve as a warning to wine bloggers everywhere who might aspire to following the same path into the mainstream as Tyler has: You better be a very good writer and you better know your subject matter in a deep and intimate way. Even for your basic Wine Guides (particularly for your basic Wine Guides) the bar has always been set pretty high. Tyler's entry into that genre of wine writing shows that the standards have not slipped one iota.