The Best Wine Book of the Year Yet
What is the best way to combine food and wine on one's palate to have the ultimate pairing experience?
Does one place the food in the mouth, then take a sipe of wine, combining the two on the palate?
Does one take a sip, swallow, then place the food on the palate?
Or, does one take a bite of food, swallow, then take a sip of wine?
This is the question that reoccurred to me as I cracked open "The Food Lover's Guide To Wine" by writing duo and husband and wife Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg. That question quickly faded from my mind as I realized I was looking at the best wine book I'd laid my eyes on in a very long time.
"The Food Lover's Guide To Wine" is a dense and detailed book that explores nearly ever facet of the food and wine pairing experience. Yet, it is exhilaratinglly accessible to those with a deep experience with wine and/or food as well as those who are just beginning to educate themselves on the subjects. The writing is engaging without a hint of pedanticism, and the reader is introduced to numerous experts who guide the reader through experiences, ideas, suggestions and opinions on all facets of food and wine's collaborative relationship.
There are a few primary types of wine books: Narratives, Encyclopedias, What-To-Buy Books, Learn-About-Wine-Books and Memoir-Type volumes. Karen and Andrew have seemed to create an original combination of all these sub-genre. The first third of the book lays the wine foundation, stressing the basics such as terroir, varieties, wine characteristics and history. There's nothing bland about this section. I've been in the wine business for over 20 years, read countless wine books and consumer wine information daily and still this first section on the basics was enlightening and entertaining. As it happens throughout the book, numerous sommeliers are used as experts on all topics.
The middle portion is an intriguing encyclopedia of wine terms from grape varieties to regions to wine styles to wine categories to wine characteristics. For the majority of entries in this section the authors provide quick and easy and insightful information on a wine's color, weight, volume, sweetness, acidity flavors texture, best serving temperature, food pairing suggestions, age-ability and suggested producers. It's not the kind of entry you'd see in the Oxford Companion to Wine, but rather a get-to-the-point, easy to digest kind of entry that will be very helpful.
The last third of The Food Lover's Guide to Wine proceeds to examine the act of working to pair foods with wines. The subject is covered in a number of sub-categories, chapter and sidebars that once again feature the thoughts, suggestions and experiences of some of America's greatest sommeliers. This section was a very good read and most enlightening for this reader.
The very last section is resource oriented with an eye toward pointing readers to other sources for continuing their eduction. This is generous. Not many wine books will provide extensive information that leads the reader away from the book or author they ar currently consuming, but it is an indication of the intent of the authors to give the reader something of substance. It should be noted that Karen and Andrew are very kind not only to other book authors and magazine publishers but also to many on-line sources of wine information.
I don't know how to recommend "The Food Lover's Guide to Wine" highly enough. It's $35 sticker price represents a true value. I am not going to be surprised when this volume wins numerous awards at the end of year and shows up on many "Best Of" lists. It is currently at the top of my list.
I should note, however, that I could find no answer to my question of how to actually best consume food and wine together. Given the scope of this book, that may be an indication that my question is fairly silly.