With some interesting facts, tips and tricks for buying, gifting and sipping, Modern Mississauga’s resident wine expert demystifies the world’s most interesting beverage.
If you’re still shopping for holiday gifts, you’re cutting it pretty close. But here’s one more idea for the procrastinators. Last time, I highlighted the fact that buying wine for a connoisseur can be challenging and expensive, so if you’re overwhelmed, buy the wine lover in your life a book! It’s certainly cheaper than a great bottle but still thoughtful. Especially through the cold months, there’s little more comforting than a glass of vino and a good read.
There are a ton of wine books out there, but only a few that tell a great story. My first pick is one of the greatest wine stories every told and it’s all true, recounted by the only journalist in attendance. It’s called Judgement of Paris, and it details the famous blind tasting of 1976 when Californian wines scored higher than the best France had to offer. The book begins with an in-depth look at the renaissance of Californian wine in the post-war period and its slow build to become one of the most important and well-regarded wine regions in the world. A beautifully crafted history intertwined with a first-hand account of the actual tasting, George M. Taber, former Time Magazine columnist, dives deep in this must-read for lovers of California wine.
There was actually a movie based on this same story that you may have heard of. It’s called Bottle Shock. A great film, no doubt, but an extremely Hollywoodized version of the tale. You know, troubled-but-loveable American family man defeats French against all odds. If you ask me, Alan Rickman makes the movie. A good watch, but read the book for the real scoop.
Crossing the pond for another favourite, Corkscrewed follows author Robert V. Camuto’s discovery of the underground French wine movement. Published in 2008, Corkscrewed was ahead of its time. Nowadays, there is a lot of talk about authentic wine: wine that is made by people with a sense of place; of origin. In fact, it can be argued that our renewed love of less-conventional, artisanal wines is really a sub-set of the larger organic food movement. Consumers now read ingredient labels, strive to buy local produce, free range meat and support smaller farms. Wine is an agricultural product too, and many of these principles translate to what is known as garragiste wine in France. Often literally made in a garage (instead of a big, fancy winery), these were winemakers bucking the commercial, big-business of wine, reinventing themselves as farmers. Though you won’t hear the term garragiste much outside of the reference to these French pioneers, the trend has spread globally and there are now pockets of artisanal winemakers all over the world experimenting with different grape varieties, styles and a return to a more natural production of wine.
If you’re not sold on either of these, there are more practical options like devotionals or wine journals where lovers can make notes on the wines they’ve enjoyed. Or, if there’s a chronic host in your midst, Pairing Food and Wine For Dummies was cleverly written by Canadian wine guru and Master Sommelier John Szabo. Make sure the recipient has a sense of humour though, or you might not be invited to the next dinner party.
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Tim Reed Manessy [Sommelier CAPS, CMS] is a wine instructor at George Brown College, restaurant consultant, private & corporate event specialist and really annoying at a dinner party.