[2009-09-12] “101 Essential Tips: Wine”

“101 Essential Tips: Wine” by Tom Stevenson is an introductory little book for those interested in wine. It is a copiously-illustrated book with easy-to-read text and is so small that it can be finished in just a single sitting. It serves its purpose fairly well, though the title is a little misleading.

This book is supposed to be a collection of 101 tips, though most of the text can hardly be described as “tips” - only part of the text, for example the bits dealing with storing wine or what to look for while purchasing wine, can really be thought of as containing tips. The division into 101 tips looks entirely arbitrary and shoe-horned to fit the title of this series of books from the publisher.

The book is not entirely suitable for absolute beginners to wine in that it does not tell you just what is meant by terms like “body”, “tannin”, etc. This is important for people who have grown up in cultures (e.g. India) where wine consumption is not prevalant. There are also some terms like “terroir” and “sommelier” that are surprisingly missing from a text of this nature.

The book would have benefited from a wine vintage chart (something like the one by the Wine Society of India) to help beginners select a good wine while shopping. It would have also benefited from recommendations for selecting wine that can pair well with Indian or Chinese food. Those of us for whom the correct pronunciation of French or Italian words doesn't come naturally would have appreciated a pronunciation guide for some of the terms.

These quibbles aside, I liked the book for its welcoming, unpretentious and non-condescending text. Numerous colourful photographs and figures alongside the text ease the reading further (though I felt that the colour reproduction was not entirely faithful to the respective subjects) and mostly help in visualisation. Some of the tips are really useful if you are not a connoisseur of wine.

A book like this can only help you get started with appreciating wine. You need to sample a variety of different wines to really appreciate what such books talk about. This book however is cheap and accessible enough to merit a dekko.

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