edited by Sue Courtney
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One of the very first wine books I purchased when I decided I just had to start learning all I could about wine and winetasting, was Masterglass - a practical course in wine tasting by Jancis Robinson. This paperback was the second and revised edition, published in 1987. The first edition was published in 1983.
I loved the way it was laid out with the theory interspersed with practical exercises on the open double page of the book, the practical on the left pages, the theory on the right. And the cartoon-style pen illustrations - all black on the white (now stained yellow) newsprint-like paper.
The beginning chapter, "Learning to Taste" was fun. We tried many of the exercises. We used a blindfold, trying to identify correctly the red and the white. We held our noses as we tasted the wine and as we tasted different foods. We drank sugared, acidified, salty and tannic concoctions to work out where the sensations impacted the tongue. We looked for balance and length. We studied textures. Then we started experimenting with the wines themselves.
Many of the concepts I learnt from this book, I now teach in my own wine class.
Masterglass has been out of print for years, but the book has now been revived. It was released last year in the UK with the title of Jancis Robinson's Wine Tasting Workbook, and is to about to be released in the US with the title of How to Taste: A Guide to Enjoying Wine.
The book has been totally revised with updates to reflect the wine industry almost 20 years on from the first edition. For example, one of the new practical tasting exercises is a comparison of New Zealand and French sauvignon blanc. New Zealand only had a passing mention in my original book. And no-one except us Kiwis had really heard of New Zealand sauvignon blanc in 1983
It's a hardback book now, printed on quality paper with colour photographs throughout to enhance the text - there's even a photo of Jancis neatly spitting. The layout is completely different as well, although the theory and the practical components still exist, but in different sections on the same page.
But the concept of the book is still the same as are most of the chapter headings, which are -
Raw material - the white grapes
Raw material - the red grapes
Strong and sparkling
Wine food and fun
Wine and words - a glossary
The book in New Zealand is titled the Wine Tasting Workbook and costs NZ$49.99. Measuring 216 x 165 mm (about A5 size, the book has 208 pages and 75 colour photographs.
Alternatively, buy the Simon and Schuster published How to taste: A guide to enjoying wine titled version of the same book, from Amazon. The ISBN is 0743216776.
© Sue Courtney 23 September 2001
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