Making Sense of Wine - Matt Kramer
(Turning Press. NZ$37.95. Hardback, 240 pages)
Are you seduced by wine but wanting to get past the stage of "I like it / I don't like it" and prepared to read words instead of looking at pictures? Then Matt Kramer's 'Making Sense of Wine' could be for you. He's written it for the thinking wine drinker, people who want to absorb and experience, not just learn. With delightful quotes, historical aspects, the realities of the 21st century and some mouth watering recipes in the ultimate 'Food is the Meaning of Wine' chapter, experienced oenophiles should enjoy this too.
I opened this book thinking I wasn't going to like it, but the title is misleading. This is not a book of cold hard facts, this is a book with a deeply personal touch as I came to realise in the first chapter, The Notion of Connoisseurship. The words drew me in and held me there and I had to keep on reading.
This is not a new book, it is a revision of the first edition, published in 1989 and hailed as a classic. But it is not all old stuff. Kramer has added a new chapter Twenty-First Century Fine Wine – The Consequences of Success which includes commentary about the influence of wine critics in the marketing of wine. He has also re-evaluated what he wrote in the first edition with respect to today's challenges.
I think it is the perfect book to settle down on a comfy couch in front of the fire or heater on a cold wintry day, with a glass of your favourite tipple nearby.
Choosing Wine - Andrew Jefford
(Ryland, Peters & Small. NZ$19.95. Hardback, 64 pages)
An attractively presented, light weight, introduction to wine for the absolute novice with brief notes on grapes and places (New Zealand - who produces "mouth-shockingly fresh white wines" gets 70 words) and wine styles. With pictures to drool over and a brief introduction to the styles of the world, this makes a starting point for the discovery of wine but with many of the wine recommendations unavailable in New Zealand, it quickly left me wanting more.
Seal of Approval by Tyson Stelzer and Cameron Stelzer
(Wine Press, NZ$9.95)
Queensland wine lover Tyson Stelzer has become the premier writer on screwcap issues after exploring the case for screwcaps in his first book Screwed for Good. Now he's taken the key points and benefits in choosing screwcaps over cork and summarised them in this pocket-sized handbook entitled 'Seal of Approval'. It's a book where the picture tells the story and the cute illustrations of the screwcap and the cork by Cameron Stelzer, Tyson's brother, clearly show the point. Murray Almond has already reviewed this book in one of his columns on wineoftheweek.com, so click here to read it.
A Guide to New Zealand Wine 2004 – Peter Saunders
(Clarity Publishing & Consulting Ltd, NZ$29.95)
With its yellow and purple colour scheme, the 24th edition of this long-standing wine guide has the most striking cover yet. Whereas the other wine guides by New Zealand authors quickly get down to the business of describing how a wine tastes, this book gives over a quarter of its 400 pages to the background issues, which is why it is a recommended text for some qualification courses. It covers the evolution of wine in New Zealand, the wine market, vintages past, the year ahead, exports, imports, the regions, the grapes, the winemaking, competitions, cellaring wine, enjoying wine and so on. Companies are introduced alphabetically with background and wine reviews for that company follow. There are no ratings of individual wines, but you'll quickly get the gist from Peter's no-nonsense prose.
Michael Cooper's Buyer's Guide to New Zealand Wine 2004
(Hodder Moa Beckett, NZ$34.99)
Graced with a photo of Ascension Vineyard on the claret-coloured cover, this 12th edition is packed with Cooper's reviews of zingy sauvignon blancs, mouthfilling chardonnays, inky merlots and harmonious pinot noirs. As the production of New Zealand wine increases, this 400-page annual is the biggest edition yet with 2000 labels from 435 wineries clamouring for the support of the consumer. There are the usual lists of Cooper's classic wines with several new additions and some deletions from last year's list, the latter only discovered by comparing the editions. The reviews, by principal grape variety, focus on Cooper's overall star rating for a wine brand, but there may be more than one vintage covered in the text for that wine and individual vintage ratings may vary. After Cooper's conclusions of a wine, a summary of the winemakers rankings for the wine's vintages going back in time are given, along with when to drink, the dryness level of the wine, the price and a value for money rating .
Jeremy Oliver's Australian Wine Annual 2004
(On Wine, NZ$34.95)
Don’t expect lots of poetic prose and flowery descriptions of how a wine tastes, this insight into the Aussie classics is a book of numbers. Organised alphabetically by producer, Australia's best selling wines are introduced and rated over several vintage years with a score out of 20 and the perfect drinking window, which may still be wide open or now closed. Oliver offers more details on each of the wine presented, but you have to log on to his website www.onwine.com.au to do that. I did this but found I then had to pay another $39.95 (AUD) to use the facility. So if you are interested only in scores, then this book is probably for you.
Find these books at your favourite bookstore.
© Sue Courtney
20 June 2004.