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Book advises: Drink wine. With food. Not too much

Every once in a while, a really, really good wine book comes along … something destined to become a classic.

The "Food Lover's Guide to Wine" by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg is an amazingly fresh and novel exploration of the world of wine and food and how they interact. Far from being a didactic list of do's and don'ts, the authors encourage the reader to play with flavor and they outline many, many different ways to do just that.

The information is brilliantly presented. Like lentils? Drink Gruner Veltliner. Like bacon? Try a Côte Rôtie. Enjoy lychee fruit? Pop the cork on a Gewurztraminer. There are two pages of such synergistic combinations!

As the authors state, "You already know what you like, so use the language you already know: food and flavor" (to pick new wines to try).

The book is aimed at helping food lovers along their journey of discovering wines and expanding their enjoyment of them.

But first, why wine with food?

The authors compare the caloric count of a glass of milk (160), beer (150), coke (140), orange juice (125) and wine (125), then put just the right weight on wine's acknowledged health benefits and mention how wine improves the dining experience by magnifying flavor. Their credo? Drink Wine. With Food. Not too much.

Interestingly, they acknowledge that (as of 2010) the USA became the largest wine-consuming country in the world … but not at table, a fact they attribute to the "intimidation" factor. There are 6,000 wine labels gracing the retail shelves in the United States, a good number of them with foreign terms upon them.

Instead of teaching the reader about wine directly (which is staid, traditional and incredibly boring), the authors back-door the subject matter in an extremely user-friendly fashion.

"The wine isn't the only thing that needs to 'open up'," they avow. Think xylophone. There is a scale to color, weight, astringency and sweetness … and they walk you through the scale. Think crayons, they advise. When you start coloring, you start with the primary colors, so start with the primary varietals, then move up to "the box of 64". It's good practical advice designed to build your confidence.

Most importantly, they counsel you to pay attention to what you like. Embrace your senses and explore. They give you guidelines, but few rules, and they quote many experts in order to present wine in all its multiple facets — without overwhelming. These are experts such as Mark Twain, who said, "There are no standards of taste in wine…[One's] own taste is the standard and a majority vote cannot decide for him or in any slightest degree affect the supremacy of his own standard."

Yep. This book will wean you off the periodicals that rate wines with points, develop your comfort level with wine and food (in combination) and engender a spirit of exploration and joy in both arenas.

The "Food Lover's Guide to Wine" is the perfect book for someone who is just starting out in wine and the perfect book for those who have studied wine for so long that they seldom wander off the path of the tried and true.

Available on Amazon for $23 and highly recommended.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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