By John ~ December 4th, 2009.
My first impression of Drink This: Wine Made Simple by Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl was that I wish I had written it myself. It has a tremendous amount of information for the wine novice presented in an easily understood manner. However, when I got to her list of wine varietals, each of which she devotes a chapter, I was dumbfounded at her nine selections.
“I picked the nine varietals I judged would be most helpful to you, the ones that comprise most of the wine sold and consumed in America: Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Sangiovese, Tempranillo, and Pinot Noir.”
Don’t get me wrong; she’s done a good job with the ones she selected, but I can’t believe that she left out Merlot. It wasn’t until I got to the Cabernet Sauvignon chapter and stumbled upon a section called “Quick and Dirty Merlot Guide” that I gained some insight into her decision. Basically, while Ms. Grumdahl has great respect for Merlot, she decided to leave it out because she believes that “right now Merlot is terribly out of fashion.” This belief is based largely on the fallout from Miles’ rant in the movie Sideways.
Even though I know that the scathing remarks by a character in a Hollywood movie have influenced some consumers, the facts are that today Merlot is the most popular red wine in America’s grocery stores. So I think that it was a mistake to omit it from a list that is supposed to represent “most of the wine sold and consumed in America.”
Personally, I would have left out either Tempranillo or Zinfandel, and done a dozen varietals, adding chapters on Merlot, Pinot Gris, Malbec, and Cabernet Franc. But this wasn’t my book, and what she did, she did well.
In each chapter on a varietal, she has the following helpful sections:
- What’s to Love About __________ (insert varietal here)?
- What’s to Hate About __________?
- What’s the Story with __________?
- Conversations with Bigwigs
- The “Holy Trinity” of __________: The grape, Terroir, and Winemaking
- Field Guide with recommendations at different price points
- Food and __________
- Tasting __________ Step by Step
- The Takeaway (a five-second cheat sheet summary)
- Knock-Their-Socks-Off Gifts for __________ Lovers
She finishes the book with a chapter on the differences in wine at various price points and a chapter on buying wine in restaurants.
“The way I see it, the key to all wine is simply this: finding the wine you like, at the price you want to pay.”
So, if you have ever been baffled by a restaurant wine list or stood shell-shocked in front of hundreds, maybe thousands of bottles at a wine shop, don’t feel like you are alone. All of us, including the author, have been there early in our wine loving days.
Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl is Senior Editor of Minnesota Monthly, where she writes about food and wine. She’s also known to many people in the Twin Cities for her years as the food critic for City Pages. Drink This is her first book.
Even though she regrettably didn’t include a chapter on Merlot, I would still recommend Drink This. It is available on Amazon.com and through many other booksellers.
Full Disclosure: We received this book as a review copy.
Filed under: Wine Books