A trio of wine book reviews: from outer space to Southwest U.S.A.

Book sales surged to record highs in 2019 with sales up 20% from 2015. Though the popularity of e-books and audiobooks has grown substantially in recent years, physical print still dominates in excess of 80% of total book sales. Physical books are particularly popular in the case of books where the content is either educational, visually immersive or both. Interestingly a recent study by the Guardian found that readers recalled information conveyed to them in a printed book better than those reading the exact same book on an e-reader. Wine lovers are particularly fond of books, wines body of literature is rich, expansive and expands with admirable pace. Though a great deal of this body is dense and specific, of late a number of new releases find themselves at an interesting intersection between being alluring to both fanatics and casual drinkers, those amongst us whose interests may well be somewhat piqued by wine. With Christmas fast approaching and my review pile mounting, now seems the perfect time to share with you a trio of diverse recent releases. Noble Rot’s no-holds-barred guide to wine, Raul Diaz’s simple guide to wine and food pairing, and Jessica Dupuy’s exploration of Southwest U.S.A. These are the books that have piqued my interest in recent months.

Wine From Another Galaxy – Noble Rot £28.00

Recently crowned The Times Drink Book of the Year, Wine From Another Galaxy is impeccably produced cover to cover, presented in what has become Noble Rot’s ‘house style’. On-trend, vivid, flamboyant, alluring, and always tasteful. Keeling and Andrew, the pair behind the now famed Noble Rot restaurant, have struck a balance of holy grail proportions, captivating all from the most casual to the most fanatical of drinkers. The pair expertly guide consumers through the basics of buying and drinking wine, helping them tackle wine with confidence, each section laced with personal experience and anecdote. With each turn of the page, one gets the sense that the pair are stripping back everything they find offputting about wine communication, the angst of newcomers is positioned carefully at the heart of each section. Starting with how to order wine without fear, working through how wine is made, and translating what the pair coin ‘the lexicon of usefulness’. Part 1 is wine for dummies wrapped up and delivered in a funky, engaging, well-illustrated package.

Perhaps most impressive is the pair’s execution of Part 2, Rotter’s Road Trip. Drawing on a knowledge unique to those inhabiting the rarified atmosphere of wines most lauded destinations, producers and experiences, Keeling and Andrew take readers on a journey through both popular and uncommon wine regions. Starting with France, through Spain, Portugal, and Italy and finishing with a whistle-stop tour of the Rest of Europe. With the most dreamy of experiences thrown in for good measure, including blind tasting with Dujac, afternoons at La Paulee de Meursault, and comments from Aubert de Villaine, Wine From Another Galaxy flirts with the desires of readers of all levels of interest. As well as boasting a sense of aspiration for fanatics, the book puts focus on a cohort of more esoteric and thought-provoking producers, also exploring less commonly discussed (at least with the uninitiated) wine regions such as Tenerife.

Most importantly the book leaves readers wanting more, wanting to taste wine, wanting to travel and speak with winemakers. It sparks a fire and fuels a flame. This is a benchmark body of work and a must-buy for anybody remotely interested in wine. The Noble Rot Book Wine From Another Galaxy is available at Foyles priced at £28.00.

The Wines of Southwest U.S.A. – Jessica Dupuy £27.00

More often than not discussions around the wines of the U.S.A. centre almost entirely on California, Oregon, New York State, and Washington State. Only rarely do our minds turn to the Southwest, to New Mexico, Texas, Arizona or Colorado. However, in 1629 it was in the Southwest where missionaries planted the first Vitis Vinifera vines. It was prohibition in the 1930s which decimated the wine industry in the Southwest and not until the 70s did the modern wine era begin.

Though our thoughts turn first to vast, arid, uninhabitable plains, all four of these regions boast impressive growing conditions and determined vigneron. In Texas alone, there are more than 350 wineries with a great deal of growth year on year. Throughout the Southwest there exists promising creativity and passion, recognising heritage but acknowledging the opportunity to push the boundaries, existing outside of established norms and expectations.

Dupuy is a freelance journalist who has written about Texas wine since 2007. She is a contributor to a number of leading publications, is a Certified Sommelier, and holds a B.A. in History from Trinity University and an M.A. in Journalism from the Medill School of Journalism. This combination of practical and written expertise is immediately obvious, Dupuy covers each region succinctly, drawing on what appears to be a great deal of rigorous research woven tightly with personal experience and passion for the lesser-known. Each region is afforded four separate sub-chapters in which Dupuy guides readers through their history, climate, regions, challenges, noteworthy producers, and closes out with a guide for those with desires of visiting each, noting where to eat and stay in each region.

We, wine lovers, have a penchant for knowledge and learning, particularly where gaps exist. The Wines of Southwest U.S.A. is a must for any respecting bookshelf. Its content is rigorous, well-researched, and perfect for those studying wine. The Wines of Southwest U.S.A. is available at Wordery priced at £27.00.

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Wines & Recipes – Raul Diaz £30.00

While not a strict adherent I’m a believer in wine pairing. There I said it, though not particularly orthodox, I enjoy being shown by a talented sommelier just how harmonious a particular pairing can be when thought through by a learned professional. Often wine pairing can be too prescriptive and overtly Eurocentric, dishes and suggested pairings are recycled and one can feel each book is just an iteration of the previous. Enter Raul Diaz, a well-recognised sommelier, wine educator, and UK Ambassador for VDP. For the last four years, Raul has also served as a wine presenter for Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch. There’s no denying that this is Rauls forte.

First and foremost Raul is a wine lover and enthusiast, he has a diverse, culturally-rich heritage and well-travelled, extensive curriculum vitae. It is from these experiences, born of his childhood in Chile and adult life travelling the world, from which Raul draws the inspiration for many of his pairings. The book is in no sense strict, offering readers 50 recipes with which Raul suggests only a particular grape variety, offering a little background and information on why the grape works with the particular dish. This laissez-faire approach to pairing gives readers options, there are no restrictions centred around either pricing, availability or knowledge. These are dishes chosen based on the emotions and memories they evoke, dishes which Raul has personally enjoyed, they are bound not by rules and science but by passion and taste. I spoke with Raul recently and to prove this theory I randomly selected dishes and he talked me through the inspiration, each which I chose invoked mouthwatering memories.

This is a perfect introduction to wine pairing and a great Christmas gift. The real beauty is that readers can pick this up on any night of the week and with a simple trip to their local supermarket will find themselves knee-deep in delicious food and wine. Wines & Recipes is available at Raul’s website priced at £30.00.

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