Do you remember the first books you consulted when learning about wine? I do. What I remember is struggling to find a book that gave me just the basics, a place to start learning how to understand what I was tasting and what I liked. I remember being overwhelmed by the vocabulary and the size of most wine books. I found many books that were hundreds of pages long and interestingly described the history of wine or the major wine regions of the world, but those books are more useful for the wine lover who already understands what they like and why. I would have appreciated finding a small book, written in plain language to guide me in understanding wine.
Recently an invitation landed in my inbox to receive a new wine book for review purposes. The title was interesting, Wine 123, but it was the subtitle of the book that drew me in, All you need to know about wine in 90 minutes or less. Really? I was curious to read what the author, Monika Elling, considered essential to learning about wine.
Monika has years of experience in the wine and spirits trade as well as public relations and marketing. She does manage to cover quite a lot of information in 55 pages and I think the book would give a budding wine enthusiast a good foundation upon which to build their wine knowledge.
Her WOW Index, Weight of Wine Index, is defined for both white and red wines and is based on the intensity of the wine’s color. It takes into account oak aging and the alcohol level of wine, as well as grape variety, on the weight and flavor profile of wine. It is a useful index with a catchy abbreviation. She provides a helpful chart with common grape varieties, flavor profiles and WOW Index for the reader to use as a guide.
Subsequent chapters discuss Burgundy, Bordeaux, Pinot Noir, Old World vs New World wines in general, but useful, terms. The reader learns how to read a wine bottle label, what grape varieties are allowed and how the wines of Burgundy and Bordeaux are classified.
The same general discussion follows in chapters about screw top wines, and why they came about, bubbly, rosé and dessert wines. The discussion hits the high points wine drinkers are likely to encounter when making purchasing decisions.
Another chapter titled “The Scary Restaurant Wine List” gives the reader practical advice on how to choose a wine that will suit her taste and match the food she chooses.
Wine 123 is a quick read with lots of helpful information. I particularly like the useful summary, which includes multiple bullet points, at the end of every chapter. And, the book is small enough to carry as a quick reference. As Monika accurately states, “Think of this book as your cheat-sheet on wine.” It’s a very good place for the beginning wine drinker to start their understanding of wine.