Over time I’ve tried selling wine books back at a used bookstore with very little success. I’m sorry to say it’s because many wine books just aren’t that good and quickly become out of date. Sure there are some exceptions, but it can be hard to find a book that hones in on just the useful stuff you really need to know. That’s exactly why I’m so enthusiastic about Ten Grapes to Know by Catherine Fallis, the “grape goddess of Planet Grape.” Fallis is a master sommelier but is not in the least bit snooty or pretentious and doesn’t fall into the trap of writing for other wine writers and sommeliers. She’s all about enjoying wine and makes learning about it fun. And she lets you in on many of the secrets that sommeliers know and many wine drinkers don’t know.
The book begins with what feels like the best cheat sheets on tasting wine, pairing food with wine and buying wine in a store or restaurant. She walks you through exercises for your senses and how to properly store wine (as well as explaining which wines will last longer once opened) and even explains how markups typically work. The main sections of the book are devoted to ten wine varietals. Each chapter follows a set pattern—there is a description of the varietal, the history and geography, taste profile and styles, a sense exercise, a section on matchmaking (what to pair with the wine) what to look for when shopping or dining out (with specific labels and price points) and “branch out” which gives you some other varietals to consider that are in some way related. There are also plenty of personal stories and anecdotes along the way all written in a light and breezy manner.
You can use the book in several different ways. You can use it to learn about wine (there are even quiz questions to test your knowledge), to shop for wine or as a general reference guide. Now about the varietals. They are Pinot Grigio (Gris), Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Syrah (Shiraz), Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel. Now if I had chosen the varietals, I would have swapped out the Viognier for Riesling and the Sangiovese for Tempranillo or maybe even Grenache, but those are just minor quibbles. The book is really entertaining and easy to understand and one I do not plan on parting with anytime soon. It would make a great gift for anyone who is interested in learning more about wine.
Disclaimer: This post includes an affiliate link