Must-read: The Wine Bible by Karen Macneil

In previous posts, I’ve shared books like The Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater, and Dana Cowin’s food podcast Speaking Broadly, both of which are recreational resources for knowledge and inspiration with regard to food and wine.  Today, I want to express my infatuation with a work that is a liiiiitttlleee more dense – Karen Macneil’s The Wine Bible.  

 

When I say dense, I mean it took Karen Macneil 10 years to research and write the first version in 2001.   She has since rewritten and updated nearly 80% of it for her second 995-page edition of the all-inclusive guide to every nook and cranny that exists in the wine world.  She includes chapters on the basics of wine making, the growing process, the importance of terroir and climate, as well as in depth chapters on the major wine producing countries and each. individual. region. that exists within them, all with extensive detail.

 

Danny Meyer, CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, is quoted on the cover, declaring The Wine Bible as “the most informative and entertaining book I’ve ever seen on the subject”, and I honestly couldn’t agree more.  While it’s not exactly recommended reading for someone who has a casual approach to wine, it still reads with a passionate enthusiasm and even humor which makes the density of the information less daunting.  On the other hand, it is unofficially required reading for anyone looking to take the sommelier exam.  The Court of Master Sommeliers suggests it as a study resource for those who sign up for the exam.  Thankfully, Karen makes the studying process enjoyable with her wit and passion for the subject.

 

Karen’s writing on the subject is so refreshing that I find myself actually learning (gasp!) and retaining minuscule details that I used to think I’d never be able to remember.  Even if you’re not in it for the certification, The Wine Bible is an amazing resource for anyone who wants to just feel more comfortable drinking, ordering, or buying wine. For instance, at a tasting last week that happened to focus on French wines (and I had just recently finished the nearly 200-page section on France), I distinctly noticed a difference between how I felt at tastings a couple years ago.

 

When anyone starts tasting wines, the first few times feels like you walked into a different country, not just a local cellar.  The sommelier is spitting out varietals, appellations, and regions and some of it you recognize, some of it you’re like what the hell are we evening talking about here.  Of course it gets better and better each time with experience, and now it’s like I’m speaking the language.  Having just immersed myself in all there is to know about French wines in The Wine Bible, I felt so at home.  Distinguishing the difference between an appellation Pouilly-Fuissé and a Languedoc Chardonnay, and knowing why the latter is rich and creamy, and the former crisp and acidic – this sort of recognition was originally filed under “pretentious things I’ll never learn”, but have since found confidence in after reading Karen’s masterpiece (not a hyperbole).

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