Secrets from the Wine DivaAs a wine writer I tend very much to be about helping people learn to taste wines for themselves. I am very much against pretentious wine ratings, about memorizing labels and doing "wine and food pairing by the book." Every person has their own palate, every person has different likes and dislikes. If you love white zinfandel, that's great. You should drink white zinfandel, not force yourself to drink a $100 Chardonnay because some random wine expert tells you it's great.
With that in mind, I have mixed feelings about Christine Ansbacher's Wine Diva book. It bothers me that she does a fair amount of boasting about her jobs buying millions of dollars of wine for rich people. Several of her lists are biased towards what most drinkers (especially in today's budget times) would call quite excessive prices.
That being said, she does provide a lot of quality information to watch for. She advises new drinkers not to worry about sediment in their wine or shiny crystals. Sediment is just a byproduct of filtration styles, and the shiny crystals are merely tartrate crystals that have fallen out of solution. She says to ignore the red wine = meat and white wine = fish rule. You should match a wine's weight with the food, so you have a heavy wine with a heavy food. A lightly flavored food works best with a lightly flavored wine.
When buying wine by the glass, you want to go with a medium price range. Cheap wines are probably not worth the cost, and expensive wines are probably rarely bought by the glass so you'll be drinking from a bottle probably open for several days or more.
Also, she reminds us of a classic chemistry experiment we all did in high school, if you want to chill a wine, toss it in an ice bucket with WATER and SALT. Just ice alone does little - and water-plus-ice is only 32F. By adding salt, you turn it into "salt water" which can get much colder than 32F without freezing. You do that with ice cream makers too :). Doing this trick easily chills a bottle of wine quickly. Remember, both reds and whites should be drunk at a medium-cool temperature. No wine should be drunk at modern day "room temperature" as in 70F or above!
While I appreciate the list of cute name tricks, I'm not sure they are really how to go about learning about wine. If I like viognier, it's not that hard to remember viognier. If I start trying to remember "sounds like virgin air" I am likely to ask for an American Airways wine at the restaurant which will be meaningless. Heck, if you have three wine types you enjoy - viognier, pinot gris and riesling, just write those down on a business card and carry it in your wallet. That way you remember the real names which will serve you far better in the long run and you don't risk mis-remembering a cute name.
Finally, some of the tricks seem a bit more iffy to me. She says a white wine that is yellow is oaked, while one that is pale is unoaked. I'm not sure I would make any blanket statements about wine like this and am not sure how it would help in any case. If you wanted an oaked wine, you would probably ask your server which Chardonnay on the list said - on its label - that it was made with oak. You wouldn't have him bring out the bottles and compare their colors. If you were brought a wine, I can't imagine you would look at its color and then nod knowingly to the people at your table saying "Ah yes, apparently this is an oaked wine." At least I've never done that sort of bizarre wine one-uppance with my friends :)
Recommended for quick, fun wine information, but I'd have other books in my wine library too.
Author: Christine Ansbacher
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