World Atlas of Wine: Review
Enrich your wine drinking experience by learning more with this book
I’ve been drinking wine since I was a child and I’ve loved it ever since 🙂
My parents believed – in a typically European way – that children should drink watered-down wine at dinner on special occasions.
As I’ve grown older, it has become more than just a pleasure, it has become a way of life and a voyage of discovery.
A few years ago, my other half bought The World Atlas of Wine and ever since that time, we’ve enjoyed learning about what we’re drinking and it has made us appreciate it all the more.
I’m certainly not a wine snob – we regularly buy bargain bottles – and I’ve never had one of those hundred-dollar-a-sip types.
I didn’t realize before that knowing about what you’re drinking can actually enhance your enjoyment.
The book tells you about the history of the vineyards and reading the descriptions, you can actually imagine yourself being there – the way it’s written means that it’s easy to understand and it’s the sort of volume that you can dip into at any time.
Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson have produced an epic encyclopedia.
I always imagined that the ‘problem’ of storing bottles was applicable only to restaurants, hotels and grand houses where there were vast, cavernous cellars and aged retainers tottering around with bottles on silver trays. But the authors explain that even if you’re only going to be storing them for a few days, it’s important to do so correctly.
Did you always think that the bottles should be stored horizontally to keep the cork moist? I did. the writers explains that modern research shows that the bottles should be slightly tilted so that the cork is in contact with both the air and the liquid. The book is full of hundreds of similar tips.
Opening the bottle
At one time, ‘serving’ meant opening the bottle, pouring the booze into glasses and that was it. Then I realized that there are specifically shaped glasses for different drinks. These aren’t just because of the design – there are good reasons, often scientific, why some should be served in particular glasses. Decanting is discussed – I didn’t realize that some younger wines can be enhanced by leaving them in a decanter for as long as twenty four hours before drinking.
The book is literally an atlas and takes you through the world showing where your favorites come from and explaining about the regions and the vineyards. Something we like to do is choose a varietal and then select a cheese from the same region. We’re not experts at pairings by any means but it just seems sensible that wines and cheeses from the same region will go well together. Give it a try.
We all have to eat and I like to make dining into an adventure. With the help of this information, it’s fun to base a meal around the drink served by using ingredients that are local to that region. I like to use produce that is local, plus the herbs that are used in that region’s cuisine. Cheeses too, because winemaking regions often have local cheeses that are traditional to the area. It’s only natural that they go together because the cuisine evolves to suit the local brews. The writers clearly point out that there are no rules -‘red with meat’ and ‘white with fish’ are ‘rules’ that don’t apply.
A few tips
It would be impossible for me to tell you just a fraction of the things live learned from this book but here are just a few…
- We live in Florida so often take a glass outside. It was interesting to learn – but it makes sense – that the flavor of delicate wines can literally be blown away by gentle breezes. The writers make the point that a robust variety is better for summer picnics.
- It is a complete myth that every bottle improves with age. Some will but the we’re told that most bottles that are produced today are created to be used in their first year. Some are at their best when brand new. It makes me feel good to know that there is no particular advantage for a ‘hobbyist’ such as myself, to search out older vintages.
- I had been under the impression that it was best stored in cool conditions. Of course, this is ideal but it’s impractical in warm climates and in other areas during the summer months. Temperatures over 95° should be avoided but they can be kept in warm rooms as long as the temperature is relatively consistent. What isn’t good, is for the liquid to become warm, then cool down, then warm up again … the temperature shouldn’t vary much.
- The ‘rules’ of serving temperatures are also debunked. Again, this is great information for warm climates and the summer months. The book contains a great deal of information about this, plus a chart showing the best serving temperatures. If you like your favorite red to be cool and it’s been served too warm in a restaurant, don’t be shy about asking for an ice bucket. When the ‘room temperature’ idea first began, it wasn’t referring to rooms with central heating. – rooms in those days were much colder than they are today.
- The writers recommend keeping a log of the varieties you drink. This isn’t only so that you’ll have a record for future purchases – it’s also because, when making notes, you’ll concentrate on the qualities of the drink itself and pay more attention to what you are drinking, what you are eating with it and the nuances of the combinations. This is a great tip. We don’t do this with every wine we drink but when something is outstanding, we make a note and add details to a document we keep on the computer.
- Have you ever watched people tasting wines and describing them? I have and their descriptions can be quite amusing. The writers say, and I love this, that there’s no need to take notice of what the experts say. You know what you like and that’s your guide. There are no rights and no wrongs.
The book describes the way in which decanting is a controversial subject. It’s not only old wines that benefit, the authors explain, many young varieties benefit from being decanted a few hours before serving. A few months ago, we experimented with this. We had two identical bottles – a brand that we are very familiar with and it’s one that is more ‘budget’ than anything. (Yeah, cheapo!) We decanted one bottle and left the other unopened. After a couple of hours, we opened the bottle and compared it to the decanted version. The difference was amazing! It seemed like a completely different drink and was delicious. We have been dedicated ‘decanters’ ever since.
Why let your kids drink wine?
Let me tell you my dad’s philosophy. Back in those days he was only too aware of what could happen to girls who were suddenly introduced to alcohol in their teen years. Back then,it was easy to take a newly-minted teenage girl, ply her with booze and have your wicked way.
My dad believed that this wouldn’t happen to girls who were accustomed to a moderate amount of alcohol. He was right.
I remember so well having to’rescue’ friends who were about fourteen years old and who were drinking for the first time. Controversial? Yes, definitely. Let me know what you think in the comments section.