Book Review: The New Wine Lover’s Companion, Fourth Edition

If you’re looking for a straightforward, user-friendly wine reference, The New Wine Lover’s Companion is an ideal holiday gift for any lover of the grape, novice and sommelier alike.

The book is a dictionary of wine terms, but don’t let that keep you from perusing – and don’t compare it to those listings of wine lingo you find online. You’ve used them, I’m sure; they define words like balance and canopy and riddling. They might give you 30 or 50 short definitions, each with less than a sentence.

But The Wine Lover’s Companion has 650 pages – and that’s not counting the nearly 100 pages of appendices. Authors, food and wine writers Ron and Sharon Tyler Herbst, give you the back story; sometimes they limit it to a paragraph, often the “definition” takes up an entire page.

And the terms aren’t only those you read in wine reviews. You get the full treatment, and stories within stories. The entry for barrique doesn’t stop at telling you it means “barrel;” go to “barrel” and you learn about a dozen different kinds of wine barrels, from a feuillette and a Fuder to a Doppelstück, puncheon and Viertelstück – how they were named, where they’re used and what’s inside the cask. If you’re interested in wine, it’s really fascinating stuff.

Even better are the multiple appendices – 23, in fact – instructing readers about wine labels, optimum serving temperatures, glassware, bottle types, down to the Classifications of Bordeaux, Graves and Saint-Émilion, 1855 through 1996, in excruciating detail.

This informative book is practically an entire wine education. All that’s missing are the maps, and it’s fun to read. And if you miss those lists of wine tasting terms you’re accustomed to seeing, there’s an appendix for that, too. As references go, The Wine Lover’s Companion is a page-turner.

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