Drink Magazine

Gift Guide For Wine Connoisseurs Offers Good Words, Good Cheer

By Lmarmon


Some recently published books that would be perfect gifts for the wine-lovers on your list.


By Lou Marmon


Gazette Newspapers  November 21, 2012


Iconic Spirits
A veritable feast of new publications are this year’s recommendations for holiday gifts for wine lovers, beginning with “Iconic Spirits — An Intoxicating History,” by Mark Spivak, the former host of NPR’s “Uncorked” and a prolific writer on food, wine and spirits.

Spivak examines the considerable influence specific alcoholic beverages have had on society, including how gin nearly destroyed the British Empire, NASCAR’s moonshine roots, “luxury vodka,” and how absinthe was the LSD of the 19th century, in a series of 12 beautifully crafted chapters. Each section ends with several drink recipes, many that now are staples of today’s growing cocktail culture. It is like sitting in your favorite bar at closing time listening to a friend tell stories. You just don’t want it to end.

There are few better sources for knowledge and entertainment than the New York Times wine articles.

Edited by Howard G. Goldberg, the former senior editor of the paper’s Op-Ed page and a frequent contributor to the regular wine columns, the “New York Times Book Of Wine” is a collection of 156 select wine articles published over the course of 31 years. Contributors include some of the world’s finest wine writers, including Eric Asimov, Frank J. Prial and R.W. Apple Jr. The book begins with a critical look at the pretentiousness of a $410 corkscrew and the way cliché-laden “wine-speak” has become the norm among aficionados. It then proceeds around the world and across the spectrum of wines, winemakers and others who are passionate about the art and science of fermented grapes.

The latest edition of “Kevin Zraly’s Windows on the World Complete Wine Course” is a must for any serious wine lover.

Zraly taught his celebrated wine course for 25 years at One World Trade Center until September 11, 2001, and we all are fortunate Zraly has been able to continue to bring his considerable expertise and singular style to those interested in learning more about wine. The book is almost Talmudic in organization, with the main text comprised of questions and answers supplemented with sidebars of information, labels, maps and tables that contribute rather than clutter. Informative, concise, well-written and beautifully illustrated, it has video smart phone tags and audio pronunciation files that further enhance the already considerable value of this publication.

There is little doubt that some very exciting wines now are being made south of the equator.

Wine educators and journalists Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jenssen (The World Wine Guys) have authored a terrific guide for those who wish to learn more about the wines that now make up nearly 30 percent of the world’s total wine consumption. Their “Wines of the Southern Hemisphere” is organized by country (Australia, South America, New Zealand and the countries of South America) and includes succinct discussions of each of their major varietals and wine-producing areas, along with regional recipes and interviews with distinguished winemakers. The authors’ considerable expertise is evident on each page without becoming pedantic, making it a very fun read that is more like a conversation than a handbook.

Italian wine authority Dick Rosano has branched into fiction with the recent ebook publication of his first mystery, “Tuscan Blood.”

After the death of his winemaking grandfather, Phil Trantino returns to the Italian home he left as a child. His cousins convince him that his beloved Nonno’s death was no accident and that he is the only one able to discover the truth. Exquisite descriptions of the Tuscany countryside, meals and wines provide a fascinating counterpoint to Trantino’s investigations. It’s a delightful read that will make you yearn for a Tuscan vacation.

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