by Lettie Teague
"That sounds a lot like phylloxera," I replied.Can a man obsessed with "fatty Chardonnay" for less than $10 a bottle be taught to appreciate wine? That is the challenge which Lettie Teague must master when she begins teaching her wine-challenged friend, Peter, about the "Facts of Wine."
Phylloxera is a tiny insect related to the aphid and a native of North America that can destroy entire vineyards, if not wine regions. It was responsible for the devastation of nearly all of Bordeaux in the latest nineteenth century. By the time the Bordelais had figured out what had happened, almost nothing was left of their vines. "Phylloxera sounds a lot like what happens when Jerry Bruckheimer gets involved in a movie," commented Peter.
Peter, a film critic for Rolling Stone, has a tendency to voice his opinion in bold, sweeping statements that relate practically everything about wine to movies and directors. Teague, the wine editor for Food & Wine magazine, not only manages to steadily educate Peter bit by bit but does it so engagingly and understandably that she educates the reader along the way. She begins with simple basics such as how to taste wine, bottle shapes and colors, and the six basic grapes. Chapter by short chapter we then tour the wine making areas of both the Old and New Worlds.
Teague finishes up with such practicalities as pairing wine with food and what to do in a wine shop. Her personable style and obvious knowledge combine to make the entire book an interesting and painless education in wine. I definitely will be making notes from this book to help me branch out in my wine drinking.
Highly recommended for an easy-to-take wine education or simply as an entertaining read for those more knowledgeable than I about wine.
In fact, the Finger Lakes region of New York is particularly well suited to such grapes as Riesling and Gewurztraminer -- even if the region's varietal visionary, Dr. Konstantin Frank, was denounced as a madman when he made this observation some fifty years ago. At that time, only hardy native varietals such as Catawba and Baco Noir were grown; noble grapes such as Riesling were considered too delicate to withstand the cold. But Dr. Frank, a native of Germany, believed the climate was much like that of his home country and therefore suitable to the same grapes. The local grape-growing forces not only disagreed with him, but at one point discussed having the exceedingly vocal Frank carted off to the loony bin. (Perhaps the first time that growing Riesling has been thought to be a sign of insanity.)