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Holiday gifts: Read between the wines

books Updated: Dec 03, 2011 19:58 IST

Dave McIntyre, The Washington Post
Highlight Story

With the holidays approaching, it's time to recommend books to give the wine lovers on your list. Here are my top picks from among wine books released this year.

The Drops of God 1, by Tadashi Agi and Shu Okimoto, is the manga cartoon serial that ignited a wine revolution in Japan, freshly translated into English. By the end of Volume 1, we learn how to (flamboyantly) decant old Burgundy, and we find out how fabulous vintages of first-growth Bordeaux strangely remind everyone of the same art masterpiece. It's a fun, easy read.

Anyone who has traveled the Finger Lakes or just enjoyed one of its Rieslings should read Evan Dawson's Summer in a Glass: The Coming of Age of Winemaking in the Finger Lakes. Dawson, a TV news anchor, is also managing editor of New York Cork Report, an online magazine that covers the Empire State's wine industry like a blanket. Dawson captures the personalities behind labels such as Ravines, Red Newt, Anthony Road and many more, and brings the flavors of their wines alive on the page with an ease that invites the reader to participate rather than simply witness. It's a hard book to put down.

I laughed out loud twice in the first five pages of Roy Cloud's memoir, To Burgundy and Back Again: A Tale of Wine, France, and Brotherhood and regularly thereafter. Cloud is a DC-based importer with a strong portfolio of artisanal French wines (look for Vintage 59 on the back label). His title suggests a Tolkien-ish quest, and there is some poignancy in his tale. Yet the book is primarily Cloud's version of Kermit Lynch's Adventures on the Wine Route (1990), the seminal wine importer memoir, with echoes of Hemingway's hilarious road trip with Fitzgerald in A Moveable Feast and MFK Fisher's writings on Dijon.

Canadian writer Natalie MacLean takes another perspective in her new book, Unquenchable: A Tipsy Quest for the World's Best Bargain Wines. To MacLean, bargain means high value at a reasonable price, not necessarily cheap for cheap's sake. She roams the world and meets with producers such as Wolf Blass in Australia and South Africa's Charles Back, creator of the popular Goats do Roam wines.

Although each chapter ends with her "field notes from a wine cheapskate," MacLean's book is a reminder that bargain wine can be an adventure, not just a lowest common denominator.

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