As a consumer product, wine is a nightmare.
There are millions of wines produced around the world, many of which have hard-to-pronounce names and are made in small, elusive quantities. What's worse, they're often peddled by the wine-store equivalent of the record clerks portrayed in High Fidelity.
But Drink This: Wine Made Simple, a new book by Minneapolis-based writer Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl, cuts through the confusion--and the condescension.
Dara (her fans refer to her by her first name) shoves aside wine critics' point-based systems and my-cellar's-bigger-than-yours mentalities, encouraging novice drinkers to simply focus on developing their own taste preferences.
The book differentiates itself from other introductory wine texts by suggesting that systematic tastings are the best way to learn the range of a varietal's characteristics. (It's also actually a really fun book to read.) You'll develop a better understanding of Zinfandel, for example, by tasting a single-vineyard Zin alongside both mass-produced and late-harvest bottlings.
Here's Dara's shopping list for an evening of Zin education:
1. Inexpensive American Zinfandel (Rosenblum, Rancho Zabaco, Ravenswood, Cline, Beaulieu Vineyards, Montevina, Seghesio, Gnarly Head or Renwood) $8 to $15
2. and 3. Two different single-vineyard bottles from different vineyards but made by the same producer. (Ridge's Lytton Springs and Geyserville; Edmeades' Piffero Vineyard and Perli Vineyard; Bella's Big River Ranch and Lilly Hill) $20-something each
4. A more expensive, polished Zinfandel, such as Turley Wine Cellars, Gallo-Sonoma or Dashe Cellars. Ask for the "roundest, ripest, richest, fullest, lushest Zinfandel available." $40 and up
5. A late-harvest, ice-wine, dessert-style or "Port" Zinfandel. $15 and up