The main two things you need to know when considering my review is that (1) I don’t know anything about wine and (2) I do like witty, smart writers. If you know a lot about wine and you don’t like journalists inserting personal asides into non-fic, your feelings about this book will probably differ from mine.
Writer/sommelier Bianca Bosker’s book is educational, funny, and at times inspiring. It pairs nicely with A History of the World in Six Glasses. That work gives you a great introduction into the context in which certain drinks rise to fame, and how they compare to others. (For example, why wine has historically been seen as higher class than beer, or why coffee houses have always been hubs for conversation and work.) All of that information sets the table for Bosker’s story of entering the annoyingly exclusive world of wine and learning to appreciate the world on a whole new sensory level.
Bosker embeds herself into the world of oenophiles and spends a year learning how to view, swirl, slurp, taste, spit, buy, serve, collect, and evangelize about wine. Along the way she meets all kinds of interesting characters, including millennial sommeliers born too late, Michelin-starred restauranteurs, billionaires with wild proclivities, and taste scientists for whom Mega Purple is just the beginning.
Personally, my takeaways from the book are that wine doesn’t have to be a classist hobby and passion, that we should experience taste and smell (aka 40% of our senses that we largely ignore), and also that just because a wine has “notes” of raspberry or tobacco doesn’t mean there is actually raspberry or tobacco in the wine. (Honestly, I thought wine was more like beer where herbs, fruits, and other things are actually added into the mix.)
This book is currently like $5 on Kindle, so give it a go if you’re on the fence.