Sometimes it’s a pleasant change to read a wine publication that isn’t technical or learned. So I enjoyed this book by the young American wine writer Mark Oldman. With its subtitle of “Pleasure, Value and Adventure beyond Wine’s Usual Suspects” Mark introduces you to a world of discovery of “little gems where costs are moderate and insiders hang their hats”.
He caters to wine enthusiasts of all levels. He nudges the novice in the direction of identifying new styles that suit their tastes. For those with intermediate knowledge he introduces new and reborn regions as well as fresh twists on certain classics. For wine professionals the book is designed to fill in gaps and help choose “among the stars in the constellation of worthy wine types”.
With 46 chapters of no more than seven pages each he concentrates on what “you really need to know, sparing you lengthy elaborations on geology, chemistry and history”. Under the main heading of Brave New Pours, the chapters have inviting titles such as “Riesling from Austria: The Floral, Flinty Invigorator”, “Pinot Noir from Oregon: Fine-Boned and Ego Free”, “Bargain Bordeaux: Pedigree Lost, Value Found” and “Grower Champagne: Farmer Fizz, Brewed by the Boss”.
In each short, pithy chapter Mark focuses on how a wine typically tastes, a price guide, best food matches etc as well as comments from his “Bravehearts”, wine lovers he has interviewed about their vinous preferences. He even includes pronunciation as well as clear lists of advice including. useful food matching descriptions and recommendations for specific events, such as Mothers Day. I am reminded of a customer of my old wine bar who asked me to suggest a wine for Sunday lunch. “What are you having” I asked him. He replied: “Roast beef and mother-in-law”…
The best advice Mark offers are alternative wines at the end of each chapter (à la Amazon “if you like this, you’ll like that”) and summed up in one of the appendices where the “Usual Suspect” is on the left with “Brave New Pours” indicated to the right. This is especially useful for those wine buyers (and I think we meet many such people) who are daunted by the rows of bottles in supermarkets where the only assistance on offer is a dumb shelf talker.
Mark Oldman has written a very useful book in a relaxed, friendly and fun manner. It would be very useful for the novice wanting to explore the huge variety of wines on offer, as well as for those more knowledgeable to nudge them in different, exciting directions.
If you want more details do have a look at Mark Oldman’s website.