Even though I’m not in school, the beginning of September always feels like I’m starting my year anew. I’ll generally try to pick up my fitness and nutrition game, just as one is wont to do at the beginning of January, and there’s usually a push to read a little more, learn something new, or do something along those lines. I’m probably not alone in this; it’s a great opportunity to reflect on how the year has been going, and then to give it our all in the home stretch.
For those thinking it’s a good time to boost their wine knowledge, there are plenty of books and podcasts at our disposal. With a multitude of offerings out there, I thought I’d share some of my favourites that will make learning fun. Of course, the best part is it’s absolutely encouraged to have a glass of something delicious in hand while hittin’ the books.
The 24-Hour Wine Expert
by Jancis Robinson
Arguably the most revered wine writer and critic on the planet, U.K.–based Jancis Robinson is a columnist at the Financial Times, and is at the helm of the Oxford Companion to Wine. The 24-Hour Wine Expert is an inexpensive and compact guide to wine, sitting at around 100 pages that can easily be devoured in one sitting, and certainly over the period of a day or two.
It ticks all the boxes to give readers a well-rounded outline of the world of wine, keeping things basic and brief. By the time that final page has been turned, you’ll be armed with knowledge of how wine is made, how to read labels, matching food and wine, and various grape varieties and wine styles, plus a fully stamped passport of the major wine-producing countries and regions around the world.
Common myths about wine, buying tips, and a handy glossary of wine jargon are also covered. You’ll know everything from Albariño to Zweigelt in no time.
Wine. All The Time.: The Casual Guide to Confident Drinking
by Marissa A. Ross
Above everything, this book is so damn funny. Ross, the wine editor at Bon Appétit magazine, started her career as a comedy writer and was Mindy Kaling’s assistant for a good four years while immersing herself in a self-guided wine education.
She had an increasingly popular wine blog during that time, where her casual, honest, and often hilarious musings got noticed in the big leagues, receiving both the editors’ and readers’ choice awards for best wine coverage in Saveur magazine’s blog awards. She was also named one of Wine Enthusiast’s 40 Under 40.
While this book covers most of the basics, it’s her personal anecdotes and opinions on these basics that really give it life. When clarifying that absolutely all wines have sulfites, she bolsters the fact by adding “I don’t care what the white kid with dreadlocks at the farmer’s market told you, ‘sulfite-free’ wines are not a thing.”
Even for those who know their stuff, this is such a fun read.
The Dirty Guide to Wine: Following Flavor from Ground to Glass
by Alice Feiring
This is definitely one for the geekier wine fans out there. Those looking to (almost literally) drill even a little deeper into wine and learn more about a soil’s influence on what’s in the bottle should find The Dirty Guide to Wine fascinating.
Alice Feiring has been one of the world’s biggest proponents of the natural-wine movement, and with this book she looks at many of the world’s winegrowing regions through the lens of the soils where their vineyards are planted. She begins by offering a tutorial in the basics of soil type, and then breaks down the components of proper tasting that will assist in discerning soil, minerals, and their influence.
With the approach of both an academic and an enthusiast, she tackles regions from the ground up, and the result is a fresh look at wine. Enjoyable anecdotes and specific wine recommendations are offered in abundance.
I’ll Drink To That!
On the podcast side of things, former sommelier Levi Dalton (pronounced “levee”) has been interviewing wine luminaries in his New York City apartment for well over 400 episodes.
These are lengthy interviews, yet captivating glimpses into worlds many of us rarely encounter, with folks like Food & Wine magazine’s executive wine editor Ray Isle, Piedmont winemaking legend Luca Currado Vietti, and, well, hundreds more. Be a fly on the wall, enjoy colourful storytelling, and learn by osmosis.
Bring Your Own
This brand-new podcast from Canadian expat Derek Morrison, now a wine merchant in London, has a simple premise: get a few people from the wine trade around a table, crack open a few bottles of a certain theme, and let the conversation flow. Pull up a virtual seat and enjoy.