Saturday, May 17, 2008

Review and Rating: ***+ $$ Gary Vaynerchuk's 101 Wines Guaranteed to Inspire, Delight and Bring Thunder to your World, 2008, New Jersey

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My biggest problem with Gary Vaynerchuk's new book, "101 Wines Guaranteed to Inspire, Delight and Bring Thunder to your World", is illustrated in the matchup below:

Vaynerchuk's "101 Wines" fails to make a single reference to my favorite line of wines: Mollydooker! Above you can see that Mollydooker's 2005 The Boxer is about to give Gary a well-deserved uppercut.

All that said, "101 Wines", is, first and foremost, a delightful read. Bringing a Gen X'ers language and attitude to the quaintly-rigid pursuit of winetasting, Vaynerchuk provides a real service.

Where else could you find this kind of description of a Languedoc red wine: "Remember that classic SNL skit about the Bass-o-matic? This wine is the Buffal-o-matic, like gamy buffalo meat in a blender, along with some stunning fruit that is interesting and structured."

This quote represents both the good news and the bad news of this book. If you are not tuned to Gen-X experiences and language, the book will be a real challenge. (ie, if you have not watched several seasons of SNL, or, heaven forbid, don't know what SNL means!). And, be forewarned, this generation-appropriate language can be quite harsh - complete with expletives that many of us would have been loath to express in front of our parents. But if you are tuned to this era, the book will open you to the world of wines in a way no other printed matter can.

Now, here are some things this book is NOT: 1) a guide to modestly-priced value wines (in my quick assessment, the median-level price of wines mentioned in the book is somewhere around $30 US a bottle - half of the wines above $30, half below); 2) a book that will give you a complete understanding of the world of wine (it gives you great insights based around the specific examples used - sort of like getting an understanding of Paris from the snapshots and videos taken by your neighbor); 3) a book with a great deal of shelf life (the wine descriptions are quite specific to their vintages); 4) a wine shopping list (availability is spotty - in many cases, there are only a few hundred or fewer cases imported. In a quick sampling, less than half of the wines I queried were available from Vaynerchuk's own site.)

But, with all these caveats, this is a fun book - one that makes you hunger to expand your repertoire of wines, and rush to try a bottle of Hungarian Tokaji or Argentinian Torrontes. Consider the geographic and style varieties in Vaynerchuk's top 10 wines:
1) A French Sauterne (Doisy-Vedrines, 2005, $39)
2) A Bordeaux Red (Cos d'Estournel, 2005, $250)
3) A Chilean Sauvignon Blanc (Felipe Edwards, 2007, $14)
4) An Israeli Red Blend (Tishbi, 2004, $60)
5) An Italian Fruili White Blend (Radikon, 2002, $43)
6) A Lebanese Red Blend (Wardy, 2006, $80)
7) A French Loire Valley Chenin Blanc (de Rycke, 2005, $23)
8) A Brut Champagne (Bedel, NV, $70)
9) A Sonoma Old Vine Zinfandel (Bucklin, 2005, $35)
10) A Washington State Cabernet (Boudreaux Cellars, 2004, $40)

Using the Spirit of Wine rating scheme, Gary Vaynerchuk's "101 Wines" gets three stars out of five (because I would return to the guide again, but not stick with it exclusively), with a plus for pleasant readability. It is a decent value because at a discounted $13, the paperback book is very modestly priced.

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