Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Wine Book Club #1: Vino Italiano

When I was growing up in the 1960's, one of my favorite shows was "The Wild Wild West"! James West and his trusty side-kick Artemus Gordon would fight old West criminals for an hour my TV screen. My favorite part of the show was right before a commercial break when the scene would get smaller and smaller and become one of the pictures that made up the show's graphic, similar to the one on the left. It was fun to remember what scene each picture was from.

Vino Italiano by Joseph Batianich & David Lynch uses a similar technique at the beginning of each chapter (though I may be the only one who sees it.) The authors relate a story about a trip to the particular Italian region. For example, eating a meal with an Italian class that is learning English and sharing all the curse words they've learned with the authors, or shooting cannons into clouds over a Piedmont vineyard to ward off hail stones, or finding the best gelato shop in Sicily. Each of these little vignettes gives me a mental picture to hang the region on; a mnemonic devices to aid this highly graphic oriented reader.

This book has been invaluable to me as I am learning about Italian wine. I could find out most of the information in the book on the web, but I wouldn't know how to put it all together. The authors cover each region in a way that appeals to me. They cover the soil, the grapes, the wines and even the foods of each area. Each region is broken up into Sparkling Wines, White Wines, Red Wines, and Sweet Wines. This format not only helps to compare and contrast each region, but it makes it easy to skim through the book if you're looking to find information on, say, the red wines of Sardonia.

The end of each chapter is both education and delicious. There are chapter summaries that show the regions production, grapes and wines. There is then a list of top producers of the wines. What I like best about these lists is that I have actually been able to find the wines listed as good examples of the wines. In other references, the wines are either not in any local store or Internet source or they are WAY too expensive for me. The final entry in each chapter is a recipe for a dish from each region and a wine to pair it with. I may be coming back to these sections if I ever learn how to cook.

I've only made it through half the book, but even after I finish reading each chapter I'm sure I won't be finished with this excellent reference. I don't feel like I have to read the book from first chapter to the next, as each section stands on it's own. As I have bought a new wine from a different Italian region, I've read that chapter in the book. This has been a great read. Thanks, Wine Book Club, for suggesting such a great book for our first selection. I can't wait to find out what picture develops for the Tuscany region!

( It's uncanny how much the maps in the book look like WineCountry IT's maps. Does anyone know if there is a relationship between the authors and the website? )


Farley said...

I really like that analogy you make between a technique on a tv show and the one here. Interesting, to be sure.

However good the organization, I think we're all finding this to better as a reference book than just for reading.

Orion Slayer said...

Thanks for the post, Farley.

I agree that it is more of a reference, but I found it easier to read than other wine reference books I have. Are you aware of one of this quality for French wine?

Farley said...

Oh, I definitely agree the style is very approachable.

As for the French counterpart, I can't think of one, but that doesn't mean it's not out there.

Dr. Debs said...

Thanks for participating, OS! I agree with Farley--the analogy to TV is v. good. And yes, unfortunately this may not have been the BEST book to start with--too long, too reference-y, but of course I hadn't read it so I thought we could give it a go. I'm not sorry I own it, but probably can't recommend it as a rip-roaring good read, either. :(

Orion Slayer said...

dr. debs,

I hope I didn't give the impression that I thought this was a bad choice for our first book. The topic and format make it a great choice in my mind. Can't wait to find out what the next book is!

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