The Wines of France: The essential guide for savvy shoppers (January 12, 2007)
by Dean Tudor
The Wines of France: The essential guide for savvy shoppers (Ten Speed Press, 2006, 378 pages, ISBN 1-58008-688-8, $23.95 paper covers) is by Jacqueline Friedrich, a US food and wine writer who splits her time between Paris and the Loire (she had previously written a book on the foods and wines of the Loire which won major awards such as the Glenfiddich and Beard). It has been enthusiastically endorsed by many logrollers, but only Kermit Lynch's words have any real meaning for me.
The book is meant mostly for travelers to France, to indicate the best-value wines there and the hot new winemakers in France. She notes the up-and-coming French wine regions and sub-regions, a boon for the consumer both traveling in France and for buying wines at home. Her listings of top wine producers in each of the ten regions include a broad overview, price ranges, recent vintages, and contact details. Each region has a basic map and a one-page crib sheet for lists of "Must Trys," "Smart Buys," "General Good Values" and "Safe Houses". Believe it or not, Ontario imports a ton of "Safe Houses"!
France created the benchmark wines: pinot noir in Burgundy, sauvignon blanc in Loire, riesling in Alsace, shiraz-syrah in North Rhone, sparkling in Champagne. Unfortunately, while France makes (to most of us) the best and worst wines in the world (and charges accordingly), they are not business marketers. Friedich documents this quite well and notes all the changes. But perceptions of inexpensive wines are slow to change just ask the Ontario wine people. Her takes on unknown wines are valuable: just check out the sections on Jura, Savoie, Languedoc, Provence, and the Southwest of Bergerac and Gaillac. There is a small piece on how to order wine in a French restaurant or in a wine store (she lists eight top stores in Paris), as well as a glossary and an index.
Audience and level of use: Travellers, French wine lovers, libraries.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: She comments on extreme wines (micro-oxygenated, garagiste, biodynamic, hypernatural): "And the resulting wines were plush, immediately seductive, awash in sumptuous ripe fruit and fine oak flavors, and low in acid; any abrasive tannins were absent." Hardly a food wine.
The downside to this book: It is a bit oversized for ease of portability by hand.
The upside to this book: She is very diplomatic. About Beyer wines, a major Alsatian producer in the Ontario marketplace and found in many restaurants, she says "They are pleasant and professional and suited to the distractions of a bustling public space." Is this lady available to write up the rest of the world's wine regions?
Quality/Price Rating: 95