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1001 Wines You Must Taste Before You Die (September 16, 2008)

book review
by Dean Tudor

1001 Wines You Must Taste Before You Die (Universe, 2008; distr. Random House, 960 pages, ISBN 978-0-7893-1683-7, $36.95 US hard covers) is a whopping book package put together by the publisher under General Editor Neil Beckett, formerly an editor for Harpers Wine & Spirit Weekly and now editor of The World of Fine Wine (quarterly), from which, presumably, most of this book is derived.

There is some logrolling with an introduction by a colleague, Hugh Johnson. Beckett is assisted by some 44 named contributors such as Belfrage, Coates, Jefford, Johnson, Mayson and Tom Stevenson.

There are four sections: sparkling wines (100 pages), white wines (290 pages), red wines (440 pages), and fortifieds (90 pages). The odd rosé turns up in the sparkling (Mateus Rosé, of all things!) and under the reds (Chateau Simone Palette). Unfortunately, there is no Tavel or Sasha Lichine's Rosé, which sells for over $100 a bottle.

So these are not all expensive wines, just some classics from around the world. Blue Nun is here too. Canada gets two wines, both icewine and both from the Okanagan (Mission Hill SLC Riesling and Inniskillin Vidal). So what's wrong with Ontario?? Don't we do the best icewine in Canada? Didn't Inniskillin's Niagara Icewine win the big prize last century at VinExpo?

The overall aim of the book is to make choosing the right wines easier. The contributors explain what makes each wine special and when they will be at their best. There is even room for some anecdotes for some of the wines. On average, there is a half-page for each wine, plus space for a label photo. There are also some extraneous photos of vineyards, wineries, and winemakers, but these just tend to be too generic and unfortunately just eat up space.

The main use of this book is as a checklist for the wine connoisseur: how many have you tried? You can match your notes and your skills to the book. All the important regions are here, of course, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Chianti, Napa, Barolo, Rioja, Barossa, Mendoza, Maipo, Alsace, etc.

There is a glossary and contributors' bios. There are also many separate indexes by producers, by price ranges, and by regions. However, the indexing by price ranges is all screwed up, with many Grand Crus ending up in the under $20 range. How about Grace Family Cabernet Sauvignon for under $20? Maybe that's the price for a sniff. I guess the publishers can blame it all on the computer. Unfortunately, those dozen or so expensive wines that are listed in the cheapie section are NOT also listed in the expensive section where they should have been located. Other interesting wines available for under $20 include Sassicaia, DRC St. Vivant, and some Chambertin (one spelled incorrectly)...

Audience and level of use: This seems to be a gift book. Buy it and spend an hour looking through it before you wrap it up.

The downside to this book: Dreadful price range index, and ill-informed at some points.

The upside to this book: Browsable and entertaining.

Quality/Price Rating: 84.

 

 

 

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