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Good Better Best Wines: A no-nonsense guide to popular wines (May 6, 2010)

book review
by Dean Tudor, www.deantudor.com

Good Better Best Wines: A no-nonsense guide to popular wines (Alpha Books, 2010; distr. Penguin, 238 pages, ISBN 978-1-59257-977-8, $12.95 US, soft covers) is by Carolyn Evans Hammond, wine writer and sommelier. Her first book was 1000 Best Wine Secrets.

Here, she has produced the latest guide to best-selling wines in the USA, but with an engaging format. She has categorized the wines by grape variety such as Merlot or Pinot Grigio or a blend. Then she further subdivides by nationally distributed price ranges such as $5 to $7.99, $8 to $10.99, and $11 to $15. Then her last category is to pick wines in each reference area (such as a Chardonnay for $10.99) and give us her notes on these wines: the good, better and best of the title. Her cut-off was $15, except for dessert wines. In Canada, this would be $20 to $25.

And of course, you know that American stores widely discount best-selling wines as loss-leaders, and give case discounts. None of this happens in Canada, so we'll just have to play along. Quite a few of the wines are available in Canada, since these are (after all) "best-selling" popular wines. But since most Americans drink domestic wines, there are (for Canada) a disproportionate number of US wines. There are no Canadian wines, which (if you included Cellared in Canada products) would lead to Ms. Hammond's next book, on Canadian wines, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

There is the usual thumbnail primer on wine basics, on why we drink what we drink, notes on the varieties, many sidebars of interesting information, and some choices for bargain wines and party wines. "Parties" include wedding receptions (an invaluable guide here for the upcoming June brides), dinner parties, cocktail parties, BBQs, beach/cottage/pool, garden parties, and banquets. Each wine is illustrated with a small black and white pix of the bottle and label for shelf recognition.

Audience and level of use: Regular wine drinkers looking for suggestions on trading up or trying new wines. Its size makes it very convenient to take with you into a wine store, hoping to spot a sale.

Some interesting or unusual facts: The quality of everyday wines has never been better.

The downside to this book: Lacks an index, so there is no easy way to find out what she thinks about a wine. Also, a quick check through an index would make it easier to correlate with a wine that is on sale.

The upside to this book: A great way to pick up basic wine knowledge without breaking the bank. It's "back to basics," "learn the rules before you break the rules." Have a clear understanding of what wines you yourself like at this moment before moving on.

Quality/Price Rating: 91.

 

 

 

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