Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page know food and they know wine. The authors have penned award-winning titles such as The Flavor Bible and What to Drink with What You Eat. Much like those books, the Food Lover's Guide to Wine is a reference for food lovers and wine lovers alike who appreciate wine as an integral part of enjoying food.
For the first time in history, Americans drank more wine than the French in 2009. In 2010, the U.S. became the largest wine-consuming country in the world. Many Americans however, still drink soft drinks with their meals. In this latest book, Dornenburg and Page seek to teach people that wine can be a healthful, affordable accompaniment to any meal and that by learning what flavors you like, how to read labels, select and serve wine, food lovers can expand their enjoyment of wine.
The book begins with a timeline of important events in the American history of wine, such as 1839, when George Calvert Yount planted the first vineyards in the Napa Valley. Throughout the book, Dornenburg and Page interviewed hundreds of sommeliers and other wine experts about their experiences with and advice for learning about wine. This means there isn't a consistent author voice throughout the book, which takes some getting used too. But it also means there are hundreds of collective years of experience within the covers of Food Lover's Guide to Wine to learn from.
The six noble wine grapes (Chardonnay, Reisling, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc) are compared to a box of primary colored crayons. Instead of being overwhelmed with every color of crayon in a box of 64, kids start off with just a box of eight. The authors suggest the same approach for learning about wine--don't get overwhelmed with all the varietals of wine available, start small and learn the basics first.
There's a chart of choosing wines by flavors such as grass, honey, raspberries, raisins, vanilla, etc. So, if you know you like a black currant flavor, you should seek out Syrah or Cabernet Sauvignon. Other tips for learning which wines you like include charts for choosing wines by sweetness, weight and style. If you normally drink a Syrah, try Nero d'Avola, Tinta de Toro or Zinfandel.
The bulk of the book is dedicated to an A to Z guide of more than 250 wine varietals, describing their key characteristics and flavors, provenance and tips for aging and serving. This is like the box of 64 crayons. There are suggestions for food pairings and a list of 150 wines under $15.
While I'd consider this a reference book, it isn't one you can just pick up when you need a suggested wine pairing for braised short ribs. Once you've read the book a bit however, you know that Syrah goes well with beef, but you've also read that Emily Wines, the Master Sommelier of Fifth Floor in San Francisco likes a California Cabernet Sauvignon from the Alexander Valley with a fatty beef dish.
There chapter on pairing wines with each course of a meal is helpful and includes sidebars throughout for pairing wines with various cuisines, common dishes and food and wine flavor affinities such as Sauternes with almonds and peaches. There isn't an exact answer to every dish, though many of the quoted experts suggested Champagne as the wine that can go with just about every course and every cuisine. So, if you want to impress your friends with your knowledge of wine pairings, you can't go wrong with serving bubbly.
Meet Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page this week on their visit to Seattle to promote Food Lover's Guide to Wine. They will be at Book Larder in Fremont on Thursday, December 1 from 2:30-3:30 p.m. for a free book signing. They'll also be at the Tom Douglas cookbook social the same day from 4-7 p.m. Tickets are $20 and include entrance to the event, a drink ticket and food samples from over a dozen cookbook authors there to talk about and sell their books.