Book Review: Books for Cooks 2010
Need help making that Black Friday shopping list? Here's a selection of great cookbook ideas with something to delight any foodie you know.
Reviewed by Wes Marshall, Fri., Nov. 26, 2010
Wine Guides, Pure and Simple
Let Me Tell You About Wine: A Beginner's Guide to Understanding and Enjoying Wineby Oz Clarke
Sterling Epicure, 200 pp., $19.95
Oldman's Brave New World of Wine: Pleasure, Value, and Adventure Beyond Wine's Usual Suspectsby Mark Oldman
W.W. Norton & Company, 333 pp., $19.95 (paper)
Writing a guide to wine is fraught with problems, most of them revolving around what you should leave in and what you should leave out. I struggled through these problems with my own book and recently spent a day each with both Oz Clarke and Mark Oldman, where we commiserated on the decision-making process. Each forged his own solution in a completely different way, and both are highly recommended.
Clarke, who has a couple dozen other books out, is England's most widely known wine personality, and his BBC TV show, Oz and James's Big Wine Adventure, has more than 6 million viewers. He's also a veteran actor on the London stage, a bit actor in a few Hollywood blockbusters, a classical and rock singer with several albums out, and a canny psychologist with a degree from Oxford. His cheerful sense of humor leaps off the page in Let Me Tell You About Wine. Clarke's solution to the space/content conundrum is to touch lightly but broadly, covering a bit about everything you need to know about wine without delving too deeply into the useless crannies that make some wine books so dense and uninspiring. And while the recommendations are somewhat Eurocentric, Clarke makes space for a couple of Texas wines.
The tone of Oldman's Brave New World of Wine is exactly like talking to him. He's a wisecracking New Yorker, full of knowledge and primed to answer almost any question about wine. He's had major TV time as one of the judges on The Winemakers (its first season was won by Austin dude Ross Outon). In this book, he sets off to educate his readers about bargain wines that are lesser known. Wines like Txakoli, Aglianico, and Cahors all light his rockets, and all because of supply and demand. The fewer people out shopping for them, the better the price will be. Where Oldman is really helpful is in finding obscure wines that are little-known but of wonderful quality. Maybe people have a hard time pronouncing them, or they're an unknown name. In any case, Oldman is skilled at ferreting out the bargains and makes spot-on recommendations.
Both books are highly recommended for their combination of accurate information, unstuffy knowledge, and delightful prose.