Mrs. Santa's Book Bag
Wines of the Southern Hemisphere: The Complete Guideby Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jenssen (Sterling Epicure, 592 pp., $24.95)
Wine writers usually split the universe into New World/Old World categories. The New World wines are generally fruitier, less long-lived, a good deal cheaper, and easier on the beginning drinker's palate. Old World wines are the more austere counterparts, aimed at being a complement to the food on the dinner table. There are obvious exceptions to the rule, but this partition has been a useful tool for understanding the world of wine.
Along come DeSimone and Jenssen with a completely new way to look at the world. They cover the bottom half of the world's wine producing areas, specifically: South America, Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. The kind winemakers in these regions have spoiled us for decades by shipping us decent quality wines at ridiculously low prices. And despite the low prices, they've generally been sending us their good stuff. However, as the world catches up with the amazing bargains down under, supplies are dropping and demand is pushing prices ever higher. That means it is now time for someone to do a scholarly book on the wineries of the Southern Hemisphere and provide some guidance as to which wines remain great bargains. This is this book's highest calling. Thankfully, the authors cherry-pick, rather than cover each and every winery in every country, sticking with places that provide great quality for the cost.
Each country is broken down into sections. The authors provide a helpful running commentary on what we can expect in each. They then narrow their focus down to a few consistently good wineries, also including a good deal of basic, useful information within each chapter, such as grape descriptions, recipes for matching foods, and interviews with locally renowned winemakers. The book is just large enough for a coffee table, but small enough to curl up with. It is a shame it's not available electronically, because it would be a wonderful guide to take along on a trip. When you consider the amount of accurate and unsnobby information in this book, not to mention its hefty size and intelligent design, Wines of the Southern Hemisphere is an incredible bargain.