Book Review: The Concise Guide to Wine & Blind Tasting
by Jonell Galloway
The Concise Guide to Wine & Blind Tasting is destined to become a modern classic. Written by Neel Burton, psychiatrist and Oxford professor, and James Flewellen, biophysicist at Oxford – together founders of the Oxford Wine Academy — the book is well stocked with vital information about all aspects of wine, from soil and vine to drinking for pleasure and blind tasting.
Its clear, detailed information will appeal to serious amateurs and experienced professionals alike. The first three chapters tackle the history of wine as well as the principles of viticulture and winemaking, using an approach unique to the authors, reflecting their methodical way of thinking and scientific backgrounds. This section serves as a comprehensive, accessible introduction for less seasoned wine drinkers, giving them a firm technical basis and the curiosity to want to continue learning.
The ensuing twenty-three chapters address the world’s geographic regions, including three dedicated to notable French appellations, sparkling wine and fortified wine, respectively. Chapters are well structured, dealing with the lie of the land, climate, soil, grape varieties, appellations, and wine styles, and give thorough attention to each of these components. The authors explain how to differentiate wines based on the interplay of these factors, and address the effect of appearance, palate and nose and how these interact with one’s senses and perceptions. This section serves as a reference for even the most seasoned wine drinker.
For those interested in blind tasting, the appendices explain how to set up a blind tasting, and include crib sheets by grape and terroir — a most useful reference for those interested in honing their skills — along with international classification systems and food and wine matching.
This is both a user’s manual and a connoisseur’s guide, and its clear and fluent exposition sets it apart from other guides. You’ll keep this reference book on your shelf; its pages will yellow (and possibly purple) and show their wear and tear. You might even pass it on to your grandchildren. That’s how good it is.