Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Educating Peter: Book Review




Here's the thing I hate about wine, the attitude. You know what I'm talking about. Wine should be something we enjoy and yet it easily slips into something that intimidates instead. Of course it's not the fault of the wine. It's the people who write about it, sell it and pour it who use it as a weapon against the unsuspecting. I haven't actually met any intimidating winemakers, although it may just be a matter of time.

In my quest to learn more about wine I have been attending wine events, reading up on wine but mostly tasting, as you might imagine. Reading about wine sounds like the most boring thing in the world, but as with anything else if the the writer is talented the subject turns out be fascinating. Two recent books have utterly delighted me in this regard--Lettie Teague's book Educating Peter and Rick Kushman and Hank Beal's A Moveable Thirst Tales and Tastes from a Season in Napa Wine Country. They actually have quite a bit in common. Both are conversations between a wine novice and an expert.

In Educating Peter How I Taught a Famous Movie Critic the Difference Between Cabernet and Merlot or How Anybody Can Become an (Almost) Instant Wine Expert, wine expert and executive editor at Food & Wine magazine Lettie Teague teaches her friend film critic Peter Travers about wine and lets him ask all the silly questions and make all the silly mistakes that put novices like me at ease. Teague is gentle and kind and knowledgeable and just the kind of the friend you'd want taking you by the hand. She has an enthusiasm for wine that helps coax her Chardonnay-loving pal into a wider appreciation of wine.

Whether she's explaining the proper temperatures for serving wine or the importance of oak it's always in a pleasant down to earth manner. The book explores wines from many of the major wine-producing regions of the world. Along the way you get tasty little snippets of Hollywood gossip like John Irving's favorite wine or the celebrity connections to Santa Rosa--sorry you'll have to read the book I'm not telling!

This book is a delight and a real asset to anyone like me who wants to learn more about wine without feeling like they are in school again.

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Over at Bay Area Bites is my review of A Moveable Thirst, an equally charming book.