Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Heavyweight Wine Book

Recently I was provided with a review copy of Wine, edited by Andre Dominé.

The most obvious thing about this book is how heavy it is! I put it on the bathroom digital scale and got a reading of 8.2 pounds. This is a massive volume.

So is there enough substance in the book to justify the weight? I'd say definitely yes, there is. This is a work along the lines of Jancis Robinson's Oxford Companion to Wine, or Hugh Johnson's World Atlas of Wine. Its purpose is to present all matters and facets of winedom, and that it does.

The first 140 pages of this 926-page volume deals with the history and background of wine, including an overview on tasting, handling and enjoying the elixir. The reader is also taken to the vineyards and wineries and given an education about grape growing and wine making.

The remainder of the book focuses on what seems to be all of the wine produciing regions in the world.

Rather than a textbook or encyclopedia, a book this comprehensive necessarily can't dive into too much detail in any one subject. Instead, the reader is treated to an excellent overview of all the aspects of the wine world - anything you could think of, really. There are oodles of pictures, maps, charts and illustrations, making it a graphic as well as textual delight. It's really the kind of book that you'd want to pick up and randomly select a section to read on an informal basis for pleasure. There's also plenty of stats and facts if you want as well, but if you are a wine lover or want to give a thoughtful gift to someone who is, my suggestion is to give serious thought to this book.

Here are a few pictures I took of pages I just randomly turned to, in order to give you some idea of the scope of the book (click on the images for a larger view).

Negatives: I believe this book was originally published in German (the original title was Wein) and there is more focus given to European wines compared to other areas. North America doesn't seem to get as many pages as it should, considering its significance in the wine kingdom. Still, if one wants to pursue American wines in more detail there are plenty of other resources available.

My only other criticism is that this book is so heavy! That's unavoidable, I suppose.

Right now this book sells for $32.97 at Amazon ($49.95 list price) and if you ask me, that's a great price for a work of this nature. I have to remind you that I received the book gratis from the publisher who asked me to review it, and also that if you click the following link that takes you to Amazon, I get a share of anything that you purchase from them during your current visit. That isn't why I am recommending this book, though. If you are looking for a comprehsive work about wine, one that would either make an impressive gift or provide useful reading for yourself, this is one to really consider.

If you are interested, here is the link to the Amazon product page: Andre Domine - Wine

Other than that.. I've been crazy busy lately but I plan to post some tasting notes soon. Meanwhile, I wish you all a very merry and blessed Christmas!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

NewAir Tower

Back in the middle of 2007 I purchased a couple of wine coolers under the Emerson label from Target. Each holds 8 bottles and works under the thermoelectric principle. I like to call them my "Emerson Suites." Wine suites, that is.

Well, 16 slots is not a whole lot. Finally I decided to purchase another wine cooler unit, this time a little bigger. After doing much perusing on the internet, I decided on the AW-280E made by NewAir. Or rather, I should say it is under the NewAir label because I doubt that most, if not all of the brands actually make their own units. I bet they all come from the same factory in China.

This one holds 28 bottles and, like the Emerson Suites, it works using thermoelectric principles. Since it is a lot taller than the other two, I call this one my "NewAir Tower." I ordered it from a company called Air N Water. The reasons I chose them were: (1) good pricing; (2) good feedback on E-Bay; (3) nearby location for fast shipping.

I didn't buy the unit on E-Bay but that's how I found out about them because they sell there. They also have their own website and I wound up placing the order by phone. It shipped out the next day and I received it the day after that.

The box arrived via Fed Express ground in great condition (albeit at 7:45 on a rainy night and the guy didn't have the decency to ring the doorbell. I just happened to look outside and there it was sitting on the porch). The unit itself looks very nice considering the price and seems to be constructed well. It looks exactly like the pictures on the website.

I've had it for a couple of weeks and so far, so good. The manual says it chills down to 54 degrees and that's where I have it set. The actual temperature ranges from 57.7 to 58.5 degrees, however, according to the thermometer I used. That's fine with me and I've come to expect that the temperature on the readout is never as low as the actual temperature anyway. We've been having a bout of cold weather lately so I'd be interested in knowing how this unit does when it gets warmer. It's been very quiet and very steady so far; the fan hardly turns on.

The shelves are on the narrow side but they still accommodate Burgundy and Rhone-style bottles. You just have to alternate facing the necks inward and outward on the shelves.

This was the lowest-priced of the various 28-bottle units I looked at on the web. The most expensive was the Vinotemp. They all look suspiciously the same, with very similar specs. I bet they are all the same, save for slight cosmetic differences that must appear on the order sheet that gets submitted to the factory in China - like do you want the glass tinted, or put a stripe here or there, etc. etc. But in substance, mechanically I think they are all the same. So why pay more?

Anyway.. here's a picture of the NewAir Tower:

Thursday, December 11, 2008

2006 Saisons des Vins (Copain) Pinot Noir l'Automne

Another quick note here.. I purchased this from Jill at Domaine547 and, like the other wines that have come from her, it was a good one.

It looked like a Pinot Noir - that is, it wasn't some deep, dense-looking thing but it had an attractive color. It also smelled and tasted like a Pinot Noir. My initial impressions were strawberries with a creme soda aspect. Along with it were flavors of spice, cherries, and a bit of earthiness.

The fruit balanced nicely with the tannins and acidity after getting some air. At first it was on the rough side. After about 1/2 an hour in the glass a nice, medium-weight silky smooth texture emerged. Contrasted with the Cameron Hughes Aussie Shiraz I had a little while back, there was such a difference in the weight and textures. The latter had a more velvety, textured palate feel and was a lot heavier but both had their merits.

I'd say the wine is drinking nicely right now if you let it breathe for a while, but there's no rush to drink it up.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


Well I guess it had to happen sooner or later. Last night I was rinsing my Riedel Sommelier series Burgundy glass when I clinked the faucet hose against the inner rim. I heard a sickening dull cracking sound and my worst fears were realized. The thin crystal had cracked!

Am I going to replace it? I doubt it. The risk of breaking such a delicate stem compared to its cost, which based on my perusal of pricing at Amazon has gone up, is too great to justify getting another one. At least for now.

In case you aren't familiar with this crystal, it is the glass on the left side of the trio in the picture heading this blog.

Oh well, it was good while it lasted but no use crying over split crystal. Sigh..

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Cameron Hughes Lot 41 Shiraz

Just a brief little post here.. The other day I opened a bottle of Cameron Hughes' Lot 41, an Australian Shiraz.

For 12 bucks it was definitely a good buy. Full bodied, lots of chocolately fruit with notes of tobacco, a nice texture and good Shiraz character. It's drinking well right now but should keep for a while, too.