If Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg’s new book, The Food Lover’s Guide to Wine (Little, Brown, $35), were on a restaurant menu, it would be a chateauneuf-du-pape paired with a cassoulet — there’s a little of everything in it for everyone who pays attention to what they eat and what they drink with it.
Page and Dornenburg, who are paired in marriage as well as in writing books, are veterans at this, as previous authors of The Flavor Bible and What to Drink with What You Eat. So this is not “wine for dummies.” Instead, this book is for people who spend as much time thinking about eating and drinking as they actually do performing those acts.
I had a chance to have dinner with the authors the other evening, along with some other folks, over Greek food paired with Greek wines at Milos in New York City — the first time I met them, but hopefully not the last. They struck me as people who are having a ball at what they do — friendly and outgoing and not the least pretentious — but who are at the same time very much up to the task of telling you everything you want to know about vermentino or chasselas, including what’s in them, their textures, volume, weight, best serving temperature, best food pairings, and which producers make the good stuff.
By the way, you pronounce them “vair-men-TEE-noh” and “SHAHSS-lah.” “It took forever getting agreement on those pronunciations,” Dornenburg laughs.
The book essentially consists of long, but interesting, essays on every aspect of wine selection, storage, and usage with lots and lots of quotes by sommeliers, followed by encyclopedic listings of more than 250 different types of wines, along with some interesting lists. (Frequent big-city diners can play a game of remembering how many of these sommeliers have served them and what new restaurants those notably nomadic folks have moved onto in the few weeks since the book was printed.)
How should you use this book? Two ways, I would suggest. One is for casual, but in-depth reading about a variety of wine topics as the mood strikes you. The second is as an easy reference volume if you want a well-organized and thorough, yet quick-to-read rundown on any type of wine that you just won’t get with Wikipedia.
Graphically, I love the book. Even though there are a lot of words here in the 336 pages (WARNING: Wine educators at work!), the layout is great, the type very legible, and the text broken up with charts, photos, and listings.
As a holiday gift, I would buy this for anyone who spends an extra 30 minutes at the dinner table still discussing food after the coffee has grown cold, who goes out to eat a few times each month to places whose specialties aren’t stuffing doggy bags, or who spends more time in wine shops than in sporting-goods stores.