Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Wine & Vine: Brought to book

These days, bookshop shelves groan under the weight of substantial tomes on all aspects of wine, located conveniently beside the cookery section. They're a top-selling item.

These days, bookshop shelves groan under the weight of substantial tomes on all aspects of wine, located conveniently beside the cookery section. They're a top-selling item.

Their current popularity mirrors the year-on-year increase in wine sales and the consumer desire to know more about the subject. And, of course, a good book on wine goes well with a suitable bottle to hand.

Certainly, the range available targets every section of the market, from those aimed at trendy "yoof", (endorsed by Jamie Oliver) to the more specialist volumes costing around £40.

Then, there are the pocket-sized tenner guides aimed at the mobile drinker, whether in restaurant or wine-merchant. Expect a build-up in new publications between now and Christmas.

For the enthusiast who enjoys a decent glass and want to know more about the subject, I recommend the just-published Wine Made Easy, edited by Susy Atkins, guest wine-expert on Richard and Judy.

Published by wine-specialists Mitchell Beazley at £10.99, the book is straightforward in style, well-organised and helpfully laid out. It gets away completely from the stuffy, yesteryear attitudes to wine with a helpful directness which certainly appeals.

A welcome touch in the Choosing and Buying, chapter, for those who would like to venture beyond chardonnay but are unsure of the territory, is the "also try" tips. Instead of chard, try viognier, semillon or, especially, a dry Loire chenin blanc.

Break from cabernet sauvignon by trying the Italian nebbiolo grape in Barolo (expensive) or Barbaresco (less so). Merlot alternatives might include sangiovese - the grape in chianti - or Argentinian black-cherry malbec.

The pleasurable art of wine tasting (which of course includes sight and nose as well as palate) is dealt with thoroughly and competently without the pseudo-posing of certain star performers. ("I'm getting tar, leather and charred cigar box here".)

Particularly well done is the section on matching food and wine, written by Fiona Beckett. Specific dishes are lined up with "safe bet", wine options, then "adventurous alternatives" offered. Anyone for Australian sparkling red with turkey? Thought not.

Hunter's choice

Pinot Grigio La Prendina Estate 2005. Italian pinot grigio at its best. Refreshing, elegant, powerful lime-zingy, mouth-watering palate. Why bother with chardonnay? Reduced at Marks and Spencer from £7.49 to £5.99 until October.

Mandorla Padronale Shiraz Sicilia 2004. New World in the Old World. Unusual big 13.5pc Sicilian shiraz, plums and black cherry fruit, spicy edge, good finish. M&S September reduction from £6.49 to £5.19.

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