For all the beer-drinking die-hards, Laughren serves an enticing, thorough, though not suffocating introduction to hops’ fermented friend, the grape.
Though the shelves creak under the weight of wine books for dummies and gun-shy tipplers terrified by wine-speak, here’s a welcome addition that’s relaxed, inviting and intelligent. Laughren is a bon vivant without being a boob, a sensualist even if he wouldn’t put it that way. He likes his beer—the book is liberally sprinkled with beer wisdom, as if to soothe the wary brewer—but he’s also a big fan of wine, and he wants readers in on the action. He aims to provide an unintimidating yet rich tour through the world of wine, highlighting its conviviality but undergirding it with a candid sense of what’s in the glass. With a healthy dose of detail, Laughren touches on the history of wine, factors in its production and an appreciation of terroir. He sketches various social scenarios and the wines he might choose to complement them: a zinfandel with a basketball game on TV; a big, young Brunello di Montalcino when the brothers of your new squeeze stop by to check you out; a cabernet sauvignon for dinner with the boss; a dry sherry when the squeeze comes over to break up with you. A sweet, bright humor pervades the book, as Laughren makes wine tasting sound like fun rather than an opportunity to embarrass yourself. His descriptions—“like sucking stones and chips of slate dipped in lime and lychee juice”—require attention. He’s chummy, like a knowledgeable friend who doesn’t need to wear it on his sleeve, though the insight seeps through. Most importantly, he’s on your side: “there’s no need to excuse your preferences,” he says, but be open to new experiences. Also included are excellent maps of wine-producing regions and a brief survey of various oenological tools.
Cheers to this spirited, perceptive guide.