SNIFFING THE CORK by Judy Beardsall


and Other Wine Myths Demystified
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A rather unhelpful introduction to wine from Beardsall, a wine professional, that may well leave neophytes with more confusions and doubts than when they started.

Not that this expert doesn't have intelligent things to say about sommeliers and wine-shop clerks, storing wine and types of glasses, and (most important of all) making sure you have fun drinking wine. To this latter end, she affects a breezy, carefree style: “Wines go with everything and there really are no hard and fast rules to worry about.” But then Beardsall will go on to tell you to be careful about salads and asparagus and never drink a dessert wine except for dessert. In fact, she has plenty of rules and opinions, many of which are purely subjective. That’s fine—wine is all about subjectivity—but it underlines the need for experience and further daunts the newcomer. Beardsall’s reading of a wine list is a case in point: “I would be unlikely to order a $72 bottle of Merlot, especially since I don't know the producer.” How does this help the aspiring oenophile? She notes the importance of terroir and producer, but never clearly defines their relative merits. “Whatever the wine from whatever grape or region, what's really important is the human element in the wine-making process,” Beardsall comments at one point; then a few pages later states, “wine-making is not about human intervention, but as I've emphasized throughout, it's about soil and climate.” She chides one reviewer for saying a wine reminded him of red brick, “even though of course, he most likely never tasted brick.” Then she refers to wine as “velvety,” leaving you to wonder if she has been chewing on the curtains. Other peculiar bits of advice include: “If the wine is great, drink it room temperature to coolish. If it's mediocre, or worse, the colder it should be.”

This is advice? Why drink mediocre (or worse) wine at all?

Pub Date: July 16th, 2002
ISBN: 0-7434-3800-0
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Atria
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2002