Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Wine Book Club: Vino Italiano

The first edition of Wine Book Club launches today!

Dr. Debs of Good Wine Under $20 founded the Wine Book Club to give wine bloggers reason to catch up on their reading and to share their insights on the wine books they have read. For our first review, we read Vino Italiano! by Joseph Bastianich and David Lynch. This book was chosen by David McDuff of McDuff's Food and Wine Trail. Reviews will be posted today on numerous wine blogs as well as Wine Book Club sites on Shelfari and Facebook.

Vino Italiano is a large and comprehensive reference book about Italian wines. At over 500 pages, I am sure that some had difficulty finishing it before today's deadline. Being the voracious reader that I am, I did finish the entire book. Overall, I was very pleased with what I read, though I have a couple reservations about it.

The book is broken down into three main sections. The First section, The Basics, begins with a short history of Italian wine making. It then goes on to explain Italian wine laws as well as how to read an Italian wine label. There is also a map and chart describing the principal grapes of Italy. Finally, there is a brief explanation of why an Italian wine costs more outside of the country.

The Second section, The Regions, is the vastly largest section of the book. It is broken down into chapters on nineteen geographical regions. For each region, there is a basic description of the area, both geographic and cultural. Then there is a description of their different wines, red, white, sparkling and sweet. Next, there is a selection of "fast facts" on the region as well as food and wine pairing suggestions. Finally, a representative recipe is provided.

The Third section, The Data, is a series of Appendices including a glossary of Italian wine terminology, descriptions of Italian grapes, DOC and DOCG zones, wine producers and more.

The book is easy to understand and there are some numerous, interesting anecdotes spread throughout the book. But, it still feels more like a textbook with all of the detailed information it provides. And I don't really think I could retain a fraction of the voluminous information in a single reading. This is a book that works best as a reference tool, something to turn to when you want to know more about a certain Italian wine region, varietal or producer. You probably won't find a more comprehensive reference work on Italian wines.

There is a small issue as well that some of the items in the book may be slightly outdated as it only covers up to 2004. Some of the wines mentioned in the book may not be available now, and some newer producers may not be mentioned in the book. For most of the other general information on Italian wines provided in the book, there should not be a problem. This book would make a great accompaniement to a yearly Italian wine guide.

I have long been a fan of Italian wines and have found some true gems through Adonna Imports, which imports numerous Italian wines from small producers. I will be attending an Italian wine tasting this Friday which has been set up by Adonna Imports at Salem Wine Imports. Christoph Künzli, the winemaker of Le Piane in the Northern Piedmont, will be there to showcase his wines. Christoph's vineyard is located in the Novara region of Piedmont in the Boca DOC. Christoph Künzli will also be present at two upcoming wine dinners. They will held on February 28th at The Blue Room in Cambridge and March 3rd at Il Capriccio in Waltham. I will be attending the dinner at Il Capriccio.

A couple weeks ago, I tasted his 2004 Le Piane La Maggiorina ($12.99), from the Colline Novaresi Rosso DOC from Boca. The wine is made from three unusual Italian grapes and one common one, including Croatina, Vepsolina, Uva Rara and Nebbiolo. Vino Italiano helped to provide some more information about those grapes as well as the DOC. I really knew little about either so Vino Italiano helped educate me on those matters.

I loved the lush berry flavors of the wine as it just burst with bright fruit. There was some acidity and it did pucker my mouth a little bit. It would be a great food wine, from pizza to veal parmigiana. And at the price, it is an excellent value for an everyday wine. Now I look forward to trying more Le Piane wines.

I will also return to Vino Italiano to read more about the Piedmont section in preparation for meeting Christoph. Maybe I can then devise some interesting questions for him at the upcoming tasting or wine dinner. I am sure I will return time and time again to Vino Italiano when I find a new Italian wine.

Now I look forward to reading the next book for Wine Book Club!

1 comment:

David McDuff said...

Thanks for participating, Richard. You've struck a common chord in feeling that Vino Italiano works better as a reference tool than as a narrative work.

You've also earned bonus points for trying something new and including your tasting notes. You should look out for wines from Lessona, another up and coming DOC in northeastern Piemonte which specializes in Nebbiolo based wines, some of which also include Croatina and Vespolina.