Curious to learn everything about wine — and have fun doing so? Your local bookstore’s shelves groan with thick, wordy volumes about wine, but if you really want a fun, readable, quick study of wine basics — and to laugh out loud while reading it — look to Jennifer Rosen’s The Cork Jester’s Guide to Wine.
Now, I’ve never been a lady-in-waiting in an elegant French or English court, but from childhood remember stories that the court jester — a painted clown, if you will — was the only person freely allowed to mimic the king with absolute impunity. And this is exactly what Jennifer Rosen is doing in her hysterically funny book. Rosen pokes playful fun at the "serious and solemn way" most Americans were raised to look at wine. If I understand Rosen’s intention correctly, in this book she wants to make appreciation of wine accessible to all, without all the hyperbole usually associated with the topic.
Call this a "reality-based approach" to learning wine, if you will, as Rosen has selectively chosen subjects she feels to be key concerns of people wanting to understand more about wine. So do not expect the book to begin with a serious discussion of soil types around the world, vine diseases, and the appropriate way to appreciate wine. Instead, Rosen chooses topics such as how to maximize a tour to a vineyard, how to choose and order wines in a restaurant, and how to read a wine label (it is more difficult than you may imagine).
Best of all, what I loved about this book was Rosen’s colorful, witty writing. You will find a zany zinger on every page. One of the funniest is on page 44, in a discussion of the Malbec grape. Here she describes the Malbec grape: "Malbec has a second rate role in Europe. In Bordeaux, it’s a blender, little more than Viagra for flaccid reds." Now, I write about Malbec quite a bit, and seeing it as "Viagra" never really occurred to me — or possibly hundreds of other wine writers and wine makers. Colorful anecdotes like this are what make Jennifer Rosen such a valuable resource to the wine community. She is not afraid to call a spade a spade, or to say something about grapes or winemaking so brazen readers find themselves gasping in surprise.
Jennifer Rosen has won many awards for her writing, including the prestigious James Beard Award for Internet writing, and deserves a place now on your bookshelf.