Thursday, December 28, 2006

Making Sense of Italian Wine and A Hedonist in the Cellar: Adventures in Wine Are My Two Favorite New Wine Books

This year there were two books I could not wait to get my hands on. Making Sense of Italian Wine by Matt Kramer and A Hedonist in the Cellar: Adventures in Wine by Jay McInerney were my two favorite new wine books of the year 2006. I gotta be honest, I never thought I'd ever include Jay McInerney's and Matt Kramer's names in the same sentence, but I think, introspect, it works like this: Both are wonderful essayists. Matt is skilled and knowledgeable and Jay is an admitted expert amateur (like myself - although I don't place myself in his category) and both are fun reading. Including them in the same article, I think, makes Matt a little sexier....and Jay a little smarter...if you know what I mean. And I mean it as a compliment of the highest rank to both.

The first was Matt Kramer's Making Sense of Italian Wine. Again, I must admit, I had something to do early on with this book. I bought it for Running Press before I left at the end of 2004. That said, it's everything I have ever wanted to know about Italian wine. I like Italian wine, and I know few things, but I am never really comfortable on the subject. And while there are numerous giant volumes out on Italian wine, the field still mystifies me. Matt's book shows you how to make good buys, breaks down the complicated regions and grape names, and all with Matt''s incredible wit and flair. He is the Fred Astaire of wine writers, experienced, dazzling, dapper, and accessible. If you want to know about Italian wine, this book is both for the beginner and moderate.

Now, I have to tell you, one of the biggest surprises to me was reading Jay's first book, Bacchus and Me: Adventures in the Wine Cellar, which was originally published by my good friends over at The Lyons Press. I was instantly mezmorized by Jay's writings. Although I had read some of the columns as they had originally appeared, reading them in succession opened my eyes to truly how wonderfully Jay translated the wine drinking experience in a way that I could appreciate, drawing comparisons by popular culture rather than floral associations. Now back with Knopf (With Gary Fisketjon one presumes?)A Hedonist in the Cellar: Adventures in Wine is another, more erudite collection of wine pieces. One can see Mr. McInerney's growth as a wine guru. And his stories, filled with wine celebs and gliterati, are always charming and informative, and give wine a sex appeal it hasn't had since Hemingway and Fitzgerald drove through the countryside swilling Macon Village like it was coke-a-cola. I must admit I am a fan of Mr. McInerney's work for many years...since I was an aspiring editor, when the world seemed young, and his first books were published at Vintage, and have been a fan ever since.

These are two wonderful books. A maestro and an impresario. One might be Toscanini, the other more Fellini...both masters, both incredibly memorable.

(p.s. sorry, I could not get either image to load...will attempt again later)