Reviewed by Jane Warwick
This is an excellent book! The full title is ‘Wine for Normal People – A Guide for Real People Who Like Wine but not the Snobbery that Goes With It’ and the book certainly delivers on that promise. It has been written by Elizabeth Schneider, a certified sommelier and specialist of wine who produces her own podcast ‘Wine for Normal People’. It is quite clear that she knows her subject but equally important she knows how to impart her knowledge to others in a clear and simple way. However, in no way is this book ‘dumbed down’ and if you spend the time studying it you will learn a lot. As it says on the fly-leaf: This book is a translation of all things wine related for normal people who love wine but can’t find a book that serves up the important stuff they need to know in a way that is conversational, relatable and entertaining.
The book is divided into eight main chapters and unlike many wine books the first chapters deal with the basics of wine tasting and the vocabulary needed to describe them. This means that you are immediately immersed in the practical aspects of tasting and enjoying wine before going on to explore the different regions of the world where wines are produced and how geography influences the final product. The final chapters deal with food and wine pairing and choosing a wine in a shop or restaurant. Again, these are practical skills and the author gives the reader various practical exercises to hone their skills. For example, one exercise is to take a very tannic, astringent wine like Cabernet Sauvignon and to experience it both before and after eating a piece of butter. The fat makes the wine taste less bitter and even a little fruitier which explains why such wines are recommended with red meat or cheese. These exercises are great fun and could form the basis of some very entertaining evenings spent with wine-loving friends!
The layout of the book is very user-friendly and includes lots of in-set coloured boxes containing key facts and important Q and A’s. These help the reader concentrate on the subject being discussed and avoid the word-fatigue associated with many textbooks. In addition, there is phonetic guidance on how to pronounce important words and grape varieties e.g. HERMITAGE (ERM-EE-TAJH). This is extremely useful, especially if your foreign language skills are poor.
Although the book can be read from cover to cover, it can also be dipped into at leisure. This is particularly useful when dealing with the various wine growing areas as you may want to learn more about a particular region before visiting it on holiday. You can then ensure that you are well equipped to make the most of your visit to, for example, Burgundy.
The RRP for the book is £17.99 but Amazon sell it at a 30% discount (£12.59 for the hardcover and £11.96 for the Kindle edition). At this price it is very good value and would make an excellent Christmas gift for any wine-loving friend or could be added to your own Christmas wish list.
Fortunately, in the UK, much of the snobbery associated with wine is a thing of the past and many wine sellers, specialist wine merchants and restaurant sommeliers now treat their customers with respect. Nevertheless, there has been a ‘mystique’ associated with wine and a jargon which can baffle the uninitiated. This book will go a long way to breaking down any such concerns and ensuring that you not only continue to enjoy wine but also understand a lot more about it.
RRP: £17.99 (Hardback)
Available to buy from Amazon here.