Our assignment for the first edition of the Wine Book Club (WBC) came from David of McDuff's Food and Wine Trail. He tasked us with a book longer than any I have read in the last 5 years, unless you count Harry Potter and law school case books. Yes, this makes me less than intellectual, but honestly, I don't have much of an inclination to read any more. I got tired of it to be truthful, and I still read so much for work, that the thought of picking up a long book when I get home just doesn't appeal to me. I clearly read a bit, I've reviewed a few wine books here for you before, and will continue to do so as I get more from PR people and publishers (in fact, I've got one for you soon, I read half on the plane to Atlanta and intend to finish is Friday on the way home!). So I must say, I was actually quite glad when Dr. Debs proposed the idea of a wine book club. Like other wine geeks, wine books pile up on my shelves, and I really should get around to them!
With that in mind, I picked up this month's book, Vino Italiano, by Joseph Bastianich and David Lynch, and got to reading. It's 531 pages including all indexes and appendices. It took me the whole assignment time, but I did it.
First thoughts: The organization, especially with the appendices and indexes, makes this the ideal reference book on Italian Wine. You can find anything about Italian wine that you never thought you wanted to know instantaneously. Each chapter has a handy guide at the end giving the quick and dirty on the region, the principle grapes, key vintages, etc. I found the guides to be one of the most useful parts of the book, if you aren't inclined to read it in its entirety, and trust me, I'd be the last to blame you for that one, you can easily flip to the guides and get a fast overview of the region, which can assist you in deciding if the chapter is one that will intrigue you or not. I see myself turning to this book both as a reference in the future, and for more knowledge on particular grapes and regions.
Second thoughts: The stories at the beginning of each chapter kept me going to the next chapter, even when I felt a little bogged down in the weeds. They were fun and charming tales of a slice of life in each region, and I salivated over some of the food described, while feeling a bit repulsed by other "delicacies."
Third thoughts: The book contains so much information, that it's hard to digest all at once, and I think perhaps the pick and choose as you are interested in a region approach might be the best in tackling this book.
Fourth thoughts: Italian wines and varietals were on my list this year of things to learn about. So really this was a perfect book for me to read. I dove in, and was again astounded by the sheer volume of types of Italian wine. But alas, I came away a touch disappointed as I learned that many of the very small production local grapes are just not available here in the US. I guess that cements my desire to make our next BIG vacation to Italy...it'll satisfy the classical historian in Matt and my desire to drink lots of Italian wines and gorge myself on priscutto drizzled with fresh pressed olive oil....::drifts into a daydream of cheese, cured meats, and wine::
And ultimately, that's where Vino Italiano left me: hungry (thirsty?) to try more Italian wines (and cured meats), and to continue referencing the book to learn more as I am drinking. Which, I think might be my next adventure. Pick a chapter, find a wine from that region, and drink the wine while learning about the region.
Thanks to David for hosting this month and to Dr.Debs for the WBC idea!