Tuesday, 15 October 2013
Two new books: 500 Wines for 100 occasions + World’s Best Cider
David Williams: 500 wines for 100 occasions, Apple, £18.99, 256 pages, hbk
As Elin McCoy says in her introduction David has chosen an unusual approach. ‘Plenty of books rate the world’s best wines, but this one is perhaps the first to go much further and guide us to the wines that fit the stories of our lives, reflecting and enriching the way we think.
In his introduction David notes that ‘It’s a simple point – one that might be condensed to that weary old phrase “horses for courses” – but it is equally valid, and frequently overlooked, when it comes to wine. Too often when we choose wine, we get caught up, even a little anxious, in a hunt for the “best” or what we feel we should like, rather than looking for something that fits our mood or the occasion.’
‘Context in other words, is everything with wine. Who you are with, what you’re eating, where you are, your mood, the time of year, the weather; your evolving tastes, the money you have in your pocket, the scale and kind of occasion, the many trivial things that happen on a given day…All have an influence on your choice. And it’s that sense of wine as part of life, rather than as a free-floating aesthetic object, that I have tried to get back to with this book.’
There are three sections with the 100 occasions and their wine suggestions taking up the bulk of the book. The other two cover how to buy, store and serve wine, while the last section lists suggestions for styles and occasions. Examples include 10 affordable classic reds and fortified treats. David’s 100 occasions include Blind Date, Done Deal, Baby Shower, Splitting Up and Golden Wedding Anniversary.
With a foreword by Elin McCoy (Bloomberg News and author of The Emperor of Wine: The Rise of Robert M. Parker, Jr. and the Reign of American Taste). Photo credits to Peter Casidy, Michel Smith and Jon Wyand.
I will admit to being wary about this style of book, which recalls the 1001 series. However, David writes very well and his intros to each occasion hold my attention. Whether this a book I would use to get ideas for wines for particular occasions is more doubtful. 500 Wines for 100 occasions does clearly show up the limitations of a score awarded without a context. I well remember drinking a chilled rosé on a sunny restaurant terrace on Varese’s Sacro Monte in April 1978. CRM and I were staying with a friend in Varese and it was our first holiday together. I have no idea who made the rosé, or the vintage but it was perfect for the occasion!
Pete Brown & Bill Bradshaw: World’s Best Cider – Taste, Tradition and Terroir, from Somerset to Seattle, jacqui small £25, 256 pages, hbk
Pete Brown provides the words and Bill Bradshaw the photos.
‘Cider is the world’s most misunderstood drink. Once revered on British dinner tables as ‘English wine’, it went through a period of being given to lowly farm labourers as a portion of their pay, acquired a reputation for being ‘rough’, and became something associated mainly with vagrants and under-age tipplers. In the last five years, however, it has enjoyed an extraordinary renaissance.
In some countries it’s seen as ‘cider beer’. In others it’s referred to as apple wine. In the United States, for the last century, ‘cider’ has referred to sweet, unfermented apple juice, with the resurgent fermented beverage grudgingly called ‘hard cider’.
And yet despite the variety and fluctuation, cider has a soul to it, a consistency. The ice cider drinker at a fine Montreal restaurant knows nothing of the eccentric cider maker in a dilapidated farm above the Somerset levels, and the Bulmers drinker in an Irish pub may think she has nothing to do with the man ‘throwing’ sidra in an Asturian chigre. But they are all touched by cider’s unique spirit. Wherever cider is made or consumed, there is a benign, joyful anarchy in the air.’
The book opens with a section on cider basics covering how its history, how it is made and includes a look at perry. The main section covers Planet Cider with entries on cider around the world. It closes with a look at matching cider and food.