Thursday, December 07, 2006

Wine Report 2007

If you haven't heard of this book you aren't alone. I've never heard of it either, but it's won all kinds of awards. And if you are seriously interested in wine and like finding different, unusual bottlings I think there is no better book you could get yourself (or, since the holidays are coming, put on your wish list) than this little volume of research and analysis.

Tom Stevenson's Wine Report (DK Publishing, $15) offers a refreshing overview of the world of wine that will shake up what you think you know about wine's big picture. The reason? This is a European publication, written by a team of about 40 writers, including many Masters of Wine. And it is a yearbook, designed to give you an overview of the past year's news and developments. You get pieces on Burgundy by the respected writer Clive Coates, on wine and the internet by Tom Cannavan, and on California wines by Dan Berger. Besides serving as the general editor,Stevenson is particularly known for his knowledge of champagnes which he writes about in this volume. He also contributes to Tom Cannavan's Wine Pages (Stevenson's columns can be read by clicking here).

The book is organized by region, with sections devoted to Bordeaux, Portugal, the Pacific Northwest and other major viticultural areas. Each region is covered in about 5 pages--the perfect length for when you're drinking your morning coffee, or sipping a glass of Alsatian wine before dinner, and need some light reading. You wouldn't want to read the book cover to cover, but if you handle it like a magazine you're on the right track. Each region has an overview, an opinion piece, vintage reports, and a series of top ten lists covering the best producers, the up-and-coming producers, rapidly improving producers, the best value producers, the greatest quality wines, the best bargains, and the most exciting wines.

Some idea of the different approach you will get from this annual can be seen in Dan Berger's treament of California. Following his opinion piece on misleading labeling, we have his greatest wine producers. The top three are: Joseph Phelps, Stag's Leap--and Navarro. I think Navarro wines are the unsung heroes of California wine, but when do you see big write-ups on them? And you pretty much have to buy their wines direct from the vineyard because you aren't likely to find them in your supermarket (though they can sometimes be had at Whole Foods).

Among the up-and-coming producers? Campion, Shannon Ridge, and Katherine Hall. Best value producers include Bogle, McManis, and Canyon Road. I've got wines from some of these makers in my wineracks, and will certainly keep my eye out for those I'm less familiar with.

Among the greatest quality wines in Berger's piece? the 2002 Phelps Insignia ($145), Navarro's 2004 Gewurztraminer from the Anderson Valley ($14), and Dutton Goldfield's 2003 Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley's Sanchietti Vineyard ($52). How's that for range!

Best bargains include the Navarro 2004 Edelzwicker ($11), the Bonny Doon 2004 Pacific Rim Riesling ($9), and the Dry Creek 2005 Chenin Blanc ($13).

And unlike any other wine guide I've seen this year, their "most exciting finds" actually sound exciting: the 2004 Chasselas Dore Berthoud ($15), the 2004 Milat Chenin Blanc ($18), and the 2001 Heitz Grignolino ($14.25). Plus, these are exciting wines you can actually afford--how refreshing! At the back of the guide the contributors had to be ruthless in selecting just a few wines from each region to include in the 100 Most Exciting Wine Finds. These are accompanied by detailed tasting notes.

Like any annual guide, this one is meant to be read, acted on before the wines sell out, and then tossed to make room for next year's guide. But this one has more meat in it than most, and its take on wine--which seems to this reader to differ considerably from the wine magazines and to correspond much more closely with what you see in wine blogs--makes for interesting reading. With surprising twists and turns and hidden zingers in nearly every list, it is a wine book that I heartily recommend.


julie said...

oh! i remember hesitating to buy this book, now i know i should buy one. By the way, have you ever visit wine stores directory website? i found nice West Trenton Fine Wine Liquors online stores from this site!

Anonymous said...

I've not come across this blog before. Hands up please: who writes it? Anyway, just wanted to thank you on behalf of the other 43 contributors for your positive comments. Keep on blogging!
Tom Stevenson

Dr. Debs said...

Welcome, Tom! Sorry for the pseudonymous publication but I write other stuff under my real name and the powerful indexing power of Google and other search engines would produce some weird results if I used my own here. You are entirely welcome, as are the 43 other contributors. I've turned to the book again and again in the few weeks since I bought it and I will be getting the 2008 edition when it's out, too. If you need to get in touch with the real me, please feel free to use the address in the sidebar. I'll keep blogging--hope you all keep writing, too.