Husband and wife wine journalist team, Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher, may not be household names to the majority of American wine enthusiasts, but to hundreds of thousands of Wall Street Journal readers their Friday ‘Tastings’ column is a must. The depleted shelves of so many wine retailers across the nation are testimony to their column’s influence. Now the couple bring much of their enthusiasm to their new hardback ‘The Wall Street Journal Guide to Wine’ published by Broadway Books at $25.
The introduction quickly establishes their position with a very clear statement, ‘We’re writing for a frustrated majority: people who can afford more and better wine, who want to know more about wine and don’t know where to begin.’
The book is extremely readable but also an enigma. However can successful wine writers include a chapter on Muscadet and Vouvray from France as ‘Cheap White Wines with Class’ and yet not include any everyday Australian wines in their chapter on Chardonnay?
The book contains 30 chapters, generally written in a very easy no-nonsense style. The comment in the chapter on Champagne, with reference to Louis Roederer Cristal 1990, says it ‘looks more like Sprite than Champagne because it’s so pale.’ This is either ignorance or honesty, most probably the latter. Perhaps it would have been kinder to explain that there is nothing wrong with Champagne having a pale lemon color but maybe at ‘$145.99′ you should expect something different.
The chapter on visiting wineries is full of good sense and practical advice. Reading it will make these occasions so much more satisfying for many and the chapter entitled ‘Decoding the Wine List – It’s Easier than It Looks’ brings the best from their 25 years experience of sharing wine. They offer seven simple steps for ‘a kind of Gaiter / Brecher Secret Wine List Decoder Ring’. These include:-
Take your time.
Decide if you want red or white.
Does the restaurant specialize in a certain type of wine?
Eliminate the showcase wines.
Cross off the wines you already know.
Decide what you’re willing to spend.
Finally, out of the remainder pick two or three and ask the waiter’s advice.
It is a simple yet sensible strategy and will probably work 90% of the time. Give it a try and you’ll most likely find it a better method than any you had previously devised yourself. Most important you will also glean much information every time you put the plan into operation.
The Wall Street Journal Guide to Wine
by Dorothy J Gaiter and John Brecher
published by Broadway Books at $25