Incorporating such useful visual elements as maps, charts, and images of wine labels, Zraly starts with basics such as what kinds of grapes go into wine, how weather affects the harvest, and how to taste wine. Then, in an affable, question-and-answer format, Zraly explores both the red and white wine regions of France, Germany, California, Italy, Spain, and Australia, with detours to Washington, Oregon, and New York State. In each section, he explains which grapes are used in the region's important wines, gives advice on the best wines to buy and what to serve them with, notes trends over the last decade, and explains how to get the most information from wine labels. He also includes very useful sections on special wines like Champagne, Sherry, and Port, with advice on buying, storing, and serving. Sections on matching wine with food, ordering from restaurant wine lists, starting a wine cellar, and even creating a wine list for a restaurant are included as well.
In this year's edition, Zraly has updated his specific wine recommendations, his "Best Bets for Recent Vintages" information, and added new sections reflecting recent wine trends. For instance, in California, more acres are planted in Zinfandel grapes than any other variety (the infamous white Zinfandel is the largest-selling varietal wine in the U.S.), but Merlot has seen the fastest rate of new plantings over the past five years. Zraly predicts that California winemakers will continue to experiment with grape varieties like Syrah, Sangiovese, and Grenache.
Throughout Windows on the World Wine Course, Zraly makes it clear that there's no need to be intimidated by wine, whether you're buying an expensive bottle for a special occasion or looking for a fair price on a casual wine from a restaurant wine list. All you need is a basic understanding and a willingness to listen to your own tastebuds. This lively and practical book will help anyone interested in learning more about wine become an enthusiastic and informed wine lover.
Kate Murphy Zeman