Wine for Women: A Guide to Buying, Pairing, and Sharing Wine

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"Wine is not to fear or revere, but to enjoy," says Leslie Sbrocco, wine expert. And that's exactly what she shows you how to do in Wine for Women, the first wine book written exclusively for women — the majority of wine consumers.

In Wine for Women, Leslie Sbrocco scraps the stuffy wine-speak and deals with what women really want to know about wine. The book includes shopping guides with hundreds of recommended wines, quick ideas for ...

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"Wine is not to fear or revere, but to enjoy," says Leslie Sbrocco, wine expert. And that's exactly what she shows you how to do in Wine for Women, the first wine book written exclusively for women — the majority of wine consumers.

In Wine for Women, Leslie Sbrocco scraps the stuffy wine-speak and deals with what women really want to know about wine. The book includes shopping guides with hundreds of recommended wines, quick ideas for wine-friendly meals, and creative tips for sharing wine with family and friends.

Organized into easy-to-manage sections, Wine for Women appeals to all levels of wine lovers. From Sauvignon Blanc to Chenin Blanc, Merlot to Malbec, and pink wines to dessert wines, Leslie Sbrocco makes her enormous knowledge of wine entertaining enough for the serious wine lover and accessible enough so any novice can feel like an expert.

Each chapter focuses on a different variety of wine, and covers what Leslie calls the big three — how to buy, pair, and share wine. You'll learn how to make smart buying decisions in stores and restaurants. Leslie also gives you practical advice for pairing wine and food and offers insights on entertaining with wine, whether you're having an informal picnic or planning the most formal of weddings.

Confused between Chardonnay and Champagne? Think little black dress versus sequins. And Pinot Gris? Think your wine wardrobe's basic jeans. With her relaxed, friendly approach, Leslie makes it easy to understand the differences between wines and encourages women to explore and enjoy wine in their everyday lives.

Keep Wine for Women in your kitchen. Bring it into your living room. Refer to it before you hit the wine shop, or when you just want an excuse to read, relax, and have a sip of something that's really you.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Some readers, men in particular, will bridle at the title of this introductory guide by first-time author Sbrocco. What follows, however, is an informed yet accessible approach that places wine back in its traditional place at the center of the family dinner table and at the heart of everyday celebrations. Writing for women who have to rush home from demanding jobs to prepare the family meal, Sbrocco caps off chapters on different grapes and all styles of wine with a section called "Design-a-Dinner" that offers easy-to-prepare recipes and pantry staples matched to wines-creamed spinach and grilled steak or pasta with gorgonzola walnut sauce for Cabernet Sauvignon, for example. Basing her choice to speak specifically to women on industry research that confirms that women buy more wine than men (including high-end bottles), Sbrocco compares different grape varieties and styles to wardrobe essentials-Chardonnay is basic black while Sauvignon Blanc is a crisp white shirt, and peppery, intense Syrah is that "must-have" red accessory. A gimmick? No doubt about it, but the analogy works very well. Anyone who has ever tasted a good Pinot Noir knows that it truly is like "seductive satin." Come to think of it, big, powerful, indigenous American Zinfandel really does have the swaggering sex appeal of black leather pants. Sbrocco includes knowledgeable yet democratic shopping guides in every price range and peppers her narrative with myriad facts about wine, tips for entertaining and trips to wine country, as well as colorful descriptions of her travels to great wine-growing regions around the world. In the end, this is a breezy yet memorable and everyday practical resource that should appeal to all women with an interest in wine. (Oct.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Do women need their own guide to wine? Sbrocco, a columnist and wine expert, thinks so, arguing that most wine consumers are women looking for smart ways to buy wine, pair it with foods, and share it with friends and family. To meet this need, Sbrocco delivers a medley of wine-related information, covering various regions, identifying wines to give as gifts, and offering menu suggestions. She excels at describing key characteristics of varietals and how climate and geography impact flavor and quality. On the other hand, her analogies to clothing (Chardonnay, for example, is the "basic black dress" of the wine world) are distracting, and the multiple sections and numerous sidebars found in each chapter are confusing. While it doesn't quite succeed as gender-specific guide, this is still a concise introduction for anyone-female or male-to the world of wine (see the index and directory of wine-related web sites). An optional purchase for medium to large public libraries; serious collections should pass.-Andrea Dietze, Orange Cty. P.L., Santa Ana, CA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060523329
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/1/2003
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.13 (d)

Meet the Author

Leslie Sbrocco is the award-winning author of Wine for Women and a regular wine columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle. Her work has appeared in publications such as O, The Oprah Magazine; Family Circle; Redbook; and Working Mother. She is the host of the Emmy-nominated show Check Please! on PBS and appears regularly on national radio and television including the Today show and CNN. In addition to her writing and television work, Sbrocco is a nationally recognized speaker and wine consultant for the Kimpton Hotel Group. She lives with her family in Sonoma County, California.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Introduction: Why a Wine Book for Women? 1
Building the Essential Wine Wardrobe 6
Aisle 1 White Wine
Chardonnay/White Burgundy: The "Basic Black" of White Wine 21
Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio: The "Denim" of White Wine 48
Sauvignon Blanc/Sancerre: The "Crisp White Shirt" Wine 64
Riesling/Gewurztraminer: The "Spring Dresses" of Whites 86
Viognier, Chenin Blanc, and Semillon: The "Femmes Fatales" of Whites 108
Aisle 2 Red Wine
Cabernet Sauvignon/Bordeaux: The "Classic Suit" Red 127
Merlot/Bordeaux: The "Wrap Me in Cashmere" Red 152
Syrah/Shiraz: The "Red-Hot" Red 170
Pinot Noir/Burgundy: The "Seductive Satin" Red 191
Sangiovese/Chianti: The Sleek "Italian Heels" 214
Zinfandel: The "Love 'Em Like Leather" Reds 233
The Other Hot Reds: It's Raining Reds, Hallelujah! 249
Aisle 3 Pink, Bubbly, and Sweet
Rose: The "Beachwear" Wine 263
Champagne/Sparkling Wines: Make Mine "Sequins and Suede" 274
Dessert Wines: The "Pajamas" of Vino 292
Checkout Counter: Resources 309
Index 323
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First Chapter

Wine for Women
A Guide to Buying, Pairing, and Sharing Wine

Chapter One

White Wine

Chardonnay/White Burgundy
The "Basic Black" of White Wine

If you're like me, black is a wardrobe staple. Your closet overflows with black purses in various shapes and sizes, pants and jackets from casual to upscale, and most important, that little black dress. Let's not forget shoes: black flats, heels, and boots in every imaginable style. And if you're like me, you keep buying more black. It's not that bright colors are bad. On the contrary, they're fabulous. But pulling off the cherry-red suit or floral-print pants can take a little doing. Nothing is as slimming, versatile, popular, or easy as black. Except for the slimming part (although there are only around 100 calories per glass), the same words can be used to describe Chardonnay, which I think of as the basic black of white wines. Chardonnay is simple to sip, goes with many kinds of food, and remains wildly popular.

The Grape Story

A classic grape variety that was not well known in this country until a few decades ago, Chardonnay has made a name for itself. Today it's the number-one-selling white in America, and "I'll have the Chardonnay" has become a national motto. Look at any restaurant wine list and count the Chardonnays. Better yet, walk into a retail store where Chardonnays are packed from floor to ceiling, dominating the wine aisles.

Chardonnay is familiar, and that familiarity inspires confidence and comfort. We know it; therefore we love it. But Chardonnay's popularity is due in large part to its versatility. Just like those black pants that come in many fabrics and styles -- from casual cotton to sleek silk -- Chardonnay can be everything from light and crisp to juicy and soft or buttery and full.

Why is Chardonnay so versatile? It has to do with the grape's personality. Chardonnay was at the head of the line when the grape god handed out easygoing personalities. Not naturally tart and aggressive like Sauvignon Blanc or floral and flirtatious like Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay's mild-mannered fruitiness lends itself to making all kinds of wine.

Chardonnay takes on character and complexity depending on where the grapes are grown and who turns them into wine. Many versions are successful; others are not. With an estimated seven hundred different Chardonnay bottlings on store shelves at any one time, though, how do you sift through the boring to get to the beautiful?

Price is the first thing that comes to mind. Picking a bottle because it costs $10 or $30 is one way to choose a wine, but if you don't like the way the $30 bottle tastes, you are pouring money down the drain. The key to finding Chardonnay in your price range and then enjoying it begins with defining what you like and don't like. Do you prefer Chards that taste a bit tangy like citrus fruits or ones that are more ripe like pineapples? Or a lighter, more delicate Chardonnay versus a fuller, buttery one?

If you're shrugging your shoulders, wondering what in the world I'm talking about, have no fear. Let's take a lingo lesson and start to put words to wine.

Having a few key words under your wine belt will help you communicate better about Chardonnay and figure out the tastes and styles you like, but unfortunately, most stores and wineries don't boldly display their wines by taste. Believe it or not, though, labels can tell you something very important about the taste and style of a wine before you pull the cork.

Born in the USA . . .Or France . . .Or Chile

Several years ago, when I was hiking through hillside vineyards in the Aconcagua Valley of Chile, a winemaker made a remark that really hit home. As we nibbled on freshly plucked grapes, Tony Coltrin of Seña winery said, "Good wine tastes like a grape, but great wine tastes like a place."

He's so right. I can give you an idea of what basic Chardonnay might taste like, but what about Chardonnay grown in Chablis or Carneros or Casablanca? Each place has a unique combination of sun, soils, and slopes, which makes the grapes grown there taste a certain way.

Luckily that location is on the label, and I think of it as the wine's birthplace. Before we even get to what the winemaker can do when turning grapes into wine (that comes next), the wine's birthplace has the biggest effect on the taste of a bottle of Chardonnay.

The following roundups highlight how wines from some of my favorite regions express themselves in the glass. Just as finding the perfect pair of black pants is simple when you know the style you want, buying wine is easier if you can link words on the label to your preferred style of Chardonnay.

Use these as a guideline to start exploring Chardonnays from different places around the globe. Bon voyage.

Wine for Women
A Guide to Buying, Pairing, and Sharing Wine
. Copyright © by Leslie Sbrocco. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Reading Group Guide


In this first book written primarily for women wine enthusiasts, wine expert Leslie Sbrocco makes selecting the perfect bottle of wine as effortless as choosing a fabulous outfit to wear. Would it surprise you to know that women buy 64 percent of the wine sold in America today? Did you know that more than 10 percent of winemakers are women? Were you aware that women have a better sense of smell than men, and that they make better wine tasters as a result? Women are serious about buying, serving, and drinking wines that satisfy their appetites, no matter what the occasion. Drawing on her vast experience with wines, and her extensive knowledge of wine producers and regions, Leslie Sbrocco distills the enjoyment of wine into what she dubs The Big Three: buying a wine, pairing wine with food, and sharing wine with friends and family.

Sbrocco considers a specific kind of wine in each chapter of Wine for Women, offering interesting facts about its origins and explaining in user-friendly terms the words commonly used by the pros to describe it. Her analysis of bottle labels demystifies the often-intimidating experience of shopping for wine. By linking wines with their regions of origin and methods of production, Sbrocco simplifies what wine buyers need to know. Shopping guide charts break down wines into helpful categories like gift wines, party wines, cellar wines and personal favorites, encompassing a range of prices to encourage wide experimentation.

Wine for Women surpasses many other wine guides by addressing what kinds of foods go well with specific wines, enabling gourmet cooks and novices alike to select wines that will enhance their food presentation and overall dining experience. In its focus on sharing wine with others, Wine for Women expands the possibilities for women who are eager to discover and enjoy new wines in the company of family and friends.

How to Throw a Wine Tasting Party

  1. Put together your group and pick a regular meeting date.

  2. Set a budget and pick a wine to focus on. Have everyone buy a bottle in a certain price range or chip in money and let the host buy all the bottles. Chardonnay is a great place to begin because there are so many options for themes.

  3. Before people arrive, the host should bag the bottles or cover them with foil and number them. This is called blind tasting, and it helps you to focus on the wine without any preconceived ideas of place, price, or producer.

  4. Set out spit buckets, which can be anything from paper cups to plastic buckets, and glasses.

  5. Make tasting sheets for each wine. Note the color, aromas, flavors, and overall impressions of each unidentified bottle of wine. After the bag or foil is removed, record the name of the producer, the type of wine, the country and region it came from, the year it was made, the cost of a bottle, and the foods you think it would go well with.

  6. Put out some nibbles and start smelling, swirling, spitting, and tasting.

Discussion Questions for a Wine Tasting Party

  1. "Good wine tastes like a grape, but great wine tastes like a place." Based on the wines you've just tasted, can you speculate on the kinds of growing conditions of the different grapes? (For example, is the region very hot, relatively cool, near the coast, redolent of minerals, etc.?)

  2. Think about white wines that you've enjoyed. How does a Chardonnay from Napa Valley, California, compare to a Riesling from Germany? How does a Sauvignon Blanc from France compare to a Gewürztraminer from Washington state?

  3. Leslie Sbrocco writes that pairing delicate foods with delicate wines and big foods with big wines is the easiest way to think of meal planning. Have you enjoyed foods with wines in combinations that you found especially inspired? What were they? Do certain wines remind you of certain foods? Which ones?

  4. What's the best surprise you've ever had when tasting wine? Was the most or least expensive bottle of wine you've ever had the best or worst, respectively? What is your "house" wine?

  5. What is your biggest frustration in buying wine or ordering it when you're out at a restaurant? Has Wine for Women helped you conquer that frustration? Do you feel more confident about your ability to choose a good wine as a result of reading this book?

  6. How useful did you find the core words used by Leslie Sbrocco to describe individual wines? Are you able to distinguish between dryness and sweetness, crispness and smoothness, and light- to medium- to full-body in the wines you've tasted? Are there any wines you drink regularly that you think are particularly easy to assess using these core words?

  7. Were any of the wines discussed in this book completely new to you? Do you have a short-list of wines that you are eager to try? What are they? Has this book made you more willing to experiment with unfamiliar wines? Why or why not?

  8. What is your favorite grape variety? Is there a particular region or wine producer that you think showcases that wine especially well? What do you usually pair it with when you're cooking or eating out? Compare your personal favorites with those of your friends. Host a "personal favorite" wine party, where each friend brings her favorite bottle of wine to taste and share.

About Leslie Sbrocco

Wine expert and educator Leslie Sbrocco has been writing about wine for the last seven years in online publications, including the New York Times "Wine of the Week" column,, and Microsoft's San Francisco Sidewalk. She is a partner of Sbrocco/Spangler Productions LLC, a multimedia company dedicated to producing media projects with a focus on wine, food, travel, and entertaining.

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