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Posted October 18, 2003
By Bill Marsano. Yes, it <is> the Wine Gift-Book of the Year. It's a lush, large-format lapful of treats and temptations--fine photographs and elegant Roman and medieval paintings, plenty of details and, best of all, a high degree of readability. This is no geek's encyclopedia of trivia and minutiae. It's a festival for those who love wine and for those who would like to. The experienced will appreciate the depth of its knowledge; beginners will feel warmly welcome, not discouraged and intimidated. Patricia Guy lives in Verona, one of the major posts of Italy's wine industry, and over a long career she's been a taster, a judge, a lecturer, a consultant, a marketer: She knows what she is about. She tackles her subject alphabetically, grape by grape--almost. Actually she focuses on the most important grapes, providing for each a profile of its history, where it's grown, tasting notes and the wines it produces. (Covering all Italian grapes simply isn't feasible, at least not in a book that can be hefted without the aid of a forklift. As the world's Mother Vineyard of the world, Italy has about 350 documented grape varieties and about 1000 more that are still to be explored.) And so you're going to get all the details on your big names, such as Sangiovese and Nebbiolo, Verdicchio and Pinot Grigio. Of course; you know them well. But Guy also pays due respect to obscurities and rarities--grapes most folks have never heard of: Erbaluce, Falanghina, Uva di Troia, Coda di Volpe, Nerello Mascalese, and others that have names like songs. (There are also thumbnail sketches of many emerging varieties). She lists leading producers (helpful, because you <will> want to run out and buy) and a goodly selection of recipes. Here too, it's clear that you're in the hands of an expert: In Italy, wine and food have developed in lockstep down the centuries, each contributing to the other. For that reason, Guy's recipes are carefully chosen local and regional dishes sprung from the same earth as the wines she pairs them with. This is far more perceptive than the quickie approach--'Have a country red with the spaghetti'--so often taken by lesser writers. I may be making the book sound too learned. It <is> learned but also readable and enjoyable. Guy has a nice line in dry wit. Of Cortese wines ('supple, with tenuous aromas') she says 'when describing such wines, the fine line between delicate and insipid has occasionally been blurred.' About one decidedly unnecessary wine she notes that 'Some producers also make sparkling Recioto di Soave. It is an acquired taste.' Guy knows that wine is truly about pleasure and delight, and she's happy to let readers in on that secret.--Bill Marsano has won a James Beard medal for wine and spirits writing and is the Wine Editor of Hemispheres, the magazine of United Airlines. --
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