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Great Wine Made Simple: Straight Talk from a Master Sommelier
Release Date: September, 2005
Publisher: Clarkson Potter
About one-third of the way through Andrea Immer's Great Wine Made Simple, the author recounts an anecdote that could serve as the book's theme--alligator, rabbit, and squab were all introduced to her the same way: "Tastes like chicken." And as demonstrated by Immer, who went from debentures to de Rothschild when she quit Morgan Stanley to eventually oversee the 50,000-bottle cellar at Manhattan's famed Windows on the World, the leap from pigeon to Pichon-Lalande is analogous: teaching novice wine drinkers what to expect is what her book, aptly subtitled "Straight Talk from a Master Sommelier", is all about. With emphasis on her "Big Six" varietals--Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon--this "Immer-sion" class of tastings lets amateur sippers differentiate the typical qualities of each, while illustrating wine terms such as dry, crisp, oaky, and tannic. Practical advice abounds; one chapter devotes itself to finding useful info on a wine label while avoiding "Stupid Label Tricks," those bits of puffery or unfamiliar flavors (how many have actually tasted lychee or red currant?) that can be confusing the average buyer. And her "Flavor Map" concept--dividing the wine world into three climate zones--eschews memorization in favor of some rudimentary geography. Throughout, her pronunciation guides are accurate and personable ("If you're pronouncing 'Riesling' right you have to smile."); and she provides a great postgraduate curriculum of buying strategies, including the pros and cons of wine shops versus your nearest Costco; and a consumer advisory about restaurant's "award-winning wine lists." --Tony Mason
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Posted by Gary_Sargent on 2/26/2001
I only know how to enjoy wine by drinking it and Ms. Immer capitalizes on this with her readers. My girlfriend and I learned more in the first two chapters of this book than we have in 6 months of going to wine stores, wine tastings and wine websites. This read is entertaining, informative, fun, and immersive... Andrea has given us the confidence to order wine at any restaurant and now we're putting together our own family wine tasting event.... this is a must buy for anyone wanting to learn about wine at all. We love it.
This is the way learn about wine!
Posted by J. Hoelscher on 9/7/2002
I received this book over a year ago as a gift. My friends are mostly beer drinkers and I had a heck of a time convincing them to get into wine. But Andrea Immer did it for me. I put together the first tasting in the book at my own expense and invited my buddies to try it. They did (free booze was a sure thing)and we've now gone through all of the tastings w/ everyone chipping in. That's no small feat considering that we are college students from S. Texas, not a traditional wine drinking constituency.
The book worked by taking an easy, step-by-step approach. You won't get overloaded if you follow Immer's recommendations. Go one chapter at a time and put things on hold if you can't stick w/ the plan. Immer has has taken into account nearly everything. The wine tastings are amazing. They consistently brought out the characteristics she was writing about. As soon as we sat down and actually worked through the wines, everything became obvious. The specific wines Immer provides as options (broken into 3 categories by price) for each tasting were consistently good. We mostly bought from the low priced category, but every wine was very enjoyable. When we did step up to the mid-priced wines, there was a very significant increase in quality. In my opinion, all the wines represented great values. I'm not the only one in my group who shops for wine w/ the book in hand. We've never been steered wrong.
There are a few weaknesses to the program. As Immer points out herself, you are likely to get drunk if you don't have enough people to help go through the wines. While that wasn't a problem for us, I found the tastings to be more fun w/ around 8-10 people anyway. It is no fun being the designated driver, BTW. Another issue, for me atleast, was the difficulty of conceptualizing the characteristics Immer described. Of course, that's why she went to the trouble of setting up brilliant wine tastings. But, there's the big problem: you cannot get a lot out of this book without doing the tastings. Immer says you can't learn about wine w/o tastings and that her method is fast and simple. She's right, I've been through a number of classes that did less and cost more. Just don't expect this to be a quick process. It's "wine made simple" not "wine for idiots".
A few tips: 1) make the tastings a regular event among a select, steady group of friends (it was hugely rewarding, we still regularly set up tastings) 2) assign the task of making crib notes for each chapter or tasting, then hand them out before the tastings 3) have food on stand-bye 4) agree over who will do what for the next tasting before you leave the present tasting. My last recommendation, buy this book if you want to get comfortable with wine and enjoy it more.
A Wine-Oh Book for us Wine-Don't-Knows
Posted by Anonymous on 11/1/2000
This book is about the fifth or sixth book on this subject I have purchased in recent years. It's the first one that speaks to me like the novice I am. It's direct, it's easy reading, it's simple to follow, and it tells you what you need to know to be comfortable ordering wine in a restaurant, or buying it in a store. It's not full of high-brow rhetoric thrown in to impress the reader. It's entry level stuff -- information that you don't have to be a connoisseur to understand. For me, since I like wine but have no interest in becoming some sort of wine snob, this book gave me exactly what I needed to have a handle on what I'm buying. As far as what wine goes with what, and how it is served, it's all in there. If you want to get up to speed in layman's terms, this is the book to get. I thank Immer for writing it. A sommelier I'm not; I'm just a consumer who wanted a basic understanding of the subject, and I got it from this book... finally.
Want to increase your enjoyment and knowledge of wine?
Posted by drdebs on 1/9/2001
If so, you should seriously consider buying this book for yourself, and for any friends who might have the same goal. I have enjoyed wine for a number of years, but have not ventured forth much from the cabernet-merlot-chardonnay rut because it all seemed so overwhelming. You go to the wine store and signs give wines different points from different people for wines you've never heard of and can't pronounce.
Enter Andrea Immer, the sassy and straightforward Master Sommelier! Immer makes wine approachable, fun, and stimulating. Through a variety of different techniques (comparison tasting, old world wines vs. new world wines, flavor maps, and varietal information) Immer will open up your wine world and give you the confidence to sally forth to your local wine shop and ask for a Gruner Veltliner (she also tells you how to pronounce it!)to go with your chicken dinner. She also totally demystifies the restaurant wine list and tells you how to make good and economical choices from it.
There is no pretention at all in this book. Ms. Immer is not a wine snob, nor does she make wine into some obscure chemical and gastronomical science. She knows her stuff so well she can make is simple for you, me and everybody else who would like to buy a $10 bottle of wine and find it is reasonably tasty.
By the way, friends much more expert than myself have confessed that they bought the book and found a great deal of information that was helpful to them, too, so this book is not just for wine beginners.