Book review: Jerry Lockspeiser’s “Your wine questions answered”

jerry lockspeiser“We would probably buy more, with greater enjoyment of doing so, if the people who sell wine made it easier to understand.”

Jerry Lockspeiser loves wine. More importantly, he wants to help other people love wine, too, and he knows that means helping them deconstruct the foolishness that is the wine business. Hence, his new book, “Your wine questions answered: The 25 things wine drinkers most want to know.”

Lockspeiser knows what of he writes. He has been a producer, negociant, consultant, and salesman, and has worked with retailers and distributors during his decades-long United Kingdom wine career. His writing, he told me, is a way to use that knowledge to help what he calls the normal wine drinker – those of us who want to buy a bottle for dinner without worrying if we’ve committed a mortal sin.

“Many people find buying wine difficult,” Lockspeiser writes. “This is not because they are stupid. The meaning of the words is not clear, the language is complex, and the flavour is a mystery. It is hardly surprising that confusion and anxiety are common. We would probably buy more, with greater enjoyment of doing so, if the people who sell wine made it easier to understand.”

Which is why he is the Wine Curmudgeon’s kind of guy.

The book has 25 short chapters, each answering a wine question. “What is a corked wine? “Should I trust the medals on wine bottles?” “Do more expensive wines always taste better?” And my favorite: “Why do they say some wines have ‘a hint of gooseberries’? ”

The writing is simple and direct, often with an anecdote that points out just how dumb the wine business can be. Corked wines “are infected with trichloroanisole, or TCA for short, a harmless but miserable chemical that passes a mouldy flavor into the wine. … TCA-infected wines should be returned to the shop or restaurant.” Medals are not a guarantee you’ll like a wine – “it’s much better to trust the recommendation of a friend or reviewer whose taste you agree with.” And the gooseberries? “…this kind of description is incomprehensible to 99% of wine drinkers.”

Highly recommended, and one of the best wine books of the year. We’ll give away a couple of copies of the book during the blog’s birthday week in November, in tandem with the cheap wine book. What more does the normal wine drinker need?

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