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To Cork or Not To Cork: Tradition, Romance, Science, and the Battle for the Wine Bottle ~ by George M. Taber

Link: Menu for Hope auction lot details

When this book was released, I thought to myself, “How much can be written about cork; and how interesting could an entire book be devoted to only this one subject?” (I haven’t had time in my life to read George’s other book, Judgment of Paris; hence, the naiveté.)

Once I began to Read To Cork or Not to Cork, I was immediately drawn in. It’s written with such style and finesse spanning the entire history of wine – cork just being one segment of this vast agricultural industry – that my initial question quickly melted away.

Any wine lover who thirsts for a comprehensive understanding of how we made the leap from the first mistakenly fermented juice by some cave man who was too distracted to eat all of his grapes, to having this immense passion for all things wine, needs to purchase and read this book.

To Cork or Not to Cork deserves an honored spot on your book library shelf, especially if you’re single. You’ll definitely want to run back to this book to fact check before you head out to any party where wine will be served. One nugget of information from George’s extensively researched historical renderings will start any lively conversation, beating out, “So, what’s your sign?” every time. You’ll appear to be a wine historian, when Taber’s done all the work for you.

No disrespect or trivialization is intended for this important body of work. Proving this point ~ a couple of things I learned before I even hit Chapter 2, that might start any lively discussion when craftily handled.

  • When Robert Hooke first invented the microscope, and viewed a slice of cork, he saw – for the first time – that there must be ‘twelve hundred million” cells in that one slice of cork. (p. 6) [Get out!]
  • When tasting wine before serving it was started: A Peasant solution for keeping air out of bottles was to pour a little olive oil in the container, which floated at the top. When served the oil would be poured off, and the wine was tasted to make sure the oil was gone. (p. 12) [Who knew?]

Not only is Taber a historian to the enth degree, but he also provides a lot of marketing insight. Just as the Art of War is understood to be the quintessential body of work for how to generally succeed in life, George provides enough marketing concepts that anyone given sales and marketing responsibilities would do well to consider Taber’s words:

  • “Competition has been the magical engine of progress throughout the entire saga of mankind. People run faster, work smarter, and try harder because they know that someone out there is gaining on them.” p. 60
  • “Monopolies are bad not only for those who suffer under them but also for those who run them.” p. 263

Taber has personal moments in his book where he digresses with “Message in a Bottle,” interspersed throughout the book. These little stories take you away from his historical intensity back to recent real life events. They’re fun reads, and then off into another chapter you go…

During this holiday season, if you’re still debating about what to get for your wine lover, www.amazon.com is just a click away. Better yet, head to any bookstore and save the shipping and handling. It’s the “handling” I worry about at this late date.

George M. Taber has devoted an entire book to the debates that rage today, “What closure is best for a bottle, and why?” History has provided many closures, but none holds the romance of cork.

Having read this book, one can more intellectually weigh in with lots more understanding and more firm opinions based on George’s extensive research, findings, and well thought out opinions. And, maybe answer the question, To Cork or Not to Cork. (I can’t give you the answer… It would be like giving you the ending to a movie before you’ve even seen it.)

I can tell you this…. George’s latest book gets Five Book Worms from me!

Another great published work by Scribner, $26.

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