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Books,Education,Wine,Wine Education,Wine Writer

The Everything Guide to Wine, by Peter Alig

The EVERYTHING Guide to Wine, by Peter Alig.

This book is exactly what it calls itself… It’s about everything wine ~ except Petite Sirah, and you know how Petite centric I am. This isn’t a criticism, just an observation, because I’m always looking for authors who know about Petite and take the time to  help me to education the public and trade about it.

I was delighted to read this very thorough book, and I also personally learned a lot in the process. The author, Peter Alig, is a Robert Mondavi wine educator, as was I in days gone by. My experience with the Mondavi crew is that they’re an extremely knowledgeable group of people; and, I now easily see why Peter was hired. Wine educators take people on wine tours at the winery, and this book’s back page calls it “A guided tour through the world of wine.” This is the best explanation of this book. For anyone just beginning to write about and/or enjoy wine, most especially if you’ve never been able to get to any wine country, this book gets you there in a hurry.

It’s a SUPER book for both beginners and for those who what to brush up on their wine trivia knowledge.

I know it would keep many a wine blogger just starting out completely engaged, because Peter has left very little out of his book. He writes on the lead page, “Wine and generosity of spirit seem to go hand in hand. Those who work in the industry bring great passion to their professions as well as a desire to share what they know with others.” Truer words have never been written about those of us who are involved in the business of wine. Peter’s book was a review of my own 20 years of learning about wine, I can attest to that; and, he’s picked up some of the things I’ve not gotten to you, just as I have some knowledge about things he’s yet to experience. Our willingness to share is what binds us all together.

The book include the following subjects: buying, storing, serving, and enjoying the world’s wines. You’ll also get a great update on the history of wine, the categories, some viticulture and enology, wine regions of both the old and new world, how to taste, how to pair wine and food, what are the costs that go into a bottle, being in charge of wine at restaurants, wine and health, making wine at home, and getting involved in the wine business… See, he’s covered it all.

My favorite chapter is his “Brief History of Wine,” and that’s where I’m now going to focus, leaving the rest of the book for you to discover on your own.

I’ve always thought that the first profession is not what people have always cited… Nay, someone had to bait the first female to give it up, by having something worth offering in the exchange, if she wasn’t already drawn to his hairy chest. What could that possibly be, pre the circle being invented? Perhaps a gourd filled with grapes that was being used for storage, but ignored for a few days? That would get fermentation going, and then Mr. Hairy Chest would have something to offer, right?

Wine is ancient. Peter discusses the possibility of it starting at least by 4,000 B.C., perhaps as far back as 6,000 B.C. Its early roots seem to have been Mesopotamia, which today we call Persia. This is near Iran and Egypt, today. Peter also cites some recent discoveries coming from China within the same time frame (a fascinating thought, given China’s renewed interest in wine). Back then, salaries were even paid in wine. (Aha… my theory is still standing about the first profession.) Ancient Egyptians were practicing viticultural, with arbors and pruning being created. This makes perfect sense, if you’ve ever grown any kind of grapes. Without support, they crawl the ground, find a tree, and begin to climb upward on their own.

From Egypt, the Phoenicians sailed the Mediterranean, hence beginning distribution beyond its original birth place, and made its way to Greece, Sicily, and north-central Italy.

Everyone drank wine in those early days. Water has always been a health hazard, when not filtered from bacteria. It was the beverage of the day for those with more money and power. Beer was also made during those days. If one didn’t imbibe with wine, one drank beer.

The Greeks are known for having democratizing wine. The Romans are known for advancing winemaking practices. Then, as Romans began to conquer all of Europe, they brought wine culture with them. The rest is history contained within this chapter; and for me, this is the best explanation that I’ve read to date.

One other snippet: I enjoyed finding wine writers of note in Peter’s book, in the Chapter about “Tasting Wine Like a Pro.” Pp. 122-123.

  • P. 122 ~ Other critics who use the 100-point scale are James Laube (Wine Spectator) and Steve Heimoff (Wine Enthusiast). Critics writing for the British wine magazine Decanter employ a 1-5 star rating. English wine writer Clive Coates uses a 20-point system.
  • P. 123 ~ Buy These, If You Can
    • 2004 Standish Shiraz / Viognier the Relic, Australia (99 points, Robert Parker)
    • 2006 Cardinale Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, (100 points, Steve Heimoff, Wine Enthusiast)
    • 2007 Louis Jadot, Premier Cru Clos-St.-Jacques, Burgundy (19.20, Decanter magazine, UK)
    • 2005 Alben Syrah, Edna Valley, Lorraine, California (96 points, James Laube, Wine Spectator)
    • 2009 Corriente del Bio Pinot Noir, Bio Bio Valley, Chile (89 points, Jaime Goode, www.wineanorak.com)

This book is very insightful and a great education for anyone who loves wine. I highly recommend it.

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5 Responses to “The Everything Guide to Wine, by Peter Alig”

  1. Andrea says:

    I just got this book for Christmas from my mother-in-law. It was on my Amazon wish list! Now I’m even more excited about reading it. :)

  2. Jo Diaz says:

    You’ll love it, Andrea.

  3. Peter Alig says:

    Jo!!

    Thanks so much for this review! (Not sure how I missed this back in January. Sigh.)

    I had no idea you were an alumna of Robert Mondavi Winery. One of the reasons I began working there when I first moved to Napa Valley, as you mention, was the reputation of their wine education department. My expectations were exceeded, to the point that many of the ideas which found their way into the EGW were gleaned from several notebooks I filled up during interactions with the winemakers, marketing personnel and senior wine educators.

    While I’ve since moved on to direct-to-consumer marketing and branding for Von Holt Wines, I never could have written this book without my 3+ years at RMW.

    Again, I’m immensely glad you enjoyed the book!

    Best,
    Peter Alig

  4. Jo Diaz says:

    Peter, You’re very welcome. RMW is an amazing experience, no doubt. Best of luck in all you do!

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