Books,Wine,Wine Writer

The Psychology of Wine, by Evan Mitchell and Brian Mitchell

[Holiday weekly give-away. Leave your name in comment box to win]

As we head into the holiday gift-giving season, I highly recommend The Psychology of Wine, Truth and Beauty By The Glass for anyone on your list who

  • loves wine,
  • loves to think and to talk about it.

Written by Evan Mitchell (son) and Brian Mitchell (father),  The Psychology of Wine was a daily constant companion, for which I dedicated a day to a chapter. I had four books before me at the time, that I felt I really needed to be reading… right here, right now. Blame it on social media, jumping from this blog, to Facebook, to Twitter, to clients’ needs, to the phones, etc. My mind’s gone into a compartmentalization mode. This book gently pulled me back into reading something very entertaining, informative, and delightful.

As I went along, I broke it  down by chapters, because this is how it affected me at each read. It was a journey I thoroughly enjoyed.

  1. Chapter 1 ~ “Drinking Antiquity” opens with an “assyrtiko” wine being enjoyed on the island of Santorini… I’m beginning the book with the third sentence only that has me off to research what that’s all about. This is on the exact same day that I had a Tweet and a following from Markus Stolz, a gentleman now living in Athens, Greece. I told Markus that I’d enjoy learning about Greek wines from him (his specialty). Is it merely a coincidence that Assyrtiko is a Greek wine? Hum…
  2. Chapter 2 ~ “The God of Wine” could easily have been called “The Gods of Wine?” I’ve long know about Bacchus, the Roman God. This chapter not only turned me onto the Greek god Dionysus (had forgotten about him), but also pointed out the very first vigneron. (Email me in the comments below, and tell me who came before Rome’s Golden Age of Pericles’ Athens, and – if you’re correct – I’ll send a pair of gorgeous Riedel Vinum Syrah glasses to you. They’re from a very limited edition, and have an etched logo of the 2007 Masters of Petite Sirah on each one.)
  3. Chapter 3 ~ “The Happiest of Happy Accidents” ~ I’ve long held the theory that the first wine was made by a caveman who had gathered grapes, and left to its own devices, fermented into the nectar we love to enjoy as a social beverage. The Mitchells, however, give that tribute to a woman, whom they call “Daisy.” It didn’t take much to convince me that their assessment of who was first and what the “second” profession in life was… and still is today.
  4. Chapter 4 ~ “What’s in a Number …?” ~ In this chapter, they’ve given you a plethora of examples that will have you be much more confident (if that’s lacking at all) with your own decisions, while understanding why we all revere those who have taken on the position of “critic.” We need them, we love/hate them, and in the end… It’s all about your own palate.
  5. Chapter 5 ~ “The Life of the Vine” ~ If you need inspiration for setting the life cycle of wine grapes to prose, poetry, or even a lengthy dissertation, this chapter (alone) is a must read.

Now it’s time for you to dig deeper into this book, but I’ll leave you with some final thoughts.

The book reads like a point, counterpoint. It also reads (a little bit) like therapy session; by asking the reader a lot of questions, forcing you to become engaged in your own understanding. Also, there are a lot of answers given, so if you don’t yet have that knowledge, you’re not left hanging.

I was reminded of a Socrates saying, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” That came just at a time when I needed the reminder… Nothing to do with wine, except I was enjoying a glass, while reading that.

The following was found in a chapter called, “An Unexamined Life, an Undrunk Wine,” page 58.

Firstly, then, we must give our attention–thereby expanding the parameters of the experience. In the case of wine, this is exploring its physical dimensions. Then comes reflection, which calls up our ideas. And finally, we assemble the words to describe those ideas. Take away attention, and the ideas are stillborn. Without reflection, ideas will be superficial. Deny the expression, and the most perceptive insights will fade like vapor trails before our eyes.

I was also taught a new flavor in wine, garrigne, having very much to do with terroir. This flavor is associated with terroir. I’m a terroir advocate, knowing full well that a Macintosh apple in Maine can’t be replicated (decently) on the west coast – having eaten them in Maine for 40+ years. Garrigne has to do with a flavor associated with the arid landscape of Southern France. I dare say this same flavor could be associated with Alentejo, the Southern region of Portugal. Having just tasted a lot of wine in the Alentejo, I discovered a flavor that could qualify. I don’t know if the French would allow their regionally specific term to make it outside of their country; and, the Portuguese may have their own term, that I don’t yet know about. For now, though, I’m thinking of it as garrigne.

Applause to this father and son team of Evan and Brian Mitchell. What a delightful gathering and sharing of wine related information, past learned experiences and quotes, as well as subtle psychology all along the journey. I now know why there are five stars from three separate reviewers on Amazon. (I couldn’t keep myself from looking, once I finished this book.)

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7 Responses to “The Psychology of Wine, by Evan Mitchell and Brian Mitchell”

  1. Arthur says:

    Hi Jo

    From your description, this book sounds like an exploration of philosophical tangents about wine (“wine related”), rather than the psychology of wine.

    There is Psychology and there is Neurophysiology.
    The simplest comparison (and I’m sure I will anger many psychologists here) is that the former is like Alchemy and the latter like Chemistry.

    One waves its hands over the subject and tries to explain it while the other just understands the subject.

    I can’t see this book, as you’ve described it, fitting into the rubric of psychology. But I’m sure it’s an enjoyable read for some.

  2. @nectarwine says:

    Sounds like a great book with interresting anecdotes about wine. I may have to locate it and add it to the library of books I should read but who am I kidding I don’t have the time.

    Josh @nectarwine

  3. Jo says:

    Hi, Arthur,

    You’ve actually given a good description, which seems to be yin yang tangent… Good explanation for me. It’s similar to astronomy and astrology, for which both have engaged audiences and philosophical differences, and yet both are completely engaged in the heavens and what it means for each. (The parallels of the universe are constant.)

    And, yes, while some will love it, others will find the other balance… as in all things in life.

    I appreciate your view points, always.

  4. Jo says:


    I hear you about finding the time to read. Yesterday, I spent about three hours at my dentist’s office, reading George M. Taber’s new one, “In Search of Bacchus” between all that had to happen to save a tooth. That’s what it takes these days to get a good reading run in for me. The “Psychology of Wine” can be read in sound bites, and then you can run to prior to a cocktail party armed with a good opening line for meeting a new person. This book can take you through the rest of your life with good lines, if you’re only using one or two a day. If I were the Mitchell’s, I’d be Twittering some of these great quotes.

    Meanwhile, continue to line your shelves with good wine books, because you never know when you’ll have down time. You’ll be armed and ready, when the time comes.

  5. Monte says:

    Would it be Siduri, the Babylonian Goddess of wine? Just a guess on my part.

  6. Matt says:

    I think the answer to your question would have to be the Sumerian vine goddess Geshtin, followed by Renunutet, the Egyptian goddess of the harvest and wine. Am I close? 🙂

  7. Markus Stolz says:

    Hi Jo,

    I just saw this post, thank you so much for your kind reference. I find it simply wonderful that Assyrtiko has received a lot of attention lately. Santorini is one of the hottest and driest places in the world where vines are grown. It is a volcanic island, its beaches are actually black. Assyrtiko results in true terroir wines, and are often bone dry and salty, unlike any other whites I know. The 2009 vintage has been hugely successful. Do try it if you can find a bottle from one of the top vintners like Gaia or Sigalas.

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