For non-connoisseurs and two-buck-chuck aficionados, there's a moment of minor social panic when dining out and it's time to select a bottle of the good stuff for the table. "Oh gosh," you think. "Don't ask for my opinion. I do not have an opinion. Don't pour that first sip for me. Don't make me swirl the glass like I know what I'm doing. Please for the love of all things holy just bring us the basic House whatever and let's move onto the food."
It can be tough to get past the pretence of wine, but Richard Betts wants to help. The master sommelier has written a fun book that strips away the inherent intimidation factor and replaces it with an interactive element that doesn't take itself too seriously. The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert is the first of its kind, and as a concept, makes a lot of sense; outside of a Lick to Taste manual (which would be... pretty gross), smelling the different elements that make up a generous pour might be the best way to suss out what's what.
The text is friendly and straightforward, breaking down flavours, colours, and everything in between — all in language that won't freak out novices or turn off pros. Visual learners get the added bonus of hand-drawn images from illustrator extraordinaire Wendy MacNaughton, who teamed up with art director and designer Crystal English Sacca to bring her signature style to this oft-stuffy world. I mean, c'mon — it just might be the only manual where you'll find watercoloured oakwood barrels wearing cowboy hats and berets.
There are 16 scent stickers placed throughout the book, and a whole wealth of info otherwise. Read it, and maybe, just maybe, next time it's time to select red or white you'll handle the menu with confidence. Buy a copy here for $US12. [Wendy MacNaughton]