This past week we’ve been paging through book recommendations that can “spice up” your interest in wine, the way that paging through cookbooks can spice up your interest in preparing the evening meal. From Memoir and How-To (part one) to Indie and (Not-Boring) Reference (part two), it’s been an entertaining way to reconsider the genre of “wine book” through sub-categories of classification that are normally reserved for a bookstore or library.
Today’s list of four more categories rounds out the series, with some quirky recommendations that can, I hope, inspire some ideas for your summer reading list, with a glass of wine alongside.
Coffee Table Books
The far end of the spectrum of this category is book-ended by The Impossible Collection of Wine by Enrico Bernardo, who won the title of Best Sommelier in the World was he was just 27 years old. The heft of the book is indicative of this category, even if the price tag renders it out-of-reach for most casual wine enthusiasts. Nonetheless, it fits the bill for the salient requirement of coffee table books: to give us ideas, and to help us imagine.
That requirement shifts the geography of these books, for me, from coffee table to nightstand. They’re evocative. They’re visions of other worlds and other realities that actually exist somewhere “out there” that, some day, I’ll be able to visit again. It’s an ethereal sentimentality that seems right now to have a home at the beginning and end of my sleeping and dreaming states.
Wineries or wine regions, particularly those commemorating a significant anniversary or occasion, sometimes publish this style of coffee table / nightstand book. The Winemakers of Paso Robles is a striking, recent example, photographed by Julia Pérez, with text written by Paul Hodgins.
George Orwell and David Ogilvy do not, admittedly, jump to mind in a list of recommended books on wine or even an affiliated list on restaurants or food. But they’ve secured a spot on any list of such books that I recommend because of their entirely unexpected points of view on restaurants.
Orwell and his Down and Out in Paris and London, written in 1933, describes the experience of casual labor, who live near the poverty level, in restaurant kitchens of Paris in the first half of the twentieth century. Ogilvy and the first chapter of his Confessions of an Advertising Man, describes his own time spent in a classic French kitchen. (Who knew?) What restaurant kitchens could possibly have to do with Orwell and Ogilvy’s later work — observations about social class differences, in Orwell’s case, and about appetite and desire in Ogilvy’s — is precisely what makes them worth tracking down.
Not every wine region is fortunate enough to possess a wine writer’s undivided attention but, when it does, it’s worth catching a ride. For Long Island, Eileen Duffy is that writer. Twelve chapters, one profile each about the personalities of that local industry, comprise her Behind the Bottle: The Rise of Wine on Long Island. It’s a unique perspective from the editor of Edible East End and Edible Long Island magazines that fell into my hands, fortuitously, when a book seller set up a booth at my local farmers market in Atlanta.
This series of wine book recommendations for ten categories of books was inspired by the latest cookbooks I’ve read and their recipes that I’ve been inspired to make. The two — cookbooks and wine choices — go hand in hand: I don’t know that I’m necessarily a better cook with a glass of wine in my hand, but I do think that I’m a more creative one.
Most recently, I’ve been inspired by two entirely different food writers and their books. Sam Sifton’s See you on Sunday: A Cookbook for Family and Friends sets aside space to advise readers on wine choices during Sunday suppers. It amounts to, “Don’t fuss it up.” Also, “For supper on Sunday, there’s likely to be a crowd. You aren’t a financier.” It’s real-world advice from someone who’s clearly been there, done that.
That’s exactly the reason most of us turn to Ina Garten’s cookbooks and her, in my experience, recipes that do not fail. Lately I’ve been cooking from her Make It Ahead: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook which is so comforting with its slower pace and its reliability that it frees my time and my frame of mind to work on other things (wine, for example) while still getting dinner on the table.