How would the author connect wine and books, I wondered? The thought that a booklover might also enjoy wine didn’t seem unlikely. Perhaps more probable was that a wine lover could have a literary propensity.
Initially I was disappointed. Maybe I was looking too hard for the author’s technique in exhibiting this wine/book connection. There seemed to be no theory that encompassed the topics of books and wine in a sweeping, pervasive manner. Nevertheless, your reviewer persevered and found that The Booklovers’ Guide to Wine provides a wealth of information in a very readable fashion. There is basic background about what wine is—how it is made and how to experience and enjoy it—that likely is helpful for the novice and yet not tedious for a reader who has already seen such explanations.
Patrick Alexander also gives his readers a succinct history of the development of wine through the ages and then delves into wines from Europe and the “New World,” which is mostly everywhere else. His explanation of how wine from Europe is identified by its geographic home and that wines in the New World category are mostly defined by their predominant grape variety was clear and is likely to be helpful for many who’ve advanced past the novice wine consumer stage. As your reviewer progressed through explanations of wines from most of the countries of Europe, then their counterparts from the U.S., Australia, South Africa and even the Republic of Georgia (generally acknowledged to be the birthplace of wine), he realized how much good basic information was included in The Booklovers’ Guide.
He also realized that the book was rife with literary references. Much more was included than he first thought, even if it was presented in a way other than what he expected. Quotes and short passages from familiar names are found (English poet John Keats on his love for Claret), as are some literary references from Alexander himself, who finds similarities in Alsatian Gewürztraminer (his favorite white wine) and the style of Marcel Proust (his “favorite novelist of all time”).
No coffee table book (there are no photos or illustrations at all), The Booklovers’ Guide to Wine is nevertheless a book to read for pleasure, as well as to advance a wine buff’s scholarship.
--reviewed by Dan Clarke