Tuesday, February 26, 2008
WineBookClub #1: VINO ITALIANO
First off, allow me to welcome all of you to the first installment in what will be many wine book club (WBC) reviews here on OWOS and elsewhere in the wine blogging ether. I truly look forward to the WBC for two reasons:
1.) It will add further academic legitimacy and wine officialdom to these pages
2.) More importantly, it will ever so gently (as only a deadline is capable) force me and my colleagues to read more wine literature, further educate ourselves on our passion and hopefully fuel the creative fire for our primary subject of online pontification.
Vino Italiano is a collaborative effort between Joe Bastianich, a New York City restaurateur and partner in the New York City based, high-end wine shop, Italian Wine Merchants, as well as the owner of a Friulian winery, and David Lynch, who was most recently senior editor at Wine & Spirits and is currently wine director at the Bastianich/Batali owned Babbo in New York. Fortunately for American wine geeks, food folk, and the otherwise Italian wine curious, Vino Italiano speaks with a true American, even further a New Yorker's voice, which makes this substantial 500+ paged tome a pleasure to read. Its cool, casual, hangin' out in Italy narrative is sure to entertain, while the detailed picture painted of each Italian wine region leaves few, if any, details out of the picture.
This definitive guide to the world of Italian wine is arranged by region, with handy appendices consisting of Italian grapes, Italian wine terms, DOC(G) and IGT directory, producer guide and other resources. There is a consistent structure to each chapter: regional anecdote (e.g. wild boar hunting in Tuscany, calamari frying in Liguria, cab riding and gelato discussion in Sicily); leading into a brief overview of the region's history and modern wine industry trends, and a description of the various grapes, types of wine and major players in the region. Concluding each chapter is a regional recipe from either Lydia Bastianich (Joe's mother and US Italian restaurant trailbazer) or Mario Batali. On several occasions, I have tried Lydia's Risotto al Barolo, one of the more simple recipes (even by Italian standards) in this book, and each time it has yielded terrific, authentic tasting, well received risotto each time I have prepared it.
Reading Vino Italiano, I wonder how Mr. Lynch and Mr. Bastianich collaborated on their work. Did they divvy up regions, or jointly handle each one? Whose anecdotes and tasting notes went where? Regardless on how work was doled out, the narrative is consistently of a single voice, one which is equally educational and entertaining. Combined with the wealth of up-to-date information, it is this inimitable New Yorker, food and wine obsessed, insider voice that makes Vino Italiano so eminently readable and enjoyable to me and, I imagine, to such a wide range of readers. It is the rare wine book that combines humor, anecdotal tales, and a true sense of being THE authoritative guide of its field. Congratulations to David Lynch and Joe Bastiancih for achieving all of this in a guide that is equally entertaining, educational, down-to-earth and all encompassing. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED reading for anyone, from those who are even remotely curious about Italian wine, to the most serious Italophiles.