Book Review – It Would be Folly … not to Use Wine Folly
Wine Folly: a Visual Guide to the World of Wine – Madeline Puckette and Justin Hammack (Michael Joseph, 2015) – R350
I’ll come clean with you. I am not an avid reader of books. That may surprise. I do like books that help me to explore and to learn. Travel and reference books are the most fun for me, as you will have read from my book reviews in January and February.
Wine Folly is most definitely a reference book. A bulky hardback at 230 pages long, it is too large to carry with you as a guide and too factual as a coffee table book to browse or look at pretty photos (it has no photos). This is a book that calls out to be used – and use it I have, both for the Cape Wine Lovers’ Society and for my studies with the Cape Wine Academy.
The book breaks down into three parts. The aperitif is in the first section called ‘Fundamentals’. This section introduces the basics of wine, how to taste and handle it, together with the theory and practice of food pairing. The middle 130 pages, the full-bodied part of the book, describe all the different styles of wine. Some 55 of the most common grape types, as well as blended styles, are explained in standard format across two pages. The dessert, as it were, is the final section that provides information on the wine regions of the world: from Argentina to the United States.
Reference books need be easy to search and use to be valuable. Wine Folly sets the highest standard. The authors – one a Master Sommelier and one a brand expert – have blended their skills to perfection. They have capitalised on the recent trend for info graphics and applied them to the world of wine. In doing so, they have helped to demystify the subject – and that immediately appeals to me. Beginner and expert alike will learn from it. Facts are many and easy to find and swallow.
The standard formats, especially for the basic characteristics for each wine style make for easy comparison between grape varieties. The pages are highly visual and very easy to follow. Indeed, the reader can gain 95% of the subject merely by looking at the pictures and reading the headline word or words.
No review of the book would be complete without mention of the Wine Folly website and blog. Indeed, the website preceded the book and was set up by Madeline Puckette and Justin Hammack in Seattle, Washington in October 2011. The busy blog provides a parallel online reference resource, extremely well structured by topic and beginner/expert, with all the linkage usability that the internet provides for. Subscribe to their blog and you will receive weekly reports of the latest articles. Both website and the book are international award winners. That comes as no surprise.
South Africa receives little mention in the book (pages 206 to 207). The country, the eight largest producer in the world, is under-represented and especially in the blog. I would like to have seen a less United States-centric perspective. This translates to the online shop that sells many of the info graphics in chart form. I would gladly buy many of them but – and I wrote to Madeline Puckette to ask – they are not available to purchase in South Africa. I shall have to ask my American friends to help me out here.
Tantalisingly, I have been unable to find the background to choice of the name ‘Wine Folly’. Folly is from the Old French folie meaning ‘madness’ or ‘fool’. The word has two meanings: foolishness, and an ornamental building with no practical purpose. The book is neither foolish nor ornamental and so perhaps the authors have tried to make light of what all too often is a serious subject.
I highly recommend the book as an all-round reference book for beginner especially. Light-bodied it is not – but easy drinking, or rather, reading it most certainly is.