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Secrets of the Sommeliers: How to Think and Drink Like the World's Top Wine Professionals Hardcover – October 19, 2010

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Secrets of the Sommeliers: How to Think and Drink Like the World's Top Wine Professionals + The Sommelier Prep Course: An Introduction to the Wines, Beers, and Spirits of the World + The World Atlas of Wine, 7th Edition
Price for all three: $91.36

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Ten Speed Press; First Edition edition (October 19, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 158008298X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1580082983
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #36,970 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“Parr & Jordan open a window onto the workings of a great sommeliers mind. . . .The result is part history lesson, part insider’s guide to the best producers and best buys, but, most of all, it’s a testament to all the hard work that goes into being a great sommelier.”
—Wine & Spirits, December 2010

“If you or your friends want to read about wine and friendship, learn about the camaraderie of the sommelier profession, and discover from insiders how to select wine, you must absolutely get Rajat Parr and Jordan McKay's new book, Secrets of the Sommeliers.”
—The Atlantic’s Food Channel, 12/20/10

“No one understands the meaningful details of enjoying wine - and how to communicate them to the public – quite like a skilled sommelier, and Rajat Parr, the wine director for Michael Mina's many restaurants, is one of America's best. In his collaboration with journalist Jordan Mackay, Parr manages to pour forth an impressive breadth of wisdom, both practical and esoteric, in a very manageable 200-page gulp illustrated with evocative sepia-toned photos.”
—Philadelphia Inquirer, 12/16/10

“The best wine book to come across my desk in awhile. . . . This intelligent, understated book is a must for any wine lover, budding or educated.”
—San Francisco Bay Guardian, Appetite: Delicious giving, 12/3/10

“Readers will put this book down with a better understanding of their restaurant experience, and may head put to dine with a little less fear of the sommelier. And while we don't typically dine at home the way we do in restaurants, our own wine choices as ‘home sommeliers’ will be better informed from this book.”
—, All We Can Eat blog, 12/2/10

“Parr and Mackay’s handbook for aspiring sommeliers is, unexpectedly, one of the most user-friendly manuals for the wine-curious to come along. . . . That’s because its subject isn’t really wine—it’s how to master the practical application of wine to every-day life. Everything in the book (especially the candid anecdotes from wine masters) illuminates an aspect of tasting, buying, pairing, or pouring. And insider tips not covered in more encyclopedic tomes, such as how to recognize boutique “grower” champagnes just from the label, are guaranteed to boost your wine ego after a single read.”
—San Francisco magazine, November 2010

“A new take to the omnibus-guide genre. ‘Secrets’ harnesses Parr's immense pool of knowledge and observations from the nation's top wine directors for a pointed, thoughtful take on the essentials of wine.”
—San Francisco Chronicle, 11/28/10

“For the advanced wine geek, this book will become a bible. . . . If you're not thinking like a sommelier now you will be by book's end.”
—San Jose Mercury News, Holiday Gift Guide for Foodies, 11/24/10

"A good gift for the wine-obsessed."
—S. Irene Virbila, L.A. Times Daily Dish blog, 11/15/10

“‘Secrets’ performs the invaluable task of mining not only Parr's brain but also the expertise of many Bay Area sommelierati for a very focused take on how to choose wine, understand a wine list and buy with a savvy eye.  . . .It provides an inside track that's so often missing from most buying guides' neutral tone.”
—San Francisco Chronicle, 11/7/10

"Oenophiles on any level could learn from this exploration into the inside world of wine and the people who present it."
—, 11/1/10

“Parr, director of wine for Michael Mina's restaurants, and San Francisco-based writer Jordan Mackay have penned an indispensable tool. Not simply a peek into the mind of Parr and his wine-loving compatriots, the book is full of useful tips.”
—Tasting Table SF, 10/19/10

"Whether your aspiration is to become a world class sommelier, or simply to find a better bottle of Burgundy, this is a must-have book for any passionate wine consumer."
—Jon Troutman,, 10/19/10

“Let me say that this is a fascinating look at a world of after-hours tastings and tenacious debates, at the wines that many sommeliers care most about, and at restaurant service from an insider’s view. We meet many unusual and charismatic personalities, not least of whom is Mr. Parr, whose journey from a childhood in Calcutta to the highest level of American wine culture is testimony to energy, talent and hard work. And, in the tradition of the best sommeliers, useful lessons and tips are conveyed painlessly and entertainingly.”
—Eric Asimov, New York Times Diner’s Journal, 10/5/10

"It's a comprehensive book that's perfect for any oenophile—or anybody wanting to become one."
—Condé Nast Traveler, Moveable Feast blog, 8/6/10

About the Author

RAJAT PARR is the wine director of the 17-restaurant Mina Group, which includes properties in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, and Washington, DC. His program at the flagship restaurant in San Francisco holds a Wine Spectator Grand Award.

JORDAN MACKAY is the wine-and-spirits editor of 7x7 magazine and the author of Passion for Pinot. He is a regular contributor to the New York Times and has written for Food & Wine, Gourmet, and Decanter.

Customer Reviews

I have read many wine books and this is clearly the best.
It's a well written book by co-authors Rajat Parr and Jordan Mackay, who demonstrate a remarkable knowledge of wine and the role of a sommelier.
J. Chambers
If you've ever simply wanted to learn more about wine, or launch your professional skills to the next level, this book is a MUST read.
Madame Oenophile

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

66 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Chambolle VINE VOICE on November 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Let's start with the worst part of this book: the title. I had to hold my nose and buy it despite the horrible do it yourself, self improvement/self congratulatory vibe of that clumsy moniker. But don't let that keep you from buying this informative and entertaining book, whether you are in the wine trade, a serious amateur, or just a wanna be.

Ed Anderson's excellent photography is one of the draws. There are some really stunning portraits of Dominique Lafon, Jean-Marc Roulot, Freddy Mugnier, Etienne de Montille and others.

Another plus is the collection of biographical sketches of a number of high profile sommeliers -- Larry Stone, Rajat Parr, Daniel Johnnes, Kevin Zraly and others. It's always interesting to read how other people found their true calling.

But the most valuable part of the book is the common sense advice about buying wine, where to find it, and how to cellar and serve it; along with insights into the day to day joys, trials and tribulations of the folks who serve the stuff up in tony restaurants across the land. There are brief profiles of the great wine grapes and the best examples of each -- pinot noir, cabernet, merlot, cabernet franc, and so on. A discussion of the pros and cons of buying wine at auction, and how to find the best deals by avoiding the 'blue chip' names and vintages and using your wine knowledge to get value for money. A discussion of wine and food matching. How to pick your way through a restaurant wine list to find the hidden treasures to be found in just about every good list.

A number of reviewers here appear offended that the book strongly emphasizes the wines of Burgundy. If that bothers you, I suppose you should stay away.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By tiney928 on December 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover
A great book
Some of the other reviewers completely missed the point of this book. Yes, there's a strong focus on Burgundy and on fine wine in general, but that's what sommeliers do. It's not meant to be a book to teach how you to buy Shiraz at the grocery store, but rather how to blind taste, pair and shop for classic wines. There's no snobbery here, just a love of the truest, purest wines, something I want to know about, and the authors here deliver the goods. In addition, there's stuff here that never gets address, such how to properly serve wine to make your dinner parties better, how to pair with different kinds of fish, and how to recognize different varieties in a blind tasting. I learned so much from this book.
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56 of 69 people found the following review helpful By Schpapsch on February 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am not sure why sommeliers get so excited about Rajat Parr. My wife thinks that this is a great read and chock full of knowledge. I am a lowly wine layman and find this book plodding, conceitful, and far too self-congratulatory. A couple of random points:

1) His summary dismissal of Rioja is offensive. There are plenty of lousy riojas but many amazing wines as well with low alcohol and good acids.
2) His inclusion of "All-Time Favorites" wines is absurd. 1870 Laffite? 1947 Cheval Blanc? I'll make sure to pick up a bottle or two next time I have a hundred thousand dollars laying around.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Barrett TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 27, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand I respect the many of the folks mentioned in this book; on the other hand, Parr is portraying their 'clique' as a group of rock stars that have impeccable palates. The tone gets very cocky, though never really condescending.

I also looked into a few things. In the beginning of the book the authors (Mr. Parr being one of them - shame on him for using the third person!) speak of studying for the MS exams. Ironically Mr. Parr does not actually have an MS certification, though the tone and wording of this introduction suggest otherwise.

For a better and much more humble (and better written) book by a wine industry professional check these out:
Red, White, and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass
Reading between the Wines: With a New Preface

I expected secrets of the sommeliers to be either: a) good look into what makes a good sommelier, or b) a look into the experience of becoming a sommelier. I did expect some funny stories, maybe some humor... But what the book needs a dose of humility. First Parr discusses his own rise to becoming a sommelier (in 3rd person mind you...), then he has short bios on other wine industry professionals, but this comes as more of a 'shout out' to his friends who have worked towards their MS (Master Sommelier) certification.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By cookstr on December 21, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Many of the wine books out there are either straight buying guides, which can be useful but make for dull reading; or they are doorstop-style reference books that are valuable for experts but generally TMI for everyone else. Parr's book gives consumers loads of great info on buying and appreciating wines, layered with an in-depth behind the scenes look into the world of fine wine services, from the perspective of someone who has total access. His personal story is fascinating, as are the portraits of some of the top sommeliers from around the country. It's a great read for aspiring professionals and pretty much anyone who has an interest in the wine world.
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More About the Author

Though food was Rajat Parr's first love, wine became his great passion. Luckily, Parr has been able to experience the best of both worlds as wine director of Mina Group. With the opening of RN74 in San Francisco, Parr had yet another opportunity to focus his tremendous wine knowledge and passion on creating an unparalleled wine program. The realization of a longtime dream for Parr, RN74 is a wine bar and restaurant inspired by Parr's extensive travels and experiences throughout the region of Burgundy, France - a region to which he is deeply connected. Parr was rewarded when RN74 won the 2010 Grand Award of Excellence.

"At RN74, we have the opportunity to create a wine bar experience in which a world-class wine list and beautifully executed cuisine would share equal billing, drawing inspiration from each other and creating a perfectly balanced gustatory experience," says Parr of the approach to the wine bar and restaurant. "In building the cellar, we have put an emphasis on wines which have the depth to fully complement the cuisine. Nothing is more pleasing than finding the perfect pairing."

Parr has had a distinguished history with the Mina Group. In 2003, he was named Wine Director for the group, where he has been responsible for developing and managing the wine programs at each restaurant: ARCADIA (San Jose); MICHAEL MINA Bellagio (formerly AQUA Bellagio), AMERICAN FISH, NOBHILL TAVERN, SEABLUE and STRIPSTEAK (Las Vegas); SEABLUE (Atlantic City); RN74, MICHAEL MINA and CLOCK BAR (San Francisco); STONEHILL TAVERN (Dana Point); BOURBON STEAK (Scottsdale, Miami, and Washington, D.C.); SALTWATER and BOURBON STEAK (Detroit); and XIV (Los Angeles).

Parr's schedule is full but he does not rest on his laurels. Parr has found the time to start his own label, Sandhi Wines, making its debut in 2011, as well as build and nurture significant relationships with choice California estates, allowing Parr the opportunity to create private labels that are exclusive to Mina Group restaurants.

Parr began his career as an apprentice to one of the industry's most acclaimed master sommeliers, Larry Stone at Rubicon. There, he worked closely with Stone to gain extensive knowledge of great wines from around the world, as well as an affection for wines of Burgundy. In 1999, Parr brought his expertise to Fifth Floor in San Francisco, which quickly received rave reviews and the Grand Award from Wine Spectator after only 2 years of its opening.

After earning a bachelors degree from the Welcomgroup Graduate School of Hotel Administration, Parr entered the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park, New York.

Born in Calcutta, Parr credits his uncle in England for first introducing him to great wines.
Parr is an ardent wine educator who has been invited to host seminars, as well as lead panel discussions at several of the country's most prestigious food and wine gatherings. He enjoys creating and hosting wine dinners that share his love of wine with others.

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