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Kevin Zraly's Complete Wine Course Hardcover – September 6, 2011
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The tasting guides will be invaluable in the future and the review at the end of each lesson truly helps with test prep. Highly recommended as a book to keep on the shelf for a long time.
I had recently been caught up in a career change, which wasn't my choice, but has worked out well for me. My daily grind changed from drafting TPS reports to tending bar. While I have an above-average understanding of wine and a workman's vinticultural vocabulary, that's not saying much. If I am going to make it at higher levels of the beverage industry, I'm going to need some help.
Kevin Zraly's Complete Wine Course is the book equivalent to a Coast Gaurd cutter pulling up to a stranded ship taking on water during a squall.
The depth of information is daunting, but I never realized it until I made flashcards based on the chapter review sections. It is very approachable, even informal in the style of writing. As a magna cum laude graduate of sociology, I appreciate a text book that isn't peppered with pointless jargon. Everything in this book is condensed and delivered in a way that maintains the positive energy that drew my attention to the enjoyment of wine in the first place.
Like any other text book, you're going to get what you put in to reading it... and yes: studying it.
This said, if you plan on moving through the suggested tastings, be prepared to spend a healthy amound of money. I've been better served by combining the rudimentary experience I've earned living in and traveling to the better wine areas in California. When Zraly writes about the quality of certain wines, I've been able to make mental connections to California wines. I may be missing the credientials of tasting fabled terroirs, but there are two things that make me feel better about this:
1) With more time, more money and more travel, I'll be tasting these wines in my future.
2) 72% of me believes that the entire concept of terroir in wine tasting to be suspect, if not a complete load of BS. Some people are superfreaks of taste, but what I've learned is that what matters most if not only finding a good wine, but understanding what makes that wine good to YOU.
There's only one way to do that: train and refine the palate. This can be as expensive a journey as you want it to be, from about $30 in materials and liquids of varying viscosities... or you can blow a bunch of cash on exclusive tastings lists.
That's not to say Zraly's lists are ridiculous examples of indulgence for indulgence's sake. Zraly repeatedly stresses good values and how to hunt them out of the intimidating racks of grapey magic at the large retailers. The wines I'm familiar with on his lists are all exceptional examples of their style and/or varietal. Rather it takes a great dedication of resources to experience the exceptional examples of style and/or varietal Zraly has assembled. These are spectacular wines, and some of them are spectacularly priced. If I had the money, I'd love to do the exact tastings he's put together.
I'd even consider it a wise investment.
However, due to practical concerns I hope to someday dispose of, I'll be sticking to building academic knowledge on a foundation of rinsing my mouth with heavy whipping cream and inhaling the aroma of pencil shavings until I can identify an entire flavor-wheel blindfolded.
There is another bit of wonder I've discovered by studying my way through this text: it is still possible to make a very successful career out of a cherished hobby and interest.
More than simply expanding my vocabulary and academic knowledge of wine, I've found myself much more prepared when I load up the dog and head out to explore another valley's offerings for a weekend. This alone is worth the price and effort of The Complete Wine Course.