Wrapping our heads around the complicated world of European wine can be challenging.
Simply dealing with multiple languages — French, Italian, German, Spanish — is the first hurdle we must overcome.
That language barrier often finds its way to the labels that adorn wine bottles.
Then there are the appellations — the specific winegrowing regions in each country — not to mention the sub-appellations.
And let’s not forget the various classifications that are used for the wines, which collectively embody a language all their own.
Over the years, there have been multiple books that cover the geography and/or the appellations of wine.
There also have been books providing basic information about how specific grape varieties and wines should taste.
But in a single book titled, “The Sommelier’s Atlas of Taste,” sommelier Rajat Parr and spirits writer Jordan Mackay use their own knowledge and interviews with leading vintners in the aforementioned four countries to detail what makes the various appellations and their terroir distinctive.
If I were teaching a Wine 101 class and the time came to discuss the wines of Europe, this is the “textbook” I would use.
Unlike most wine books, which focus on winemaking from a “classical” perspective, “The Sommelier’s Atlas of Taste” examines wine in ways that we typically talk about it today.
It compares wines by appellation, by the types of soil that grapes are grown in, and even by the stylistic preferences of vintners. We live in a time when technology can help produce more consistent wines from vintage to vintage, and the book explains how consistency is a choice a winemaker must weigh against vintage variables.
For anyone planning a wine-focused trip to France, Italy, Germany or Spain sometime in the future, “The Sommelier’s Atlas of Taste” is a valuable resource. And for anyone simply interested in learning more about wine, it’s an entertaining and educational read.