Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Book Review: Educating Peter Part I

In a continuing series of wine book reviews, this one seems incredibly important to me for reasons that will become clear as you read.  The author, Lettie Teague, has impressive credits: wine columnist and editor at Food And Wine, columnist at The Wall Street Journal and author of two books.  I respect her credentials, enjoy her writing and love the concept behind Educating Peter.
Ms. Teague records her efforts to teach Peter Travers, Rolling Stone movie critic, about wine.  Presenting a wine lesson in the form of a story, rather than a slew of charts, dry facts and Q and A may have been the best brainstorm for a wine book ever!
After reading it I wanted to recommend this to everyone wanting to learn about wine but felt a handout was necessary containing a list of things that needed fixing and clarification.  There are many incomplete lessons – even granted the basic introductory way in which they are written.  Errors of omission exist.  Even worse, to my mind, are the declarative statements that are simply not accurate or dismissive.  These are disappointing coming from someone who writes about wine for a living and, at least in this book, assumes a teaching role.  Wine is confusing enough without "experts" irresponsibly pontificating and throwing out absolutes that misrepresent (and should perhaps have a counter argument). 
Admittedly, some of my gripes focus on fine points about wine but that seems reasonable since Ms. Teague claims to teach "How Anybody Can Become an (Almost) Instant Wine Expert" with this book. If you want more reviews, many unfavorable about the general approach and the writer, please feel free to peruse here, but I will focus strictly on the wine side, offering rebuttal and a few corrections. 
Lots of food is mentioned, including the all too often written, 'This wine would be good with food.'  Agreed.  It is one of the main reasons we drink wine.  Which food?  Why?  None of the wines is tasted with food but supposedly Mr. Travers is learning how to match during his education.
To start with the most glaring error is a question from Peter's "Final Exam," 45 questions designed to see what he learned. 
From page 234: "Which of these grapes is not grown in Bordeaux?  
A) Cabernet Sauvignon
B) Semillon
C) Gamay Noir
D) Sauvignon Blanc"
The answer, according to Ms. Teague, is D.  Apparently she is unfamiliar with white Bordeaux, made from predominantly Sauvignon Blanc in its dry form.  A smaller percentage of the same grape appears in the sweet versions.  Gamay Noir, C, is the grape behind Beaujolais, which also starts with a B but is not grown in Bordeaux.  

More in Part II coming soon...

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