Thursday, May 16, 2013

Book Review: Educating Peter Part III

I hope this is appreciated by readers and Ms. Teague because her book needs lots of correcting and further explaining.

When she discusses the Southern Rhone, she writes, "Other notable Southern Rhone reds include Cotes du Rhone."  In fact, this designation can come from the south or the north, although the norm is southern.  What she fails to mention here is that Cotes du Rhone also comes in white and rosé.  Not a big deal, but worth a quick mention.

A tip from her about how to determine if a wine list is overpriced recommended checking the price of Veuve Cliquot, a well known and ubiquitous Champagne, to see if "you're likely being gouged other places on that wine list as well."  Not every restaurateur applies the same markup to every bottle on their list.  In fact, some will make a much larger percentage on commodity brands like Veuve Cliquot than they might on a fantastic but unknown bottle.  A sommelier who was a client of mine followed this approach and said any customer who ordered the name brands should be "punished for being a chump."  This is a little over the top to me but the point here is that Ms. Teague's advice does not necessarily work the way she says it does.

On the subject of Champagne she published this:
"                 Types of Champagne
Sweetness                                                 Style
Brut - dry                          Blanc de blancs - white wine of white grapes
Sec - off-dry                     Blanc de noirs - white wine of red grapes
Demi-Sec - sweet             Rose - blend of red and white wines"

This is actually how the chart appeared.  The two listings are independent of one another but this makes it look like Brut might only be Blanc de blancs.  I'm guessing this was a space saving move but it may confuse readers.
From an accuracy standpoint, I have no issues with the Style side but the Sweetness side leaves a bit to be desired.  She does not list an 'Extra-Dry' option which is one of the more confusing styles of bubbly since it is actually less dry than Brut.  It is also seen much more often than bottles labeled Sec or Demi-Sec and seems more important to include because of that.  Sec means 'dry' so to describe it as off-dry is confusing, perhaps she should have elaborated.  Demi-Sec means 'half-dry' and certainly has some sweetness but it is not Doux which means 'sweet' and is rare.  There is no mention at all of Brut Natural or Extra-Brut (both of which are drier than Brut).

She stumbles again on dessert wines: "Eiswein, wine made from botrytised grapes that actually freeze on the vines."  Eiswein is made from grapes that freeze on the vines but they are not affected by botrytis.  [This is sometimes called 'noble-rot' and is essentially a mold that changes the taste of the grapes in a beneficial way, think of cheese as an example of good mold].

"There are one thousand officially designated growing areas in the state [California], otherwise known as AVAs (American Viticultural Areas), although many are not well known." I'm sure they're not.  In 2009 the Wine Institute listed only 108 AVAs in California!  That leaves hundreds that apparently only Ms. Teague and her lucky protege are privy to.  This is a ridiculous error that might incorrectly emerge during a live interview question and answer segment but should never have been published.  

Stay tuned for Part IV...

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