Saturday, December 15, 2012

12 Days of Book Lists, #4

Sticking with our theme of religious intolerance, let us turn now to Divine Vintage: Following the Wine Trail from the Kitchen to Your Bedroom... That is, Following the Wine Trail from Genesis to the Modern Age. Co-authored by one of only two American "Masters of Wine" and a Biblical scholar, Divine Vintage is equal parts history lesson and guided tour of wine's birthplace: heaven. Kidding, sort of. (By the way, not to veer off track from the starting line, but anyone out there tried wine and Coke? Speaking of mixing things? Me neither, gross.)

You see, Noah, of "Noah's Ark!" fame, having established himself as quite the carpenter, and how, built himself... er, God... a vineyard, in the Bible, after wading through the great flood of... sometime roughly 4,000 years ago before recorded history, as a sort of "Mission Accomplished," "Girlfriend, Treat Yo-Self!" T.G.I.F. pat on his own back. It is the first time wine is mentioned in the Bible and an arguable sign of God's covenant. Some 4,000 plus years later, old, probably drunk Ben Franklin said that "Beer is proof God loves us and wants us to be happy." Bearing both ambrosial events in mind, Randal Heskett and Joel Butler embark on a thousands-year-old journey through the Fertile Crescent region, in effort to persuade, if not convince, imbibers of all stripes that wine is a gift from God, with a dark, or shall we say, crimson side (with notes of clove, nutmeg, and pear, nice legs, and a smooth, not overly-complex body, reminiscent of a late winter afternoon and just the slightest hint of seventh grade); a gift that both giveth and taketh away; a hangover, okay, I'm #!@$ing talking about a hangover. But, like, of Biblical proportions. A lot of people say that and can't back it up. But then, most people's books don't mention mass amounts of water being turned back into alcohol. I mean, being turned into alcohol in the first place.

Wine then is less the product of divine intervention than a divine interaction; a shared responsibility. Without us, it would turn back into water. Make that vinegar. Without it, we'd have no excuse for telling strangers that we love them. But let's get back to wine. How can we love it? How can we "treat it right"? How can we tell it how we feel, without just drinking lots of it and launching into the chorus of Beyonce's "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)"? 

Eric Asimov's How to Love Wine is at first glance a memoir about loosening up and making sure everyone has a different colored wine charm round their glass, but upon close inspection is a memoir, manifesto, and app, probably, about uncorking your anxieties in service of surrendering to wine's unsolvable mysteries, written by The New York Times chief wine critic. If that all sounds a bit dramatic, keep in mind I used the word "surrendering," and that Asimov's own love of wine fermented back in grad-school, when he could hardly afford to read about, much less drink, good wine, thus making his transition from grad-student to wine aficionado all the more esteemable, and his giving up on classifying the stuff all the more understandable. How to Love Wine is the perfect gift for casual wine lovers, experts, and wannabes. And finally, to finish the evening, a book about whin-ing: 

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