Today's Sponsor:
 California Wine Club The wine reviews are in!

In This Issue
 Wine Advisor's Premium Edition Subscribe now and receive tomorrow's new edition.
 The literate wine lover: Wine-book reviews Three new books offer a variety of views into the world of wine.
 Pascal Toso 2002 Maipu Vineyards Mendoza Malbec ($9.99) Affordable and food-friendly, a particularly good value.
 California Wine Club offers the biggest savings ever on some of their highest rated wines!
 This week on New wine releases, California Cabernets and a trip to Cyprus.
Last Week's Wine Advisor Index Links to last week's articles in the Wine Advisor archives.
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Wine Advisor's Premium Edition

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The literate wine lover:
Wine-book reviews

Three disparate wine books have turned up here in the past couple of months, prompting a day devoted to reading and sharing my impressions in the form of brief reviews. (If you would rather sip wine than read about wine, you'll find today's usual tasting report a short way down the page.)

Two of the books seem to be aimed primarily at niche markets (and, frankly, are priced to match), although I found both intriguing enough to catch the attention of any wine lover enthusiastic enough to pay just about any price to gobble up all the information available about our favorite beverage.

The third book, though, is a "must buy" for just about anyone interested in wine, particularly if you've moved a step past the novice stage and would like to stretch your wine-tasting muscles by wrestling with ideas that may challenge the conventional wine wisdom. Let's begin with a look at this one, which was heralded here by no news release but popped up the other day on the new books shelf at the local public library.

Making Sense of Wine Making Sense of Wine, by Matt Kramer, is a thoroughly revised and updated 2003 edition of the 1989 book by my favorite Wine Spectator writer, a Portland, Oregon-based wine journalist.

Much has changed in the world of wine since 1989, he says in a new preface, adding, "I can say, without exaggeration, that the 1990s were the most transforming ten-year span in the history of fine wine. Everything essential to fine wine - winegrower ambition, a passionate, informed audience, and abundant money - coalesced. What had been slowly building in the 1970s and, especially, the 1980s, came to full flower in the 1990s."

Perhaps the greatest challenge of the new wine era, he writes, is finding and valuing "originals" in a world where so many fine wines seem to converge on an international model, with new blends that add Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and small-oak aging to bring an intriguing but invariable sameness to wines from disparate regions.

"Today's most courageous winegrowers are more stubbornly pursuing authentic, original wines than ever before," Kramer writes. "Indeed, probably some of the greatest wines the world has ever known ... are being created today. One must sift through more offerings, however, to find them. ... [G]reat wines taste like they come from somewhere. Lesser wines taste interchangeagle; they could come from anywhere."

The book is divided into two broad sections: "Thinking Wine" and "Drinking Wine," with a particularly provocative, all-new chapter concluding the first section, in which he examines the role of such "mega-validators" as Robert M. Parker Jr. and Kramer's own Wine Spectator in shaping broader markets for quality wine; and offers a clear, informative overview of such increasingly widespread if seldom discussed technologies as vacuum concentrators and reverse osmosis to manipulate wines in the winery, gently leading the reader to reach his own conclusions about the significance of these techniques.

Making Sense of Wine, by Matt Kramer, lists for $19.95 and is available from for $13.97, a 30 percent discount. The following link will provide more information, and should you use it to purchase this book, we'll receive a small commission at

Spinning the Bottle Spinning the Bottle: Case Studies in Wine Public Relations, by longtime wine-industry public-relations professional Harvey Posert and wine journalist Paul Franson, appears to be intended primarily for wineries and wine businesses interested in improving their public-relations efforts.

Simple and straightforward, it presents about 50 short "case studies" of winery public-relations efforts, ranging from success stories (the rise of "Two Buck Chuck," a concept so attention-getting that it required no public relations campaign) to a few self-deprecating tales about life in the PR trenches (such as journalist Keith Love's hilarious report about a media event in which an anticipated French barrelmaker wearing a beret turned out to be a Scot in a kilt).

Reading it is a bit like sitting around a very large round table surrounded by PR people telling war stories, each taking his turn in no particular order (actually, the book is arranged alphabetically, from Roger Aselson's story about persuading the Maserati auto company to participate in a press event for Opus One winery, to Donald Ziraldo's account of the creation of a world market for Ontario's Inniskillin icewine).

As the editors candidly acknowledge, submissions were only "lightly edited," and the articles are frankly a bit variable. But there's plenty to retain the reader's interest here, and winery managers seeking ideas and direction in their efforts to win publicity will probably learn more here than they could glean from a pricey seminar. Serious "wine geeks" will find it interesting reading, too.

Spinning the Bottle, a 220-page trade paperback, sells for $45 for California consumers, including tax, shipping and postage; it's $42 elsewhere in in the U.S., or 40 euros. It is not currently available from; for buying information, visit the book's Website,

The authors are also offering a short course on small-winery public relations March 13, 2004, at Napa Valley College. See the Website for details.

Wine into Words James M. Gabler, whose classic "Passions, The Wines and Travels of Thomas Jefferson," remains one of the two most engaging books of wine history I've ever read (the other being Hugh Johnson's sadly out-of-print "Vintage, The Story of Wine"), has just published a massively updated and rewritten edition of his other wine passion, Wine into Words: A History and Bibliography of Wine Books in the English Language.

>From Pliny to Parker, if a book about wine has been published in English, it will almost certainly be listed and described in this magisterial bibliography, a hefty tome that lists nearly 8,000 English-language wine books, with many entries annotated with brief but coherent mini-reviews.

For Jancis Robinson's 1982 The Great Wine Book, for example, it notes, "The special quality of Ms. Robinson's book is in her emphasis on the personal qualities of the great wine makers. She writes, 'It seems extraordinary how little has been written about wine people. This book largely ignores the historical aspects, which have already been covered so well, and concentrates on the personalities behind the world's greatest wines. For the character of a wine and, especially, the will to produce really fine wine, is inextricably bound up with the personality, psychology and philosophy of its maker.'"

Or this, ringing down the years from the early 18th century, Edward Ward's "The delights of the bottle, or the compleat vintner":

"An ode in four cantos that praises Bacchus, wine, and the joys of moderate wine drinking.

From whose cellars we derive,
the warmth which keeps the world alive;
For should not Bacchus bless the earth,
All would be labor, without mirth."

Librarians will need this book. Mere wine lovers will savor browsing through it like tasting selections at random from a box of very fine chocolates. But it comes at a price: This oversize, 503-page hardcover book is $75, with no discount available from

Gabler's Passions, The Wines and Travels of Thomas Jefferson is also still available for $29.95 (no discount) from

Would you like to comment on one of these books, or recommend another new wine book you've read recently and enjoyed? You're always welcome to participate in the online wine conversations. To join in an interactive round-table online discussion on today's article, click to

If you prefer to comment privately, feel free to send me E-mail at I'll respond personally to the extent that time and volume permit.

Now, here's today's tasting report, an affordable and food-friendly Argentine Malbec of particularly good value.

Pascual Toso Pascal Toso 2002 Maipu Vineyards Mendoza Malbec ($9.99)

Very dark garnet, almost opaque. It's a little shy at first, but juicy black-plum aromas come up promptly with swirling in the glass. Ripe and fresh, plummy fruit and lemony acidity come together in a mouth-filling, palate-cleansing wine that goes very well with food, with fresh, clean fruit lingering in a long finish. U.S. importer: TGIC Importers Inc., Woodland Hills, Calif. (Feb. 23, 2004)

FOOD MATCH: A food-friendly wine, good with red meat and excellent with pizza. It made a fine companion with chicken sausages flavored with roasted red peppers.

VALUE: Argentine Malbec in general offers good value these days, and this one is significantly above the median for both quality and price.

WHEN TO DRINK: Not a wine for aging, but it will keep well enough on your wine rack for a year or two.

WEB LINK: The U.S. importer has a short fact sheet about the Pascal Toso winery here:

FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: Look for Pascal Toso Malbec on

California Wine Club

California Wine Club

The wine reviews are in!

This month The California Wine Club offers the biggest savings ever on some of their highest rated wines! With Super Savers for just $5.50 per bottle, award-winning past selections for only $99 per case and all upper level club wines on sale at up to 58 percent off normal retail, this is one sale you won't want to miss.

Check out a few of the highly rated wines now on sale:
Anderson's Conn Valley '99 Eloge - 92 points, Robert M. Parker Jr.
Robert Stemmler 2000 Chardonnay - 91 points Connoisseurs' Guide
Northstar Winery '99 Merlot ~ 91 - points, The Wine Advocate
Byron Vineyards IO Wines 2001 S.L.O. Syrah - 95 points Connoisseur's Guide

Click here to view the full list of wines on sale:
or call 1-800-777-4443. There are two free gifts, you can order half, full and mixed cases, and for the first time ever, their International Selections are also on sale.

This week on

Here are links to some of our recently published articles that I think you'll enjoy:

Bucko's Wine Reports: 100 new wine releases
Can spring really be right around the corner? In some quarters, Old Man Winter has just not wanted to turn loose of his grip. Our New Wine Releases columnist Randy "Bucko" Buckner parks the sled dogs and doffs his parka to present his monthly report, with tasting notes on 100 new releases.

WebWineMan: California's red gold: Cabernet
California Cabernet Sauvignon put "new world" wines on the map in 1976 when it bested some of the top Bordeaux chateaux in a blind tasting in Paris. The rest is history, as Cal Cabs have developed cult followings much like Coke and McDonald's hamburgers. Columnist Richard Fadeley and his tasting crew at the Columbia, S.C. Free Times sampled 14 of them, ranging from $14 to $75, and present this report.

Reports from our readers: Back home ... in Cyprus
Cyprus - a rocky island republic in the northeastern Mediterranean - may not be the world's most familiar wine region. But for wine lover Nicos Neocleous, it is the land of his parents and his ancestral homeland. Nicos, a native Londoner, recently visited Cyprus to catch up with friends and relatives and do a little wine exploring. He has favored us with a report on Cyprus and its wines, including notes on visits to three Cypriot wineries.

Last Week's Wine Advisor Index

The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:

 More from Canada: Icewine (March 5, 2004)

 Discovering British Columbia (March 3, 2004)

 Wine rating: Seven stars (March 1, 2004)

 Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:

 Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Simple shrimp pasta (March 4, 2004)

 Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:

 30 Second Wine Advisor, daily or weekly (free)
 Wine Advisor FoodLetter, Thursdays (free)
 Wine Advisor Premium Edition, alternate Tuesdays ($24/year)

For all past editions, click here


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All the wine-tasting reports posted here are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores and accept no samples, gifts or other gratuities from the wine industry.

Monday, March 8, 2004
Copyright 2004 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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