Monday, August 24, 2015
Blind Book Review: Karen MacNeil's "The Wine Bible 2nd Edition"
The only bibles I’ve ever read were television bibles, which are the keys to the characters and plotlines, written by the series’ creators, of individual television series. Television bibles teach us to worship Mammon, and Norman Lear. Mammon has more hit shows. As well as the leading Republican candidate for President. The Bible, capitalized, and usually qualified by the word “Holy,” as in “cow” and “shit,” is a book that, ashamedly, I’ve never read. The publisher refused to send me a review copy. Coincidentally, I haven’t received a review copy of Karen MacNeil’s soon to be released The Wine Bible 2nd Edition either. Which means that I am able to evaluate and criticize it completely objectively, much as wine critics claim to evaluate wine. They’re mostly lying. But they are on the right track. Actually reviewing wines blind is honorable work, though far too humbling to pursue for a living. The many folks who will ultimately review MacNeil’s newer version of The Wine Bible will also claim to have read it. They’re mostly lying, too. This is the beauty of the wine business. We like drinking and lying. Not necessarily in that order.
In her press and on her blog, MacNeil says she “is the only person in the United States to have WON EVERY MAJOR WINE AWARD (her capitalization, which is a lovely measure of journalism in itself) in the English language.” So, fuck you Roederer International Wine Writing Awards! MacNeil hasn’t won a Roederer Award, therefore they are not MAJOR WINE AWARDS by definition. Pretty sure she hasn’t won a Wine Blog Award either, but there’s that damned “MAJOR” in there, so I guess she’s off that particular hook. Not to mention “the English language,” to which most wine blogs have only a vague resemblance. I’ve won three Wine Blog Awards, and they’re to wine writing what lethal injections are to the death penalty. This from a guy who has WON EVERY MAJOR WINE BLOG AWARD in the English language. If there were any.
Wine has more guides than Everest has Sherpas. The Oxford Companion, World Atlas of Wine, A Connoisseurs’ Guide, Essential Guide, a Dummies Guide, an Idiot’s Guide, a Jerk’s Guide, an Asshole’s Guide, Riedel’s Guide (which is a compilation of the previous three)… And all the guides will tell you that buying their guide will help you understand wine. Maybe. But what they really help you understand is that wine is hard to understand, even in alphabetical order. That wine writing is couched in mystical and incomprehensible language, impenetrable metaphors and dumbfounding similes. Which is why wine guides are exactly like The Holy Bible—books that are filled with mythical stories and bizarre language with the intent of making you believe in your own insignificance in the scheme of things. Only MacNeil is the one who figured that out first and grabbed the catchy title, and is now releasing The Wine Bible 2nd Edition. I’m just surprised she didn’t call it The Wine New Testament.
The wine world is expanding faster than Subway’s Jared at the Kid’s Choice Awards. And MacNeil has expanded her guide to cover wines from regions that are new to most wine lovers. There’s a section on Mexican wines, wines derided by Donald Trump as “smuggled into the US by Mexico’s countless grapists.” MacNeil defends Mexican wines, and, in her inimitable voice, calls them, “Up and coming, like your taco truck lunch.” There’s an incisive entry about the wines of China. “Better than you think. Wines to make you smile. The Mao, the merrier.” She even visits the obscure country of Brangelina to taste their wines. “Lovely, pink and effervescent,” she writes, “like Elton John in a hot tub.”
The Wine Bible 2nd Edition is not just for the beginning wine lover, it’s also for experienced wine lovers looking to spend that annoying $25 Amazon gift card just to get rid of it. It’s fun and lively in a way best summed up by the word, “comprehensive.” It’s more than 1000 pages, each numbered! It’s a wine book heaped with praise.
“It’s the greatest wine book I’ve ever seen. Makes me wish I could read.”—Danny Meyer
“A guide that has all the answers—like your annoying 16-year-old.”—Bobby Flay
“You don’t have to be an Idiot or a Dummy to buy this wine guide—but it sure helps!”—Hugh Johnson
Fortunately, I’ve never read the first edition of The Wine Bible. It might have thrown me off. I hear it’s about wine. Endlessly about wine. And I would guess, since I haven’t read it, and thoroughly enjoyed not reading it, that The Wine Bible 2nd Edition even has Ten Commandments.
Thou shalt have no other guides before me.
Thou shalt not make unto thee any trademarked images.
Thou shalt not take the score of the guide, thy God, in vain.
Thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt only unscrew.
Thou shalt not stink of ambergris at a wine tasting—perfume is just whale Preparation H.
Thou shalt not steel, especially when making Chardonnay.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s DRC.
Honor thy mother and thy father and thy sommelier.
Thou shalt not kill, except for 100 point wines.
Thou shalt not forget to wipe.
I’m not sure about the last one, but it’s damned fine advice.