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Drink This

© Random House
Drink This

If you’re looking for a gift for someone brand new to the wine world, Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl's new Drink This: Wine Made Simple does just that, and provides a useful survey of who’s who in today’s wine world with her many “Conversations with Bigwigs,” quick conversational snippets from everyone from Robert M. Parker, Jr. to Paul Greico. After the jump, Grumdahl lists the Top 5 things those bigwigs taught her.

I had two goals in writing Drink This: Wine Made Simple: First, I wanted to translate wine for smart people short on time. Second, I wanted to dethrone the wine snobs who've made the subject intimidating for everyone else. To accomplish both, I turned to the bigwigs – the really important people in wine – because they all say the same thing: Drink what you like, and ignore the wine snobs. Here are top 5 things they taught me:

1) No one teaches us to smell.
Rising-star Honig winemaker Kristin Belair and I talked about how American toddlers go through a boot-camp on colors and shapes (Can you find the red strawberry? Where’s the green tree?) But no one asks how that strawberry smells. To add 20 points to your wine IQ, put words to the scents of 5 foods you eat this week.
2) It’s okay to add ice.
Bob Lindquist, one of the original Rhone Rangers told me it’s better to put ice in your wine than to drink it too hot, even if it’s a red.
3) Bad wine service can happen to anyone.
Bo Barrett (one of the people behind Judgement of Paris-winner Chateau Montelena) and his wife Heidi Peterson Barrett (whom Robert M. Parker has called The First Lady of Wine) regularly meet resistance from servers when they try to return a corked wine at restaurants. Barrett’s solution is to send his and his wife’s cards back to the manager with the wine.
4) Yellow Tail is better than a Big Mac.
Robert M. Parker told me if Yellow Tail is roughly equivalent to McDonald’s, Yellow Tail is a better version of wine than Mickey D’s is of food.
5) Even big wine spenders can be clueless.
Every year Australian Shiraz genius Stuart Bourne of Barossa Valley Estates traverses North America for a series of high-dollar wine dinners. And every year a few of the snobs at those dinners ask him what it’s like to live in Austria. Stuart’s reply: “I don’t know mate, I suspect it’s bloody cold!” The lesson: Just because people drink expensive wine doesn’t mean they know any more about it than the rest of us. — Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl

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