A Taste of the World of Wine – Patrick Iland, Peter Gago et al

Four wine experts share their international wine knowledge

By Robyn Lewis
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A Taste of the World of Wine - Patrick Iland, Peter Gago, Andrew Caillard, Peter Dry

A Taste of the World of Wine - Patrick Iland, Peter Gago, Andrew Caillard, Peter Dry

 

These days my wine library is bulging, and I’m getting very selective about what goes into it.

Wine books are divided into two groups – serious books for the connoisseur/professional/winemaking or hospitality student, and more approachable books for wine consumers who aspire to know more but are not planning on becoming an MW, or even a winemaker, anytime soon. Call them fun books if you like – Matt Skinner’s are prime examples. (Then of course there are ones that lie in between, eg Matthew Jukes and Tyson Stelzer’s).

So when a new title comes along, it’s first given a quick assessment. A Taste of the World of Wine falls into the Serious category, with a capital S – a quick Google search shows it’s already made it into the curriculum of the  ‘Wine Essentials Plus’ professional course of the WA Wine Education Centre, and the University of Southern Queensland’s ‘Sensory Analysis’ 2010 course module.

Two of the authors are described as ‘revered academics’, as indeed they are. Dr Patrick Iland (who is also the publisher, along with his wife Judith - responsible for the design, layout and research assistance) is a former Senior Lecturer and now Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Adelaide, specialising in wine chemistry and viticulture, and has been involved in wine education for over three decades. He also holds an Order of Australia for services to the wine industry.

Viticultural scientist Dr Peter Dry is also a retired University of Adelaide academic, and author of The (another capital) global textbook Viticulture, plus 220 other articles. Combined with these are Peter Gago, best known as Penfolds Chief Winemaker and thus maker of the hallowed Grange, and Andrew Caillard MW, co-founder of Langton’s Fine Wine Auctions and expert on the ‘secondary ultra-fine wine market’ as the high end of wine investment is known. Both are also Roseworthy graduates and involved in wine education, writing and spreading the wine word.

So this is a book you can’t ignore. It does look very like a textbook however, so if you’re looking for something entertaining as well as educational, this is not it. However, what it is is ‘a comprehensive and practical guide that takes the reader on a journey through the history of wine, viticulture and winemaking practices, how to taste wine and the characteristics of the major wine styles of the world.’

Hmm, I have a few of these already. The magnum opus WINE by André Domine springs to mind, as well it might as it weighs over 3 kg and along with its slightly slimmer sisters Jancis Robinson’s The Oxford Companion to Wine and The World Atlas of Wine (with Hugh Johnston) takes up a fair chunk of shelf space.

I read more of Iland’s book store review: ‘The concise, easy to follow, educational approach makes it an ideal book for anyone who is interested in wine. The book contains 212 pages of informative text, maps, wine style guides, tasting clues and over 300 photographs to illustrate the diversity and richness of the world of wine.

Educational in format it has been written for students and the general wine consumer who wants to know a little more. It is suitable as a foundation text and a useful reference for all students of wine. It can be used in wine courses, hospitality courses, and for training retail, marketing and cellar door sales personnel or just to enjoy the read.’

Well, it’s certainly lighter than either Domine’s or Robinson’s tomes. But do you need to buy it?

To answer this question I delve a little further. Another advantage of an extensive wine library is that it now goes back a fair way. I reach for a former favourite reference, Australian Wine Styles and Tastes, also by Patrick Iland and Peter Gago, published by Iland in 2002. Same format, same matt finish covers, same size. It’s also described as ‘a key to understanding and enjoying wine’ although in the latter case the word Australian is added. Hmm again. I compare the contents.

Chapters in A Taste of the World of Wine include
•    The story of wine, including wine regions of the world
•    Vines and grapes, which includes extensive notes on viticulture
•    Tasting wine – how to, tasting terms and comparisons
Wine styles, including:
•    Sparkling wines
•    Dry white wines
•    Sweet wines
•    Dry red wines
•    Fortified wines
•    Wine with food

The back cover also says ‘wine and health’ but I can’t find that chapter in my copy or any more than two short references in the index.

So, how do they compare?

The first three chapters are essentially the same structure, only in a different order. The 2002 volume started with tasting wines, but the 09 – where it’s chapter 3 – is an improvement in my opinion, although many of the photos (by Richard Humphreys) are identical, so at first it looks similar.  Know all this and you’ll certainly have the terminology to become an expert wine taster.

The story of wine is now a more comprehensive history, with a global perspective and maps of wine-producing countries indicating the locations of their main wine regions. The section vines and grapes shows the contribution of Dr Peter Dry and would be a valuable aid to any practitioner of grape growing and cultivation.

Australian Wine Styles and Tastes (2002) not surprisingly contained a chapter on Australian wine styles, which has been replaced in A Taste of the World of Wine (2009) by a chapter on sparkling wines, partly to reflect the increasing importance of this wine style in Australia, but of course because no book on international wines would be complete without reference to Champagne and other sparklings.

From there the makeup is very similar, although sweet white wines are now sweet wines (not all sweet wines are of white grape origin) and fortified wines and brandy are now restricted to fortifieds, although it does include sherry and a fascinating section on Australia’s unique 100 year old Para Port. However the chapters all have a genuine international flavour and the photography – much of which is by the obviously well-travelled author Patrick Iland – reflects this. It is also in these sections that we can see the contributions and wine knowledge of Andrew Caillard and Peter Gago expressed. Australian winemakers, who only a few decades ago rarely travelled between say South Australia and the Hunter Valley, are now increasingly ‘doing vintage’ in their off season in France, Italy and elsewhere, and again A Taste of the World of Wine will assist the development of a truly international perspective.

Consumer wine tastes, understanding and curiosity have also increased this decade. The wine and food chapter is expanded in the 09 volume, reflecting this. The section is vastly better and a very good quick reference to matching wine and food styles, again with international examples. Indeed the international approach fills a small void in the Australian retail wine book market as consumers reach for more imported wines and ‘new’ (to Australia) grape varieties gain a following.

However wine and health is missing – perhaps there was a page limit, and of course the authors would not want to head into the 2 kg plus territory. However to me the absence is a pity as not only is this topic receiving increased coverage in the press, on the internet and by governments, but it had some handy references to wine serving basics like ‘what is a standard drink?’, 12 guidelines to healthy levels of wine consumption for men and women, and wine and cardiovascular disease. We live in a world of an increasing need to acknowledge responsible and healthy drinking.

My other small gripe is that the earlier edition was easier to follow, with more obvious colour chapter delineations – whose removal no doubt created more space for additional photos and text, however. It’s certainly a textbook not a coffee (or wine) table adornment, but the freedom from ego is refreshing.

Quite why the authors/publishers didn’t say it I don’t know, but I will: A Taste of the World of Wine is an updated and revised version of the 2002 classic text Australian Wine Styles and Tastes, with a more global view rather than a pure Australian focus. In taking this approach it loses a little – I’ve given the 2002 edition to a number of wine novices especially those wishing to start their wine education on Australian wines – but gains a lot. The two are complementary, and for the serious wine student, especially those ready to venture beyond Australian wines, it’s a must buy.


A Taste of the World of Wine is published by Patrick Iland Wine Promotions, South Australia (2009, HB RRP A$59.95) and is available for purchase in select retail outlets, university bookstores and from the publisher’s website
Patrick Iland Wine Books »

Australian Wine Styles and Tastes (2002; RRP A$44.95) is out of print, although is available second-hand from Amazon.com

 

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November 19th, 2009
 
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