Synopsis: Australia now makes wine. Originally, snobby Europeans told them they’d never make good wine because the climate wasn’t suitable/ the workers weren’t talented/ the vineyards weren’t mature enough/ or it all tastes the same and is therefore too boring to sell.
Defiant Aussie wine-growers persisted to build a strong wine industry in the face of a declining gold industry. Australian wine is now considered among the best in the new world.
I usually admire stories of triumph against the odds, and I would fall in love with this story, too, if were about anything but alcohol.
Most readers would give this book 4-5 stars. Most readers, though, probably also love drinking wine. I’m not interested, though. ★
People drink wine for the same reason that I drink tea: they enjoy the feeling it gives them. Wine makes you giddy then sleepy; tea makes you relaxed but focussed. This book is a layman’s introduction to all aspects of wine (the history, production, geography, chemistry, and the culture that surrounds drinking wine). An upper-class book would pretend that the enjoyment of wine comes mostly from the taste, but Introducing Wine makes no pretensions—undertones of “isn’t it fun to get drunk?” are to be found throughout.
I knew nothing about wine and so learned a lot from this book. I learned that, like tea, there are hundreds of wines produced worldwide in both the “new” and “old” worlds. Types and tastes vary dramatically, and I was impressed by the author’s “taste wheel” diagrams on pages 13 and 18. They humble my Tea Types diagrams.
Is wine any healthier than grape juice? I still don’t know. The benefits of alcohol that the author talks about could actually be a direct result of feeling more relaxed, not of the alcohol itself. If that’s the case, then healthier forms of relaxation (e.g. exercise) could be better for your body than drinking wine. I think I’m right.
The author seems to encourage binge-drinking. I’m not blaming the author; I’m just criticising heavy-drinking culture. On page 10, he writes:
“you buy them, and you drink them, and then you buy some more. Just one taste is enough to get some people hooked for life”.
On page 59, he suggests pondering the restaurant wine menu over a glass of house wine, then ordering a second bottle after the one you ordered is finished. (Do the math: that’s binge-drinking). On page 64, he omits the word “maximum” from “recommended maximum intake” to imply that drinking 375 ml (that’s over half a bottle of wine) every day is a good idea, as if alcohol is as vital as your daily 90 mg of vitamin C. I strongly disagree.
I’m glad I don’t drink wine. I much prefer tea. Tea doesn’t need “a humidity-controlled cabinet or a purpose-built cellar installed under your house” for storage (page 67). It doesn’t give you a hangover (page 108) and it’s cheaper, healthier and more polite than wine, too. Unlike wine, tea helps you to work and relax. I much preferred The Story of Tea to this book.
Most amusingly, I learned the 3 things that constitute a “good-tasting wine”:
the packaging (fancy packaging tricks your taste-buds; that’s the placebo effect in action);
the price (the more expensive, the better it tastes; that’s the placebo effect again);
the taste itself (but only to a certain extent; most people can’t tell the difference between “good” and “very good”, especially when they’re drunk).
Introducing Wine glosses over the dangers of alcohol consumption and miscommunicates the benefits. It’s flattering of a potentially hazardous product, and I think that’s irresponsible. But that’s not really the book’s fault, since the book’s target audience (wine drinkers) would disapprove of experts saying anything else. Considering I neither like nor drink wine, three stars is very generous. Wine-drinkers, however, might give this book five. ★★★
First, the leaf is too yellow. It looks more like it’s been roasted than steamed. This is backed up by the lack of a light, vegetal flavour when you drink it—instead, I get a thick, smooth, berry flavour in my mouth. It’s drinkable, but it’s not Sencha.
Secondly, this tea has unpleasant burned undertones. This may have arisen during the steaming process, when the tiniest leaves (which are actually just powder) fall through and touch something hot. Dust from inside the steamer might then have been swept into the tea.
I brewed this tea at 66 °C and it still tasted too much of tannin. I didn’t enjoy this tea, but I did learn the importance of terroir by drinking it. I love Sencha, and you probably will too, as long as you get the real deal from Japan.Never buy Chinese Sencha.★★
Not as good as they look. Scented tea » Jasmine » Modern, ★★★
Maybe I didn’t brew these right. They have very little taste.
Jasmine Pearls (Buddha’s Tears) are tight, hand-rolled ‘pearls’ that open when brewed. The ‘pearls’ looks beautiful when it’s dry (when you can see their two-tone colour—a mixture of tender buds and young leaves), and wet, when they extend their long, spindly leaves vertically in the glass.
Brew around 3 grams of this tea (that’s about 25 pearls—I weighed them) in a tall glass. Don’t obstruct the leaves (with a filter or tea infuser); just brew them directly. These leaves won’t float because they’re packed so densely—so they’ll stay away from your lips when drinking! Do not follow T2‘s directions, who recommend “4-5 pearls per cup”.
Jasmine Pearls (Buddha’s Tears) is similar to Jade Ring Jasmine in that it looks good but is uninteresting to drink. I’d prefer to drink Rolling Clouds (a green tea) or, better still, Organic China Jasmine, whose leaf isn’t rolled, but tastes better than all of the above. Maybe I care too much about taste. ★★★