A Review of…
“Wine for Normal People (a Guide for Real People Who love Wine, but not the Snobbery That goes with it)”
By: Elizabeth Schneider – Certified Sommelier, Certified Specialist of Wine, MBA, Normal Person
Chronicle Books LLC
At first glance, “Wine for Normal People” appears to be little more than a highly polished redux of the best-selling “Wine for Dummies” series of wine reference guides. It contains the obligatory pages on wine’s history, production processes, growing regions, and food pairings, but there the similarity ends. This elegantly crafted reference is not intended to turn someone into a wine fan, but to turn a wine fan into a well-informed wine lover. If you are not already a regular wine drinker, this may not be the book for you.
Having said that, the critical question is this. At what point in one’s relationship with wine would getting into this book prove beneficial?
The author addresses my concern at the end of the introduction with this:
“Normal wine person: This is someone who likes wine, like drinking wine, and likes learning about wine but doesn’t like people talking down to him or her or participating in one-upmanship of knowing this arcane fact and that random producer.”
To that end, this book (parenthetic humor notwithstanding) is a smooth reading, artfully crafted textbook and reference for “normal people”.
The first three chapters cover the topics of wine vocabulary, the tasting experience and the wine-making process while never once drifting into the wonky world of wine speak! These should be read like a text book with yellow highlighter in hand. You’ll refer back to them often as you encounter real world situations in your wine journey. Q&A blocks, charts, diagrams, and maps add interesting rest stops along the way.
Chapters 4, 5 & 6 are a comprehensive encyclopedia of wine regions, their history, varietals, governmental influence and culture. While a speed read though these chapters is sure to unearth some interesting tidbits, they should be considered a “go to” reference when trying to demystify the label on that gift Prosecco you got from a friend or on that value priced Croatian wine you picked up on the recommendation of a wine shop staffer.
Chapter 7 & 8 cover food pairing, shopping, and dining, which, with along with considerable trial and error will certainly enhance those experiences for you.
The book concludes with a number of valuable reference pages that can provide a quick answer that “What?” question that’s sure to arise from time to time along the way. There is a comprehensive index to help you navigate the chapters and topics.
The author achieves the stated goal of the book in a big way! Kept light and simple, it breaks down complex concepts into easily understandable bites that will likely stay with the reader for the duration. As a reference, this book should be kept on the eye level shelf in the library of anyone wanting to grow in their wine knowledge and to experience their personal wine journey to its fullest.
Phil Hofstee is a “certified” wine lover, tasting room business consultant, and legendary normal person.