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The Renaissance Guide to Wine and Food Pairing Paperback – Sep 2003

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 17 reviews
135 of 152 people found the following review helpful
Leaves a bad taste in my mouth 18 Dec 2004
By Bevetroppo - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is my second posted review of The Renaissance Guide to Wine and Food Pairing. The first review was actually removed from Amazon after earning six helpful votes, allegedly because I criticized the authors so harshly that I violated the Amazon code of conduct. The review also provoked at least one other (anonymous) reviewer to call me a wine snob because I didn't agree with him/her/it. All I can say is, gee whiz, folks, it's just a book review-lighten up! Read `em all and make up your own mind. And if you think I'm some kind of crackpot wine geek because I hate this book, well, that's entirely your prerogative.

Rather than write a whole new review, I've decided to republish most of the original, though I am removing the specific phrases that offended the "Keep Amazon Beautiful Committee".

The Renaissance Guide to Wine and Food Pairing is a bad book. In fact, I was so repelled by it that I feel it incumbent upon me as an Amazon reviewer to warn all unsuspecting readers away as though it were the scene of a gruesome accident, or at minimum a wine so bad it would make you sick just to smell it, let alone drink it.

It's only sporting for someone to inform you that when you buy this book you aren't getting an organized and comprehensive analysis of the subject in the book's title. Instead, the first 100 pages or so discuss wine history and how to read wine labels from around the world (not a bad thing in a wine book, but why devote so much space to it here?), and the rest of the book mostly consists of transcribed interviews with famous chefs and winemakers. Each new chapter is another exercise in smug and self-congratulatory "conversations" with the winemakers and chefs (like,wow, isn't it cool we can sit around and chuckle with all these food and wine hotshots?). I encountered very little of practical value and a lot of butt-kissing. I admit I already know a little about wine, but I didn't learn a blessed thing from this book until around page 205 when it was revealed in a sidebar that the word avocado is derived from the Aztec word for testicle.

There are many good books and sections of books that have been written about marrying food and wine. Two that come immediately to mind are Wesson and Rosengarten's "Red Wine with Fish" and the food and wine chapter of the Culinary Institute of America's "Exploring Wine". In both you will find practical and frequently imaginative principles you can employ to match wine and food.

As stated above, The Renaissance Guide is little more than a loose stitching together of interviews that center around highly esoteric menus paired up with wines provided by the authors. It would be kind to describe these chapters as self-indulgent. Suffice it to say they are what appear to be unedited transcripts, even to the point where they insert (laughter) in (parentheses) where the author "cracks a good one". I'm honestly surprised that Daniel Boulud, who is interviewed here and seems like a decent, unpretentious guy, would allow his stature as one of America's best chefs to be debased in this book.

Ok, let's get more granular. Bad writing. Atrocious editing. Multiple references to pairing with obscure wines like Lagrein (great wine, but probably unknown to 99% of the readers and not exactly carried in the run of the mill wine store) without any useful introduction. More than a hundred pages of useless filler on wine history and how to read labels that is completely irrelevant to the stated subject of the book. Hideous tables that are meant to be copied as handy references but spill randomly over three pages and contain nothing really useful. Horrible lapses and gaffes. Multiple recommendations for a food/wine match where you have no idea what the wine is or even its country of origin and without any reason why it works. And I swear I'm only getting warmed up.

The authors devote a whole "chapter" to the subject of wine and pasta. After a page or so it suddenly shifts to a region by region discussion of Italy and wines that go with their cuisines. The chapter is about 8 pages long. It covers the food and wine matches by basically describing one dish and naming one wine for each region. How the authors decide to summarily dismiss Lombardia, Liguria, Basilicata and The Marches in favor of other wine growing regions is sufficient to start another Italian civil war. Is Lagrein more available in the US than Aglianico del Vulture or Rosso Piceno? Does it make me a wine snob because I'm asking this question, or is the book snobby for its exclusion of these exciting and vital parts of the contemporary Italian wine scene?

To give you an idea for how bad this book is, they refer to a wine on one page as Terre de Trinci Sagrantino de Montefalco, and two pages later as Terre de Rinci Sagrantino de Montalcino. You say Montefalco, I say Montalcino, let's call the whole thing off. Besides, these Italian towns and wines and stuff, it's confusing cause they all kinda sound alike. Am I right or am I wrong?(How are we supposed to have confidence in a book written by experts if they can't even keep stuff like this straight?) By the way, if you want to read a great book about Italian wine and food, try "Vino Italiano" by Bastianich and Lynch).

In my opinion (and mine only) the value in this book could be boiled down to about four pages with some judicious editing, and I've seen free newsletters from winestores that have better and more practical advice on the subject. If I were rating it on the 100 point Robert Parker scale I'd give it about a 47, which is to say it's undrinkable.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Why this book is different 26 Nov 2003
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
Finally...a food and wine book that is a great read, not a typical totally boring food and wine book. No knock on the Andrea Immers of the World but her style (which is the prevailing literary style in this genre) is in a word BORING!
Mr. DiDio on the other hand takes a novel approach. The book has a you are there feel to it; especially his banter with culinary luminaries such as Daniel Bouloud, Rick Moonen and Don Pintabona and his insightful interviews with world class winemakers such as Paul Draper of Ridge, Jim Clendenen of au Bon Climat, Bob Lindquist of Qupe and Bob Sessions of Hanzell.
I give this book 4 chef's hats!
7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
You'll learn something AND have fun 15 Sep 2003
By S. Carr - Published on
Format: Paperback
In this GREAT book you'll learn all about how to match wines with food whether you're cooking at home or eating out. All of the information is presented in a fun, easily accessible style that makes the book an easy read and a handy reference to keep around. I've already referred back to it a few times. The guide on reading the winelist at a restaurant is a bonus!
8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Finally A Comprehensive Guide To Wining & Dining! 15 Oct 2003
By Laura Dewsnap - Published on
Format: Paperback
Not being a wine connoisseur I found this book to be extremely educational. The easy going dialogue that permeates the book makes you feel like you're right there with the tasting crew. The suggestions for which wines to choose with various meals are informative and extremely useful. A great reference book and a great gift idea...with a bottle of wine, of course!
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
The Perfect Guide 8 Feb 2008
By Wine Novice - Published on
Format: Paperback
I have found this book to be extremely helpful in making my wine choices. It is easy to read so a non-expert (like me) is not put off. In addition, I have given it out as a gift to a number of friends and family. We are all waiting for the second volume!
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