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Cork Dork: A Wine-Fuelled Journey into the Art of Sommeliers and the Science of Taste Kindle Edition
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However--thanks to Cork Dork, this may change. Bianca Bosker's book is a non-fiction account of her transformation, in less than a year, from complete wine amateur to certified sommelier--through training, research, and hanging out with sommeliers, restaurateurs, olfaction scientists, neurologists, billionaire bottle-hunters, perfumers, and the scientists who create cheapo supermarket wine in labs. It's basically an underdog story. But it's also Everything You Wanted to Know About Wine but Were Too Afraid to Ask. Can sommeliers really smell all the things they say they're smelling when they stick their noses into glasses of wine? What's the origin of this strange ritual? Also, when you're at a restaurant, is it better if you pick your wine yourself, or if you ask the sommelier to pick it for you? And, at a basic level, what makes a good wine good?
Bosker's enthusiasm for her subject is contagious, her behind-the-scenes knowledge reassuring, her explanations of the rituals of wine clear and unpretentious, her forays into the science and history of wine absolutely fascinating. Since finishing the book, I have not yet had a glass, but I'm already planning a visit to the new-ish local French wine & cheese place here in Norwich. Also, I've started sniffing all the ingredients I use while cooking and attaching words and/or images to them (cloves: "spicy vanilla"; honey: "cloying but smugly virtuous"; freshly washed coriander: that scene in Princess Mononoke where--spoiler--the forest spirit dies and from its body flowers and new green grass grow). This, according to Bosker, should help me build a "smell library" in my brain, which in turn should allow me to appreciate and enjoy the complexity of both wine and food generally. (I should say that I lost my sense of smell for several months in 2014, and the experience was sufficiently awful that I've been on the lookout for ways to improve my olfaction ever since, both in the hope that it won't go away again, or that if it does that it'll come back more quickly--or, worst case scenario, that if it doesn't come back, at least I'll be able to say I'd enjoyed it fully.)
The one aspect of the book that occasionally turned me off is the fact that one of the main recurring characters, a sommelier and friend of the author's named Morgan, hews very closely to that tired old trope, the brilliant eccentric man who can also be extremely annoying. You know the type--Sherlock, Don Draper, Dr House, Jimmy McNulty, Walter White, and dozens of others. Now, of course, Morgan is a real person, not a fictional character, and I actually find a lot of his opinions about wine and life very interesting, and often even quite funny. I'm also sure that, were I fortunate enough to ever be in the position of having him as my sommelier for one evening, he'd provide more than excellent service. It's, just--I'm tired of encountering people like him in my books and pop culture. Of course, that's neither Morgan's fault nor Bosker's.
This relatively small quibble aside, I am surprised at how much I enjoyed this book, and how much it's made me want to give wine a chance. I hope you give it a chance, whether you're a wine newbie like me or someone who already likes the stuff--in fact I suspect some of the things Bosker uncovers would surprise and interest even professional sommeliers. However, if you still need convincing, I'd recommend listening to the wine episode of the greatest food podcast of all time, Gastropod, which features an extensive interview with Bosker herself.
I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. It's already out in the US, but will be out in the UK on 21 September, 2017.