Well...it is and it isn't.
Yes, it's a list of wines. Yes, the list progresses in order from the wine at the bottom to the Number One "most exciting" wine pick. Yes, the pages are filled with details on vintages, flavors, and food pairings.
And yet, this is decidedly not your typical wine guide. The difference boils down to two things: attitude and accessibility.In reality, the "wine guide" aspect of the book feels more like an excuse for Vaynerchuk to really talk about tasting, understanding, and savoring wine. This is where Vaynerchuk's strengths as a wine expert--and the strengths of this book--really shine through.
No doubt he's chosen excellent wines for his top 101, but we were more drawn to his innovative sidebars like "Palate Primers" and "Meet the Grape."
In the former, we were introduced to such wine flavors as Nestle Quik and iceberg lettuce. (Don't those make more sense than trying to identify random wine flavors we've never tasted before?) In the latter, we get a succinct overview of the grape before it becomes the wine and a sense of the terroir behind wines with that grape.
Vaynerchuk's attitude is that of an excited, enthusiastic school boy (or Jets fan). He loves wine and he wants you to love it too! In anecdotes and analogies, he breaks down the stodgy world of wine tasting into terms that average people can understand and get excited about.
He sustains this attitude with remarkable energy through the entire book. At times this can get a bit exhausting and feel like sensory overload, like suddenly finding ourselves let loose in Willy Wonka's factory. We could only read through a few wine descriptions at a time before needing to take a break.
As a wine guide, it represents the full gamut of varieties, styles, countries, and prices. In his intro, Vaynerchuk says he made an effort to only include wines that would be around for a while, thus keeping his book relevant for as long as possible. Indeed, we did a quick internet search for a handful of the wines from the book and were able to find all of them.
If you're looking for a wine guide and want learn more about wine while you're at it, this is a good one to pick up. It's usefulness as a wine resource will continue long after the all wines in the list have disappeared from shelves!
101 Wines: Guaranteed to Inspire, Delight, and Bring Thunder to Your World by Gary Vaynerchuk is available for $13.57 on Amazon.com.
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(Image Credit: Rodale Books)