I bought this book because, as a writer, I want to make sure I never run out of words — and also, I want to make sure I have a keen understanding of all the wine words that are out there. There are loads of wine reference books in the world, but I figured that something called The Wine Bible was bound to be one of the most complete. And it is — in more ways than one. Karen MacNeil’s The Wine Bible is a book for wine study and for wine fun.

Granted, you have to already think wine is fun for that last statement to be true. And if you do, please stick with me…

About the Book: To steal from her author’s page, “Karen MacNeil is the only American to have won every major wine award given in the English language.” Basically, this lady knows her stuff and — most importantly — she knows how to teach it, using common language, understandable metaphors, and even humor to showcase the most basic of wine knowledge. (Don’t know what tannins are? They’re the “Clint Eastwood Five-o-Clock Shadow Effect” you get on the tongue.)

The Wine Bible will take you through every little thing you could possibly want to know about wine. (Though, if the 996 page book doesn’t satisfy your thirst for wine knowledge, MacNeil includes tips on recommended educational programs as well.) She starts with the over-arching question What makes great wine great? A question we may all ask — and a few of us may assume we know. But MacNeil breaks this question down into quantifiable wine qualities and, if you can get on board with that, your understanding of the drink will alter dramatically. From that point on, everything she speaks about, from how to make wine to wine and food pairing, seem to play back on this “great wine theory.”

What You’ll Learn: After the introductory sections, The Wine Bible then takes you on a journey to each major wine-producing country. Learn the country’s wine history, the major grape-growing regions, and find a mini-encyclopedia of grape names in each chapter explaining the popular grapes grown to that specific region. Like Kevin Zraly’s Windows on the World Complete Wine Course (review to come on that later this week), MacNeil will give you a list of “some of the best” producers of the region, but takes it a step further, providing travel tips for those unsatisfied with just reading about the wines abroad.

At the back of the book you’ll find a complete glossary of terms separated by languages (ie: “French wine terms,” “Italian wine terms,” etc.); a list of the DOCGs of Italy, and even a breakdown of the various countries’ wine laws.

So, in short, you’ll learn a lot.

Wine Pairing: A great wine book will make you thirsty for great wine and Karen MacNeil’s The Wine Bible is no exception. My recommendation: chose a wine you think is great; chose a wine everyone tells you is great. Research them both — where are they from, what’s that region like, who’s the producer. The answers may be simple or they may take you into a rabbit hole of never-ending research (hopefully a process you’ll enjoy). Then taste them both, use MacNeil’s guide to what makes great wine great, and be your own wine critic. Which wine really is great? Could be both, could be neither — but hey! I just got you to pour yourself two glasses of wine!

More Info: I’ve seen The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil at most major and independent book stores. I purchased my copy on Amazon. (Sale Price: $14) For more information about Karen MacNeil, The Wine Bible, and to purchase a copy directly from the author, please visit Karen MacNeil’s personal website.


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4 comments on “Book Review: The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil”

  1. Anyone even remotely interested in wine will benefit from owning a copy of The Wine Bible. I had the pleasure of seeing her speak at Taste Washington where she described Merlot as something that normally sits on the palate like a couch potato. Who can’t relate to a description like that?

    • Haha! I was just reading her section on Merlot in prep for another post. I agree that whether you’re hard core oenophile, an industry pro, or just curious about wine — there’s something in this book for everyone. Cheers Nancy!

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