With too many wine books and publications fetishizing first growths and California cult cabs, George M. Taber‘s A Toast to Bargain Wines: How Innovators, Iconoclasts, and Winemaking Revolutionaries Are Changing the Way the World Drinks offers the more novice wine fans among us a different look at the world of wine. But there’s more here than just wisdom for beginners. The history in these pages is intriguing and at times dastardly, making this book, or even parts of it, an enjoyable read for even the more seasoned winos among us.
Taber, author of the critically acclaimed Judgment of Paris: California vs. France and the Historic 1976 Paris Tasting That Revolutionized Wine, does a solid job of revealing interesting bits of history behind some of the most successful bargain wine brands, and the development of regions, and perhaps in the case of China, regions soon to be, known for bargain wines.
I relished the colored past of the Bronco Wine Company, the winery behind that familiar Two Buck Chuck of Trader Joe’s fame, and founder Fred Franzia as well as the underdog tale of the rise of [yellowtail] through adversity and up against the giants. If you think of this Aussie brand as a giant dealer of cheap swill, look again at its roots and the success it has achieved not only among the masses but also with wine critics.
But what really had me tweeting, thinking and wondering was the world of wine contests. This stage of gold medals and awards is a mysterious game without any hard and fast rules. other than that it is all just a matter of taste. Made me think twice about the gold medal badges I see on bottlenecks – what contest did it come from? Who awarded the medal, a professional wine critic or a joe regular to whom Little Penguin is a luxury?
Though Taber’s actual list of recommended bargain wines is limited, his briefs on the histories and bios of the wineries behind these labels is a nice touch. And in looking at his recommendations, opinions – including mine – vary greatly on the wines he has recommended, it’s important to return to that same thought as above – it’s all just a matter of taste. What is Taber’s prized bargain find is another man’s bad memory.
A Toast to Bargain Wines is essential reading for those uninitiated in wine history and wanting to get a peek behind the curtain of the wine business. Taber binds it all together with colorful prose that made this enjoyable quiet time away from the daily grind of sipping and spitting.
PS. Taber’s book names in their entirity sure are a mouthful.