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Sunday, December 2, 2018


1.GOOD BETTER BEST WINES; a no-nonsense guide to popular wines. 2nd ed. (Alpha Books, 2010, 2018, 256 pages, ISBN 978-1-4654-7666-1, $12.99 USD, soft covers) is by the wine- experienced Carolyn Evans Hammond, currently the wine writer for the Toronto Star. Her first book was "1000 Best Wine Secrets". Here, she has produced the latest guide to best-selling wines in the USA, but with an engaging format. It was originally published in 2010, and this is the second edition (with 18 more pages and a price rise of four cents). She has categorized the wines by grape variety such as Merlot or Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay or a blend. Then she further subdivides by nationally distributed price ranges such as $5 to $7.99, $8 to $10.99, and $11 to $15. Then her last category is to pick wines in each preference area (such as a Chardonnay for $10.99) and give us her notes on these wines: the good, better and best of the title. Her cut off was $15. In Canada, this cut-off would be $20 to $25. And of course, know that American stores widely discount best-selling wines as loss-leaders, and also give case discounts and close-out sales. Not much of this happens in Canada because of the provincial monopolies. Quite a few of the wines in the book are available in Canada, since these are (after all) "best-selling" popular wines. But since most Americans drink domestic wines, there are (for Canada) a disproportionate number of US wines. And there are no Canadian wines. There is the usual thumbnail primer on wine basics, on why we drink what we drink, notes on the varieties, many sidebars of interesting information, and some choices for bargain wines and party wines. "Parties" include wedding reception (an invaluable guide here for the upcoming June brides), dinner party, cocktail party, BBQ, beach/cottage/pool, garden party, and banquets. Each wine is illustrated with a small coloured pix of the bottle and label for shelf recognition.
Audience and level of use: regular wine drinkers looking for suggestions on trading up or trying new wines priced slightly higher. Its pocket/purse size makes it very convenient to take with you into a wine store when you want to spot a sale. A quick check through an index makes it easier to correlate with a wine that is on sale.
Some interesting or unusual facts: The quality of everyday wines has never been better.
The downside to this book: just a few global brands are included, primarily because Americans drink mostly domestic wines.
The upside to this book: a great way to pick up basic wine knowledge without breaking  the bank. It's "back to basics", "learn the rules before you break the rules". Have a clear understanding of what wines you yourself like at this moment before moving on.
Quality/Price Rating: 92.


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