When I began studying wine as an overzealous 22-year-old, I bought a copy of “Italian Wine for Dummies.” It’s actually a good overview of Italian wines, and I sometimes reference it when I forget grape names or legal blending requirements.
But for serious students of wine, and those in the trade who work closely with Italian wines, “Italian Wine Unplugged: Grape by Grape” has everything you could possibly need.
Italian wines, grapes and laws are a labyrinth for wine-loving mortals (like myself), and this book is a master key. It’s written by Stevie Kim, director of the massive trade event Vinitaly, and a lineup of other Italian wine pros. It’s now available in e-book and a print version should be out later this year.
Basically, this is an encyclopedia of Italian wine grapes (more than 430 of them), which is broken into three sections. The “Must-Know Grapes” section will challenge most serious Italian wine fans. Sure Nebbiolo and Sangiovese are in there, but don’t forget Ciliegiolo and Schioppettino. “Lesser-Known Grapes” gets even more in-depth, with grape names that could cause any Italian wine student to scratch their head — Susumaniello, Tazzelenghe, Uva Rara.
If you still have room in your brain for more, there’s the “Rare Grapes” section, which could give an MW candidate a migraine — Bubbierasco, Notardomenico, Paradisa. Don’t worry, if you’re cramming for a wine exam, the book comes with nifty flash cards that you can print out.
The grapes are described in much detail — the authors include information on what makes each grape unique in the vineyard and in the cellar. In each grape bio, the authors provide details about where the grape is grown, what makes it thrive in specific areas, and the Italian wine regulations that pertain to its production and classification.
Lastly, there’s a “Wine Visions” section, which is jam-packed with grape photographs, memorization tools, and other images that may help you understand and remember Italian grapes and regions.
This book is heavy on the detail, but it’s also accessible in the sense that you can choose how deeply you engage with the information. Each small piece of the giant puzzle is digestible, so you can dig as deep as you’d like, and you can gloss over the inevitable grape or appellation you’ve never heard of and will surely never remember.
This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.