Neel Burton developed the first edition of The Concise Guide to Wine & Blind Tasting with James Flewellen for his students at Oxford. There’s no better word than concise to describe it. This is a no-frills primer meant for the serious student of blind tasting rather than the leisurely Sunday morning reader. The text is organized into three sections. The first touches on viticulture, winemaking and the art of blind tasting; the second offers profiles of what Burton deems the most important grape varieties and their styles throughout the world; and the third breaks down the major wine regions with maps and vintage highlights. The book is now in its fourth edition, and includes new sections on Crete, Lebanon, Sardinia, Tenerife, Setúbal, China and Japan. This edition has been divided into two volumes to make it more easily portable and quick to reference.
While there are some holes in the text—Burton fails to include Willamette Valley pinot gris, California viognier or merlot from Napa or Washington in his stylistic profiles, grapes testable on the Court of Master Sommeliers Advanced exam—it is one of the only books on the market to gather wine styles in a way that helps to easily pinpoint differences between chardonnay from Chablis, Mâcon and Hunter Valley, or cabernet sauvignon from Pauillac, Stellenbosch and Aconcagua. And while Burton suggests that readers should develop their own tasting markers, this book is a great jumping-off point for wine professionals or eager hobbyists as they develop their personal tasting grids.
The Concise Guide to Wine & Blind Tasting, by Neel Burton (Acheron Press, 2022, $40)
Based in Los Angeles, California, Alissa Bica is the Associate Editor at Wine & Spirits. She is also a sommelier at 71 Above and co-runs the home wine tasting company, Côte Brune and Blonde. In any rare moments of free time, she writes about obscure grape varieties in the blog Off the Beaten Wine Path.
This story appears in the print issue of Winter 2022.
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