Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Books: "Rebel School of Wine" by Tyler Balliet


Rebel School of Wine: A Visual Guide to Drinking with Confidence

By Tyler Balliet

Harvest; hardcover, 320 pages; $32.50

Tyler Balliet is an entrepreneur and journalist who has been at the forefront of innovation in the wine industry since 2006. His first foray into wine was as the cofounder and operator of Wine Riot, a traveling wine festival that toured the United States from 2009 to 2016. He then became the cofounder and CEO of Rose Mansion, and he designed, promoted, and operated a giant rose-themed interactive experience in New York City. He was named to Inc. 30 Under 30 and Wine Enthusiast 40 Under 40, and as a journalist, he judges international wine competitions and travels to wine regions all over the world to meet with and interview the most influential people in the field.

Rebel School of Wine is Balliet's beautifully stunning wine guide for the next generation of connoisseurs that's full of vivid illustrations, dynamic graphics, and all the information you could ever want on wine. 

This makes wine, which can seem quite haughty, accessible to even the biggest novice, as Balliet enlightens every aspect of wine, including the different regions it comes from around the world.

There is a look at how wine is made, who makes it, and how to select a bottle of the shelf in your favorite wine shop. He also looks at modern concerns about wine, such as the role climate change plays in its development, how capitalism has driven up the price per bottle, and how a new generation of winemakers are out to revolutionize the industry.

Balliet writes in this excerpt: "We are talking about wine all wrong.

The United States is the number one wine-consuming country in the world, and wine is more popular than ever before, yet the wine industry can't seem to explain its own products.

Walk into any wine bar, wine store, or winery, and the staff will be telling customers about how a wine smells like cherries and pencil lead and tastes like cedar, black currant, and boysenberries. God forbid you get trapped by a lengthy rambling about soil types, fermentation methods, or the exact location of vineyards.

Drinking wine is one of the most pleasurable activities on Earth, but these conversations not only manage to suck all the joy from the experience but also are not very helpful. It's like trying to explain Pablo Picasso's art by describing the type of paintbrushes he used or the genius of Beyonce by the tone and pitch of her vocal tracks. Though this information may be factually accurate, it misses the point. Just like the work of famous artists, wine requires a cultural context to be truly understood and appreciated.

Wine has played an integral role in human culture going back nine thousand years, when people drank wine in Mesopotamia as they built the very first cities. Around 700 B.C., the ancient Greek poet Homer wrote extensively about wine culture in the Odyssey. While fighting the French during the Nine Years' War in the late 1600s, the English blocked all trade with France and together with Portugal helped invent the sweet, fortified Port wine, solidifying a trade agreement that exists to this day.

While researching wine for the French government in the 1800s, Louis Pasteur made earth-changing discoveries about microbiology, fermentation, and vaccines and invented the process of pasteurization, which continues to save millions of lives every year. In the 1960s, the Portuguese sweet pink wine Mateus, which was surging in global popularity, was famously swigged by Jimi Hendrix and found its way into Elton John's song lyrics.

Thanks in part to the invention of the microprocessor in 1971 by Intel in Santa Clara, California, just south of San Francisco, followed by the explosive growth of the internet in Silicon Valley, a massive influx of money, people, and technical know-hoe fueled nearby Napa Valley to become the first wine region in the world to challenge France's industry dominance, sparking a new, more laid-back wine-drinking culture.

Wine doesn't exist in a vacuum. It is an incredible vehicle for storytelling, as it allows you to travel the world, nerd out about science, dive into complicated geopolitical situations, and better understand current micro- and macroecomics. Wine also tells the story of people, their history, and their culture."

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