Book review: ‘The New Wine Rules’ by Jon Bonné

Bonné is a known advocate for new-wave and ‘natural’ wines (as well as all other good wines) but he doesn’t let this obscure his view. (Photo: Supplied)

Introductory wine books come and go, and there is undoubtedly a big demand for them. Prominent American wine writer Jon Bonné’s new handbook, The New Wine Rules (Quadrille, 152 pages, hardback, AUD $19.99/NZ $22.99) is as good as any I’ve seen and takes a refreshingly new format.

It’s full of sound and sensible advice, presented in an uncomplicated and unintimidating style.

It’s divided into tiny bite-sized chapters labelled ‘Rules’, of which there are 89, divided among nine sections. These are Introduction, The Basics, Inside the Bottle, Choosing It, How to Serve & Enjoy It, Storing It & Taking It Places, Wine With Food, Dining Out, and Drinking In.

It’s full of sound and sensible advice, presented in an uncomplicated and unintimidating style. I especially liked his approach to selecting glassware, his advice to “drink the rainbow”, his advice that most wine accessories are rubbish, his advice to “stop worrying about sulphites,” and “don’t fear sweetness.”

Bonné is a known advocate for new-wave and ‘natural’ wines (as well as all other good wines) but he doesn’t let this obscure his view. He treats new-wave wine even-handedly, although I do take issue with his two-page matrix of wine fashionability. Just as a sample, he puts Australian shiraz and semillon as very unfashionable (tell that to the hordes who are still drinking more and more Aussie shiraz), but he places ‘new Australia’, ‘new California’, pet-nat, Jura, txakoli and ‘grower’ Champagne at the highest end of fashionability.

The problem is, these wines might be in fashion among sommeliers, some writers and some trade people, but they are still small bikkies in sales and therefore hardly fashionable among most consumers. There is a tendency (not only in the wine world) to assume that what a certain minority of loud-voiced people (influential though they may be) think is the hot new thing is therefore in fashion. In my view, a true fashion is more far-reaching.

Bonné also rates German riesling and ‘”most pinot grigio” as strongly unfashionable. Again, possibly a regional perception with the former, and wishful thinking with the latter?

However, I strongly agree with his point that “the best time to buy a wine is when it’s out of style.”

I occasionally found myself looking for a glossary to look up an obscure word (sometimes these were even italicised) and failing to find one.

Bonné’s food and wine section is especially apposite. His rules include “Nearly every pairing rule can be disproven,” and he goes on to suggest allegedly unpairable pairings, such as Brussels sprouts with fino sherry, muscadet, white Rioja, etc; asparagus with grüner veltliner and sauvignon blanc; and a few unpredictable ones like Champagne with sea urchin; rosé with eggs benedict; red Burgundy with sushi.

This highly recommended book is distributed in Australia and New Zealand by Hardie Grant.

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