A Beginner’s Guide to Wine, Part IV

With the holidays upon us and the weather turning colder, November and December offer plenty of opportunity for sharing and enjoying wine. With such a seasonal emphasis on choosing, buying and drinking(!) wine, we started to wonder just how many of us can truly say we know what goes into making an excellent bottle.

Fortunately, Ian Tattersall and Rob DeSalle, authors of new book A Natural History of Wine, are here to help guide you through your wine choices this Christmas. These two make quite the pair when it comes to the popular beverage. Both of them scientists – Rob, a molecular biologist and Ian, a palaeoanthropologist – they have explored every aspect of wine from explaining what the complex drink is made of to its effects on our mind and body. 

 In this four-part series for the YaleBooks blog, Rob and Ian share their wisdom and explain how you can get the most out of wine this festive season. 

A Beginner’s Guide to Wine, Part IV: Where Should Your Wine Come From?

by Ian Tattersall, co-author of A Natural History of Wine

The glory and fascination of wine largely lie in its infinite variety of styles and flavours. But it has to be admitted that some of that variety comes in quality as well. And that matters to everyone. Even if you don’t know much about tasting wine, you will readily perceive the difference between a great wine, a middling one, and a straight-out poorly made one. Most of us will never be able to afford the most famous wines – which are usually among the most reliably good, as well. But in the mid- and lower ranges of the market there are still excellent products, and great values, to be had. One way to find these values is to look for wines produced on the fringes of highly reputed – and highly-priced – regions. For example, the white wines of central Burgundy – the Meursaults, the Montrachets –are among the world’s most prized, and expensive. But just to the south, in the Mâconnais, recent improvements in winemaking, on similar soils, have resulted in some excellent wines. A good Mâcon-Villages, especially from a small producer, can produce pleasure to rival its northern neighbours, at a fraction of the price. Ask your wine merchant.

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Ian Tattersall is curator emeritus in the Division of Anthropology, American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), New York City. Rob DeSalle is curator of entomology in the Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics, AMNH. 

A Natural History of Wine

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