Around the time I entered high school, my dad got really into wine. As part of my parents’ basement renovation, they installed a basement wine cellar and my dad began to stock it with his favorite bottles. When I was “old enough,” I was allowed to start tasting during special meals, for which my dad would carefully hand select the perfect bottle of wine to accompany whatever we were eating that night.
Because of this, I’ve always appreciated the nuance of wine—I know there are certain varietals that go best with certain foods, that there is a special way to taste a new wine and that the glassware you use really does matter.
And apparently I’m not alone: a recent study reported that millennials drank approximately 156.9 million cases of wine in 2015, more than any other age group.
Though I don’t yet have a wine cellar of my own, I wanted to start being more intentional about my wine consumption in my adult life. These three books have helped me do just that, and they each make great summer reads, as well.
1. “Wine. All the Time.” by Marissa A. Ross
This is the book to start with if you’re ready to analyze your own everyday consumption of wine and, in turn, become more confident drinking it in your day-to-day life.
While wine guides abound in any bookstore, most assume a base knowledge that not everyone has, relying on a lexicon that perpetuates a “members’ only” aura and making wine culture feel as approachable as a corked chardonnay.
Ross confidently, yet carefully, provides everything you’ve ever wanted to know about wine—key terms, wine making methods, varietals, approaches to tasting and more. Most importantly, reading this book will make you better at buying wine. When and where is it safe to shop based on wine label art alone? What is the value in purchasing natural wines versus organic wines, and what is the difference?
The work that Ross has put into answering these questions is obvious, but she shares the information eagerly, just as she has on her blog since 2012. Like any good host, she wants to ensure you can drink easy and enjoy yourself, while also becoming knowledgeable enough to show others the way.
Here are a few lessons I was happy to drink up:
– There are such things as “orange wines” and they are at the top of my to-drink list this summer. Orange wines are white wines made like red wines, so—supposedly—you get the boldness of your favorite red and the acidity of your favorite white wine to drink poolside, all in one glass.
– An easy way to decode a wine’s profile right off the bat is by taking note of where it was produced. Terroirs aside (you’ll learn what those are, too) wines produced in cooler climates are usually more tart and acidic. Those produced in warmer climates tend to be riper with higher sugar content.
– If you want to know more about wine, you have to do your homework. Luckily, drinking wine is the fun kind of homework. Ross ends each chapter with an “assignment,” and I learned how important it is to keep a wine journal when you’re first dipping your toe into the wine world.
The most charming thing about the book is an entire section devoted to helping you select the perfect wine for that specific feeling, occasion or person in your life (I felt personally implicated by Ross’s suggestions for intervening on behalf of “Your Best Friend Who Refuses to Drink Anything But Pinot.”) This is the book I plan to keep in my shopping bag at all times, so as to never be caught in the Whole Foods wine department one cute label away from a $19.99 wine hangover.
2. “Cork Dork” by Bianca Bosker
This book is an impressive and entertaining work of immersive longform journalism, told from the perspective of a wine novice turned certified sommelier.
After leaving her job in tech journalism, Bosker embarked on a yearlong journey to learn about wine, with an interest that was “largely journalistic” — but only at first. “Cork Dork” documents Bosker’s descent into the cellar (literally) of the wine world. As a journalist, I was compelled by Bosker’s slow burn of a love affair with her subject—wine, yes, but also the people who make, serve and consume it.
While Bosker’s fellow cork dorks will be hooked by her thorough, comprehensive investigation into the industry, anyone who enjoys amazing writing and craves gonzo-journalism will devour this book. What is offered as a deep-dive into a vat of vino is actually a love letter to the most unassuming of the five senses—scent. Bosker’s research on the olfactory system feels groundbreaking because of its accessibility. It is the perfect primer for a thoughtful investigation into what how much better we can taste when we just allow ourselves to smell.
3. “Rosé All Day” by Katherine Cole
Not only is “Rosé All Day” the first English-language wine guide to ever be published on the subject of rosé, it’s also a work of absolute art. Each page of this informative guide is made all the more whimsical thanks to Mercedes Leon’s illustrations.
More than just a guide to pink wine, “Rosé All Day” investigates the beverage’s increasing popularity over the past few years. It’s true—everyone’s drinking rosé right now, and Coleman’s thoughtful analysis of “Politics, Power, and Pink” at the very beginning of the book offers a nice frame through which to absorb the hefty bulk of her research.
If you’re already a casual wine drinker—perhaps even a wine lover—these three guides will make you eager to challenge your preferences and your palette. If you’ve tended to shy away from wine for fear of drinking, or liking, the wrong thing, you’ll rest easy knowing that the three journalists behind these books have your back. All three have secured a spot on my bar cart (yes, I keep books on my bar cart, and maybe you should, too!).
Trying to be more environmentally aware? Consider imbibing an organic wine.
Kaylen Ralph is the co-founder, editorial development director and brand director of The Riveter Magazine, a longform women’s lifestyle magazine in print and online. She works as a personal stylist for Anthropologie. Follow her on Instagram @kaylenralph for books and fashion. You can also find her on Twitter at @kaylenralph.