Throughout December, I’ll be posting reviews of sparkling wines and books, to help your holiday toasting and your gift giving.
Ever wonder how your wine got to taste the way it does? If you realize that wine is more than just fermented grape juice, or if you’ve ever toyed with the idea of trying to make wine yourself, then The Vintner’s Apprentice: An Insider’s Guide to the Art and Craft of Wine Making, Taught by the Masters, by Eric Miller (Quarry, 2011, $25) is for you.
Miller is the owner and winemaker at Chaddsford Winery in Pennsylvania, so he could write a book like this on his own authority based on his three decades of winemaking experience. Instead, he peppers the book with interviews of wine’s luminaries, such as vineyard consultant Lucie Morton and winemakers Eileen Crane of Domaine Carneros and Peter Gago of Penfolds. With their insight, and terrific photographs, Miller guides us through the cycle of wine production, beginning with selecting the proper vineyard site, pruning and trellising the vines, through fermentation, aging and bottling – everything except marketing.
This is not a text, nor is it a memoir, though Miller and his interview subjects give a sense of what a winemaker’s life is like (hard work, mostly). Miller explains many of the technological tools available to the winemaker, and while he isn’t at all polemic about some of the controversial ones, he clearly favors many of the modern advances in enology. In discussing the question of using commercial versus native yeasts, for example, he clearly favors the former and the control they give the winemaker.
Miller has written an excellent primer on winemaking that should appeal to beginners and regular imbibers alike.