Cork Dork by Bianca Bosker
Disclaimer: Wine and I are already good friends. I spent enough time working in restaurants, front and back of house, to pick up the rough basics of a wine education: varietals, tasting notes, food pairing. But I knew enough to know there was a lot I didn't know. Wine knowledge is hidden knowledge, mysterious, acquired at great expense in time or money, and that's what drew me to Bosker's book. I listened to it as an audiobook, read by the author herself, so it was my constant companion for a couple of very long summer vacation drives and various trips to grocery and hardware stores, and, yes, wine shops as well.
The first couple of chapters were a little bit of a struggle. There was something about the tone, the "I'm quitting my job and apprenticing myself to a life of the senses" that set my teeth on edge. Or maybe it was jealousy rooted in the knowledge that my days of "I'm-leaving-everything-and-becoming-an-artisinal-baker-vintner-olive-farmer!" feel a little distant. Probably that. But by chapter three or so, I was bought in. She took a crappy job in a restaurant and started grinding it out, learning, tasting, joining groups, smelling rocks and building the library of sense memory that sommeliers need to do their jobs. Half way through, I was emotionally invested, and by the end, it had cleared a bar that doesn't get cleared too often for me: it changed my behaviour. I learned things, sure. But I looked at, tasted, smelled, and thought about wine differently by the end of the book. Her investigations into the economics of wine, the psychology, chemistry and physiology of taste and smell, the personalities of wine hunters and wine sellers were engaging, entertaining, and contained plenty of information I didn't know before, and that is always welcome. But along the way, she managed to transfer a bit of that sense of the obsession that drives a sommelier to devote their life to tasting, finding, serving and describing wine. It made me want to taste better. And that made it time very well spent.