Tim Atkin | Master of Wine

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12th Nov 2017

Blind Review of Jon Bonné's "The New Wine Rules"

by Ron Washam

 

I wanted to read Jon Bonné’s latest wine book, “The New Wine Rules,” but I have a new rule myself. I don’t read books about wine rules. Books about wine rules, which every famous wine writer seems to feel is his or her duty to write, though the books are universally dreadful and particularly predictable, always come down to one conclusion. When it comes to wine, throw out the rules. Rules are for suckers. The apparent contradiction never discourages them from writing the book. It’s like when a politician explains that because every politician is corrupt, you should vote for him. And like an idiot, you vote for him; and then you go out and buy another book about wine rules. P.T. Barnum was only half right. Yes, there’s a sucker born every minute, but, also, every sucker is reborn every minute, too.

I will say that Jon Bonné’s new book was a delight not to read. It’s the best book for wine novices I’ve never read, and, believe me, I’ve never read all of them! I’ve always found that not reading a book is the best way to review it. And it’s a helluva time saver! It’s exactly the same as tasting a wine blind, really. It removes your prejudice. You don’t need to know anything about the wine to judge it blind, you simply pick it up, smell it, take a small taste, and pass judgment. I did the same for Bonné’s latest book. I picked it up in the bookstore, smelled it, then read a page or two. Now I can review it blind, as any honest book reviewer would. I’m completely disinterested, if not uninterested. Besides, I had the feeling that if I read the book cover to cover it would be as if I’d drunk an entire bottle of a wine I had been asked to assess. I’d probably throw up and pass out.

Here’s what I’m wondering. Why does every Bonné book have “New” in the title? He’s authored “The New California Wine,” “The New Wine Rules,” and his forthcoming book, which I can’t wait to not read, is “The New French Wine”. The implication, of course, is that “new” is “better.” Which is why I’m always awaiting a “new” book from Bonné. One can hope. I can’t wait for “The New Masters of Wine” (“Honestly, an MW is the wine world’s equivalent of a dangling dingleberry.”), “The New Wine Grapes” (“Pinot Noir is so yesterday; let’s cross it with Lemberger and make Lempinot. It puts the acid in flaccid.”), and “Jon Bonné’s The New Oz Clarke’s Pocket Guide to Wine with all New Pockets.”

Why does wine need rules at all? It’s not a board game. Yes, let’s dispense with the old rules of wine, though I don’t have any idea what those rules were, but let’s not replace them with a bunch of stupid new rules. For whom is this book written? Not old farts like me. I don’t need any wine rules from Jon Bonné any more than I need masturbation lessons from Louis CK, if there’s a difference. Is it written for Millennials, young people new to wine? Why would they listen to rules from Bonné? He’s their dad’s age. You know, the guy who’s been telling them the old stupid rules about wine. I guess the book is aimed for people who like wine and rules. Seems like a small demographic, maybe MS candidates and submissive sommeliers. (“Please make me drink the spit bucket. Thank you, Mistress, thank you.)

You don’t have to read the book to know Bonné’s new wine rules. Rule #1: Learn to drink everything. Rule #2: Learn to recognize basic wine faults. Rule #3: When observing Rule #1, ignore Rule #2. He learned this writing about the New California Wines. It wasn’t that long ago that the wine world observed Robert Parker’s rule: More is better. Then it was Alice Feiring’s rule: Natural is better. Now we have Jon Bonné’s rule: New is better. The only thing that isn’t better? Wine writing.

I will say, it’s refreshing to not read a book that is, in essence, and I can say this because I have no idea what I’m talking about, a book about reassuring people who know nothing about wine that they’re the better for it. It starts with telling them about the old rules about wine, which they don’t know or care about, and then replaces those with new rules they only just found out about and really don’t care about. This is an ingenious way to talk to Millennials. Use their natural distaste for the old ways as a way to talk down to them! It’s brilliant. I like that you don’t want to follow the old rules, Bonné implies, now have the sense to follow my rules because I’ve been around for a long time and I know a lot more about wine than you ever will, you sad little newbies.

Here’s what these books written by wine experts for the beginning wine lover always say, and what I’m sure “The New Wine Rules” says, too:

Rule #1: You don’t have to spend a lot of money to enjoy wine. Not on wine, not on corkscrews, not on wine lists in fancy restaurants, and not on other people’s beginning wine books. Save money on wine and use it for your opioid habit

Rule #2: Be open minded when it comes to wine. It doesn’t matter what color it is, it doesn’t matter how it’s made, it doesn’t matter what country it’s from, it has something important to offer, learn to appreciate it. If only our policy on immigration could be so simple.

Rule #3: Don’t be intimidated by wine experts. They’re mostly faking it, too.

Rule #4: Wine terminology is easy to understand once you understand it. Like Swahili. I can explain wine terminology to you in simple terms, but only in Swahili.

Jon Bonné is a very talented wine writer. Like most of those who have gone before him, he got talked into writing a book for beginning wine lovers. Having not read it, I can tell you there’s nothing new in it. Nothing. I promise. I say that because there isn’t anything new to say about wine. So what’s in every new book written for the aspiring wine lover? Just more charts on how to open Champagne, definitions of wine terms you can look up on the internet in 15 seconds, and the timeless and jejune advice to avoid being a wine snob.

However, just in time for Christmas 2018, look for my first book, “The Only Book You’ll Ever Need About Wine.” And then for Christmas 2019, “The New Only Book You’ll Ever Need About Wine.” They’ll both be on everyone’s Must Not Read List.

Image © Shutterstock

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