Since 1969, restaurant, hotel, travel & other witty reviews by a handpicked, worldwide team of discerning professionals—and your views, too.

Wineocology - Review

Uncork the Power of Your Palate with Sensory Secrets from Hollywood's Sommelier

by Caitlin Stansbury with Heidi Shink 

(skirt!, 2012)

Wineocology: Uncork the Power of Your Palate with Sensory Secrets from Hollywood's Sommelier

What do tannins taste like? Can wine really smell like rose petals, saddle leather or cut grass? How do you detect faults in wine? Caitlin Stansbury answers all of these questions and more in her attractively produced Wineocology. Readers receive a pretty intensive biology and chemistry lesson with regard to how wine is made and how it interacts with the senses — all in an engaging and readily accessible manner. In one vivid passage she explains, "Tannins bind with the proteins in your saliva, creating microscopic granules that can be heartbreakingly supple, or that can shred your palate with the delicacy of a wood chipper." Stansbury writes with authority and confidence, yet her prose style remains casual and down-to-earth, peppered with phrases like "freaking good" and "blech."

Before presenting her Simple Sommelier System, the heart of the book, Stansbury provides readers with a firm background in what she calls the three Vs: variety (grapes), viticulture (grape growing) and vinification (winemaking). With that knowledge in place, she teaches her Simple Sommelier System, which breaks down the fundamental components of wine tasting by bodily sense: sight, smell, touch and taste. One of her most emphatic assertions is that wines really do smell like cherries, apricots, almonds and any number of things because they contain the same scent-producing compounds that cherries and apricots do. Smell is not subjective. If you don't detect the scent of yeast in your Champagne, then you either don't know what yeast smells like or you are mistaken.

Stansbury goes into quite a bit of depth in describing each of the senses. Touch or texture, for example, is broken down into the Core 4 elements: sugar, acid, tannin and alcohol. Then, she goes on to describe how the three Vs relate to each of these four elements along with step-by-step practical instructions for detecting them in your glass. The treatment is comprehensive and easy-to-follow, if a little verbose and repetitive. Wineocology can certainly help wine-lovers master the vocabulary of wine, improve their sensory perceptions and derive more pleasure from each and every bottle.

Reviewed by Barnaby Hughes


Related Content:
Wine Pairing Guide
Secrets of the Sommeliers
The Advanced Oenophile
The Food Lover's Guide to Wine

(Updated: 03/25/13 BH)

Usher in autumn with GAYOT's list of the Top 10 Fall Beers.

Sip straight or mix up a margarita with GAYOT's picks of the best tequilas under $100.