Book Review: “The Great Wines of America” by Paul Lukacs

paullukacsIn “The Great Wines of America,” author Paul Lukacs assembles a melting pot of wine that portrays the current diversity within American viniculture. Lukacs’ book devotes individual chapters to 40 different wines, ranging from nearly-impossible-to-find Napa cult wines, such as Harlan’s Proprietary Red, to nearly-unknown wines from east of the Mississippi, such as Horton Vineyards’ Viognier. As Lukacs explores the American landscape, his book also touches upon various styles of wine, from Dolce’s botrytis-influenced dessert wine to the sparkling wines of Roederer and L. Mawby.

To be sure, a large percentage of the bottlings profiled in “Great Wines” hail from California. But even as Lukacs includes wines from such well-known sites as Robert Mondavi and Beringer Vineyards, his book offers thoughtful insights into the history and winemaking processes of each property. The end result is a patch-work history of American wine which can actually be read in any order the reader chooses.

“Great Wines of America” succeeds in not repeating itself with each chapter, a rather tall order considering that Lukacs was faced with finding 40 different angles for each profile. Even so, several over-riding themes still emerge from the text, perhaps the most common theme being that American wine has finally established its own identity over the last generation. Although French wine may have initially been the model for many winemakers’ efforts, American wine no longer has to taste French in order to earn respect, even on the international stage.

A viticultural map at the beginning of each chapter helps place each wine within a geographical context, while a label scan at the end of each chapter certainly helps the reader remember the dozens of wines profiled. “Great Wines” is informative, concise, and would be a valuable reference for any reader who wishes to discover new wines, or who wishes to learn more about the wines he already enjoys.

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