Studying for the Certified Wine Educator (CWE) exam has required me to dust off a few of my old favorites, though unfortunately, I’m talking more about books than bottles these days. Certainly, the one book that really helps to jog my memory about Italian wine is 2005’s “Vino Italiano,” which was authored by Joseph Bastianich and David Lynch. Folks who are Food Network junkies may have already seen Bastianich on his mother’s cooking series, “Lydia’s Italian Kitchen” (Bastianich usually appears at the very end of the program, just in time to taste the food and recommend a wine — not a bad gig). Film buffs, on the other hand, may recognize David Lynch as the auteur filmmaker behind 1986’s “Blue Velvet” and 1976’s “Eraserhead,” though in this case, the Hollywood writer-director is not the same person as the wine author (but really, with Jay McInerney now writing wine for the Wall Street Journal, you do have to ask that question these days).
For anyone who wishes to gain a thorough-yet-manageable knowledge of Italian wine, “Vino Italiano” covers just the right amount of info, with tables and maps for each of Italy’s 20 named regions (though Abruzzo and Molise are grouped together, for convenience). The true strength of the book, however (since there are many books out there than can simply dish the facts), is that each chapter of “Vino Italiano” begins with an interesting cultural angle that helps to fit Italian wine into its unique context (after all, Italians outsip Americans at a pace of more than five to one per capita). But even beyond these refreshing introductions, the book also does an excellent job as it transitions from travel guide to reference guide. For more than 450 pages, the authors deftly navigate the sea of Italian wine, mentioning all of the noteworthy juice, while not dwelling too much upon the obscurities.