Wine picks: With a multitude of grapes, it’s time to focus on 10 biggies

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The “Ten Grapes to Know” by Catherine Fallis, just released this month, is a great book for those who are just beginning to explore the world of wine.

The master sommelier knows all too well that the wine world can be snooty and for this reason she’s determined to keep her wine guide delightfully unpretentious.

Fallis, for instance, compares chardonnay to a SUV, and she says merlot reminds her of the singer John Legend.

With her book, which sells for $25, Fallis has streamlined the material, focusing on these 10 grapes:

1. pinot gris/grigio,

2. sauvignon blanc,

3. chardonnay,

4. viognier,

5. pinot noir,

6. sangiovese,

7. syrah/shiraz,

8. merlot,

9. cabernet sauvignon, and

10. zinfandel.

But she encourages her readers to learn about other grapes, as well, by including other varietals in the “Branching Out” section at the end of each chapter.

For example, in the chapter on sauvignon blanc, Fallis points out other refreshing whites like the Spanish verdejo and the Austrian gruner veltliner.

In the end, readers will discover far more than just 10 grapes, but simplifying matters is Fallis’ gift.

The wine expert has some uncomplicated “sense exercises” to give readers a hands on approach to wine.

One example is how she encourages readers to explore the notion of astringency in wine with a lineup of lemon wedges. One wedge is set beside two others, one with salt on top and the other, with sugar.

The exercise reveals that both salt and sugar lesson astringency.

The book is published by Countryman Press, a division of W.W. Norton, and Fallis writes in the Preface, “In my journey to becoming a Master Sommelier, so much of the information was presented in a manner that was not only mindboggling in its scope, but also made me feel like an outsider, not a member of the secret society. I found it terribly intimidating and snobbish … I want to make wine inviting, down to earth and fun.”

Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at or 707-521-5310.

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