The Food Lover's Guide to Wine


By Karen Page

By Andrew Dornenburg

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A wine book unlike any other,The Food Lover’s Guide to Wine offers a fresh perspective via the single aspect of wine most compelling to food lovers: flavor.

At the heart of this indispensable reference, formatted like the authors’ two previous bestsellers The Flavor Bible and What to Drink with What You Eat, is an encyclopedic A-to-Z guide profiling hundreds of different wines by their essential characteristics-from body and intensity to distinguishing flavors, from suggested serving temperatures and ideal food pairings to recommended producers (including many iconic examples).

The book provides illuminating insights from dozens of America’s best sommeliers via informative sidebars, charts and boxes, which complement the book’s gorgeous four-color photography. Another groundbreaking work from two of the ultimate culinary insiders, this instant classic is the perfect gift book.


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Table of Contents

Copyright Page


I have a hard time having a meal without a glass of wine or having a glass of wine without food. When I have one or the other alone, I feel like something is missing.


There is now abundant scientific evidence for the health benefits of alcohol to go with a few centuries of traditional belief and anecdotal evidence…. The fact is that people who drink moderately and regularly live longer and suffer considerably less heart disease than teetotalers…. Most experts recommend no more than two drinks a day for men, one for women.


Drink wine. With food. Not too much.

If we have a single message for readers of this book, it can be summed up in these seven words, inspired by Michael Pollan, the author of the bestselling book In Defense of Food. It seems fitting, given our appreciation of his urging readers to "have a glass of wine with dinner" in the chapter "Not Too Much: How to Eat."

Those who seek to embrace products that are good for the environment can champion wine, because wine grape growers have been leaders in the movements toward sustainable, organic, and biodynamic agriculture. The past three decades have marked a revolution in winemaking, which has reached new heights of quality, with wines tasting cleaner and fresher than ever. There has also been expansion in the breadth of styles of wine being made all around the globe—from white to red, still to sparkling, dry to sweet.

With wine's acknowledged health benefits and the increasing availability of better wines at lower prices, it's a wonder that wine is not yet our national beverage. It's true that as of 2009, Americans drank more wine than the French, and in 2010 the United States became the world's largest wine-consuming country for the first time in history, a significant watershed moment in food and wine culture.

However, according to a recent study, the average American's choice of beverage to accompany dinner is not yet wine (as it is in France, Italy, and other parts of the world) but rather beverages that some studies claim are unhealthful: soft drinks like Coke and Pepsi.

What stands in the way of Americans' incorporating into our lives a more healthful beverage that enhances our appreciation of food? Too often, sadly, people feel intimidated by wine.

A bottle of wine is basically nothing more than two and a half pounds of grapes that have been pressed and fermented. It is 80 to 85 percent water, in fact, along with some alcohol (typically 8 to 16 percent); the rest (about 4 percent) consists of "natural compounds," such as acids, sugars, minerals, vitamins, coloring substances, aromatic substances, and sulfites (preservatives). A five-ounce glass of wine contains just 125 calories.


Milk (8-ounce glass) 160 Milk
Beer (12-ounce bottle) 150 Water, grain, malt, yeast
Coke (12-ounce can) 140 Carbonated water, high-fructose corn syrup, caramel color, phosphoric acid, flavoring, caffeine
Orange juice (8-ounce glass) 125 Squeezed oranges
Wine (5-ounce glass) 125 Fermented grapes

In countries such as France and Italy, which have a centuries-old wine culture, wine is simply a way of life. We look forward to seeing that happen in this country. But we have a long way to go in encouraging Americans to trade their Cokes for "starter wines" and then move to "better" wines. There's a lot of confusion. Where to start? And what to try next?

The majority of Americans speak no language other than English. Yet many of the top California wines are priced beyond the reach of many people, so to find deals on wines, we sometimes have to look at labels that contain foreign terminology, which can be intimidating.

This book is aimed at helping food lovers along their journey of discovering wines and expanding their enjoyment of them. Many people look for value wines to drink during the week, and some people who see wine as an affordable luxury will stretch to buy a more expensive bottle for the weekend or for special occasions. In restaurants, many order wines by the half-bottle or by the glass, which reflects an increasing interest in careful food-and-wine pairings. Also, now that more people are enjoying wine at home, they need good advice on what to buy.

The polyphenols in red wine (resveratrol in particular) appear to have unique protective qualities…. The health benefits of alcohol may depend as much on the pattern of drinking as on the amount: Drinking a little every day is better than drinking a lot on the weekends, and drinking with food is better than drinking without it. (Food blunts some of the deleterious effects of alcohol by slowing its absorption.)



Why do we think we're up to taking on the mammoth task of helping food lovers explore and master wine? It's primarily because we're not your typical wine writers: We love food first and wine second. In fact, what we love most about wine is its ability to make food taste even better.

While we've long enjoyed drinking wine and have been curious to learn more about it, we were initially put off by the encyclopedic wine tomes that dominate the bookstore shelves. Many of those books ask you to learn a lot of wine terminology as well as technical details of the winemaking process. But we didn't want to make wine—we simply wanted to drink it! (We should mention that after learning about wines' flavors and becoming curious about how those flavors come to be in the glass, many wine drinkers are eager to learn about winemaking.) We longed for a wine book that would provide information on a "need to know" basis.

We wrote our first book on this topic, What to Drink with What You Eat, because that was what we wanted to know. The book's critical and popular acceptance led us to believe that others shared our wish to see the topic of wine broken down simply yet intelligently.

This book aims to pick up where What to Drink left off, providing readers with more insight into wine from a food lover's perspective, even if they're not yet interested in tackling the intricacies of the 1855 Bordeaux classification or the curse of phylloxera. We hope to share just enough information about wine to help you select a bottle to enjoy over dinner at home and to negotiate the wine list and have a more productive discussion with the sommelier the next time you dine out.

With every step along your wine journey, you'll naturally become interested in other aspects of wine, such as how it's made and how winemakers achieve various effects through the winemaking process. In Chapter 7 we list a number of books that can enlighten you on these topics.

We close here with a little secret. No one—not the two of us or any of the dozens of distinguished sommeliers we've interviewed, not even the World's Best Sommelier, Aldo Sohm—has mastered everything there is to know about wine. There are more than six thousand different wines available for sale in the United States, and because we can't claim to have tasted all of them, we honestly can't tell you which are the best. However, we've tasted quite a few and have interviewed dozens of America's best sommeliers (including Master Sommeliers,* holders of the field's most prestigious accreditation), who have themselves tasted quite a few, so we think that collectively we should be able to point you in the right direction.

Cheers to you as you continue on your wine journey!


Spring 2011


Wine is all about enjoyment. And few sommeliers capture this notion better than Aldo Sohm of the four-star restaurant Le Bernardin in New York City, who was named the World's Best Sommelier in 2008. We talked with Sohm about his passion for wine and for helping others share that passion.

On my recent trip to Alto Adige [in northern Italy], I had one day off and went hiking with my best friend, Norbert Waldnig, who was the Austrian candidate for World's Best Sommelier. Norbert told me, "When people ask me what I do, I don't say, 'I'm a sommelier.' Instead, I tell them, 'I'm an enjoyment manager.' After all, what we do is give people enjoyment and make them feel comfortable." That is how I see it as well.

There are many good wines out there, and a bottle of wine is ever-changing, just like a human being. In its youth, it might not use its power and force wisely. In old age, it is getting cranky: its yeast is dying, and it is passing away. You have to get wines at the right spot in their life cycle.

At a recent tasting, someone said to me, "You have a great job—you can drink all the wines you like!" I replied that I had to respectfully disagree, that I actually buy a lot of wines I don't really like personally. For example, I love mineral-driven wines. I love wines with acidity. I love wines at all points along the spectrum, from modest to extravagant. The wines I like to drink aren't necessarily big, high in alcohol, or super-expensive.

What I don't like is overoaked Chardonnay. I don't like the creaminess or the high alcohol—and I find there is so much "makeup" applied that you can't recognize the "woman" anymore! But I buy a lot of these wines, because I sell a lot of them. I will taste oaked Chardonnay to make sure it is properly made and typical for the style—and if it is good, I buy it.

Does it mean that my guests are right and I am wrong? No. After all, not everyone loves spinach, either. What you have to do as a sommelier is flip a switch in your head: when you taste, you have to disregard your personal preference, which is the most difficult thing to do. If I bought only wines that I liked, I would have a very one-dimensional wine list.


Wine does not have to be expensive. We need to get rid of the picture of a sommelier sitting at home drinking Romanée-Conti and Pétrus! That would be lovely, but it is not reality. Actually, it would not be lovely, because your brain can't digest it. Your palate would get used to it, and your palate would get very one-dimensional.

I have the opportunity to taste $1,000 bottles of wine on my job. At home, I most often drink wines that cost less than $15. Lately I have been drinking Muscadet from Pépière and Yellow Muscat. Nothing is more undervalued than German Riesling. Nothing—it is a joke! In Burgundy a wine of the same quality would cost twice as much. Tesch Riesling is totally dry, and I am a big fan of his wines, which are inexpensive.

As you taste more wines along your journey, remember this: you learn the most from the things you don't like. It is easy to talk about what you like—and much harder to discuss the things you don't like and how you would make them better. Keep an open mind. It is important to take the opportunity to see if you might have overlooked something.


Although consumed as a beverage, wine is also like a sauce that accents and enhances flavor in food.


Wine and food have been so inextricably linked throughout human history that we have to scratch our heads and wonder: How on earth did wine and food become separated in the United States? How did the majority of Americans learn to have soft drinks with their evening meals? And where did the seemingly all-American notion of wine as a mere aperitif or party quaffer come from?

The 1961 classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking, by the American-born Julia Child, which was informed by her years in France, judged wine sufficiently important to devote a six-page section at the beginning of the book to the topic. And at the end of each main-course recipe Child recommended specific wines to accompany the dish. She celebrated the art of wine-and-food pairing: "Great combinations of wine and food are unforgettable: kidneys and one of the great red Burgundies, where each rings reminiscent changes on the characteristics of the other; sole in one of the rich white wine sauces and a fine white Burgundy; soufflé à la liqueur and a Château d'Yquem. And then there are the more simple pleasures of a stout red wine and a strong cheese, white wine and oysters, red wine and a beef stew, chilled rosé and a platter of cold meats."

French-born Madeleine Kamman's 1971 classic, The Making of a Cook, proclaimed wine as one of the four "Good Ingredients for Good Dishes" (along with butter, cream, and seasonings). As Kamman noted, presciently, "There is a false belief among new 'connoisseurs' that American wines are not as good as European ones…. Of course wines are produced in other countries besides France. Italy, Spain and Portugal, Germany, Austria and Hungary, Switzerland, Greece, South Africa, Chile—all these countries produce wine, and some of it is splendid."

The 1976 "Judgment of Paris," the famous blind wine tasting in which French critics judged California wines to be better than some of France's most renowned offerings, bore out Kamman's statement that the wines of California were every bit as good as those of France—and indeed, that good wines were being made around the globe. The decades since have reinforced that truth.

As interest in wine soared, more books introducing the curious to this mysterious beverage began to appear in American bookstores. However, with the cookbook boom of the 1980s came an explosion of chef-driven cookbooks that often made no mention of wine, with the notable exceptions of works by Chez Panisse's Alice Waters and some others. In fact, many of the bestselling cookbooks since the 1990s do not address wine to any great extent, even as an ingredient:

• The 1,136-page 1997 edition of Joy of Cooking features a single paragraph of tips on pairing wine with cheese and two paragraphs on rice wine and sake.

• In its 944 pages, Mark Bittman's 1998 How to Cook Everything makes no mention of wine except in six recipes that call for it as an ingredient.

• The 1,040-page Gourmet Cookbook, published in 2004, makes no mention of wine except in four recipes that call for it as an ingredient.

• The index to Martha Stewart's Cooking School, a 500-page book published in 2008, lists only two recipes that call for wine.

In some ways, the lack of attention to wine by food journalists is a natural extension of the increasing specialization of the fields of cuisine and wine. Wine writers wrote about wine while food writers stuck to food—and rarely were the two topics written about together.

As journalists "chose sides," so did readers. Wine enthusiasts bought books about wine and became wine-centric, choosing restaurants based on their wine lists and selecting their wine before their menu instead of vice versa. And cooking enthusiasts, including many typical Americans, continued to learn about food, while viewing wine as a mysterious subject for specialists instead of a natural companion to food worth equal investigation.

As noted in the Preface, we are unusual because we specialize in writing about both food and wine. But more writers are needed to help to bridge the two topics and eliminate the chasm between them.

When we are introduced in social situations as wine writers, the most common response we receive is an apology—because too many people invariably feel embarrassed that they don't know more about wine. However, we've never had anyone apologize to us after we've been introduced as food writers. Wine is a ridiculously vast subject, and no one should feel bad for not knowing "enough" about it.

We want food lovers to extend their passion for flavor to include wine, and we want to help them enjoy wine more by developing a greater understanding of the subject. And unlike certain esoteric wine writers, we don't believe a Ph.D. in oenology (the study of wine) should be required to understand it.

Luckily for us, wine and food have been coming back into the headlines of articles about the "First Table." Every American president and first lady have helped set the national tone for American culture, and that includes gastronomy. The Kennedys celebrated French cuisine and wines as the epitome of glamour, and the Clintons shone a spotlight on the best American ingredients and cuisine. After eight years of a teetotaling president, it's been exciting for the food-loving media to report on a first lady who plants a White House vegetable garden and a president who takes her on a date to a farm-to-table restaurant where wines can be paired to every course.

"I think that President Obama's choice to dine at Blue Hill [in Manhattan]—a restaurant known for its sustainable and local cuisine—was both edgy and such a statement," said Claire Paparazzo, the sommelier of that restaurant, who served the first couple. "I can't help but laugh when people ask what we served them, as if they expect me to reply 'diamond-crusted sea bass' or something ridiculous. What we served them was Blue Hill food—natural produce! And I'm impressed that they were open to different beverages."

While Paparazzo declined to share more about the Obamas' choices, the New York Daily News reported tipsters' accounts that the first lady ordered two martinis, while the president ordered the wine pairings that accompanied the tasting menu, which that night included the 2007 Hirsch Vineyard & Blue Hill Special Cuvée, a light Burgundy-style Pinot Noir served exclusively at the restaurant.


Wine is about many things, including history. I had a moment when I realized the French have been making wine for two thousand years while California has only been making it for two hundred.


It's not unusual for connoisseurs to look back with regret at having missed the golden age of their particular interest—the Elizabethan age for poetry, perhaps the seventeenth century for Dutch painting, or the heyday of Bach or Mozart. For oenophiles, this is the golden age, and there is every reason to predict that the next millennium will enable this specialized world to shine even more brightly.


If Americans—collectively and individually—have any future with wine, it is a function of our past. It's important to appreciate this country's relatively brief wine history, especially compared with that of countries that measure their years of winemaking and wine enjoyment in thousands instead of hundreds. Yet understanding wine's importance in the founding of the United States helps set the stage for our mission to ensure that it's a celebrated part of our future.

Today wine is America's leading finished agricultural product (as measured by retail value). California, the top wine-producing state, makes 90 percent of all American-made wine and three out of every five bottles purchased in this country. Two out of every three bottles of wine produced in the United States is from California, Oregon, Washington, or New York.

As the United States takes its place as the number-one wine-consuming country in the world, we are taking a historic step in our evolution—so let's stop and see where we are and how we got here.

1607 The first settlers arrive in Jamestown, Virginia, with a primary aim of establishing a wine industry in the New World so that England would not have to buy its wine from France and Spain.
1619 All male heads of households are commanded by law to plant grapevines. The settlers' efforts produce the first wine made from indigenous grapes.
1622 Every Jamestown household is given a grape-growing and winemaking manual, at the king's command.
1624 Virginia passes an act requiring every household to plant twenty vines for every male in the household over the age of twenty.
1743 Benjamin Franklin includes instructions on winemaking in this year's edition of his Poor Richard's Almanack.
1774 Thomas Jefferson plants his first vineyard at Monticello in Virginia.
1776 The United States of America is founded with the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4. In August America's future first president, George Washington, orders cases of claret, Muscat, and cordials and a keg of brandy.
1779 The "Father of California Wine," Father Junipero Serra, a Franciscan missionary, plants the first California vineyard at Mission San Diego.
1780s Benjamin Rush, an American doctor, suggests that wine consumed in moderation with food promotes "cheerfulness, strength and nourishment."
1784 Thomas Jefferson arrives in Paris as ambassador to France. Within two weeks he purchases 276 bottles of wine, mostly Bordeaux.
1789 On May 29, President George Washington hosts the White House's first state dinner, at which guests are served boiled leg of mutton and a single glass of wine each.
1790 On September 6, newly installed Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson places a wine order for "40 dozen of Champagne, 30 doz. Of Sauterne [sic], 20 doz. of Bordeaux de Segur, and 10 doz. of [Muscat de] Frontignan" for President Washington.
1792 During the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, George Washington leads a delegation on a visit to a nearby promising vineyard.
1801–1809 President Thomas Jefferson's passion for wine leads him to have large wine cellars built in the White House and to purchase more than 20,000 bottles of wine during his tenure in office.
1825 Sixty vineyards with a total of 600 acres of grapes have been planted throughout the United States. Five years later there are two hundred vineyards with a total of 5,000 acres of grapes.
1839 George Calvert Yount plants the first vineyards in Napa Valley, in what will become Yountville, California. The same year in Washingtonville, New York, Brotherhood Winery makes its first wines.
1845 President James Polk and First Lady Sarah Polk serve six different wines (including rosé Champagne, Sauternes, and ruby port) in six glasses that "formed a rainbow around each plate" at an extravagant dinner during their first year in the White House.
1851 After tasting Nicholas Longworth's pink sparkling Catawba wine (produced in Ohio via the traditional method used to make Champagne) at the Great Exhibition in London, one admiring reviewer proclaimed, "Cincinnati has become the chief seat of wine manufacture in the United States." Within a few years, Longworth was producing nearly 100,000 bottles annually, supported by a national advertising campaign. He is the first American winemaker to prove the existence of a lucrative market for wine. Longworth's wine even inspires Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's 1854 poem "Ode to Catawba Wine."
1857 Hungarian immigrant Agoston Haraszthy builds the first commercial vineyard in California, which today is the home of Buena Vista Winery. During his lifetime, he introduces three hundred wine grape varieties.
1861 The California governor appoints a commission to direct the development of winemaking in the region. Haraszthy is one of the first three commissioners.
Charles Krug establishes Napa Valley's first commercial winery.
1862 Schramsberg Winery, the Napa Valley sparkling wine producer, is founded.
1870s California becomes America's top wine-producing state.
1873 At the Vienna World's Fair, a Virginia wine is named "Best Red Wine of All Nations."


  • "Their premise - that food lovers know flavor and therefore have the chops to understand, discover, and choose great wines to go with their meals - allows the authors to leave behind confusing wine statistics, vintages, critical wine scores, and tongue-tying wine classifications. Instead, they enliven their wine story-telling by going straight to the country's foremost sommeliers for food and wine pairing guidance."—Fine Cooking Magazine
  • "An essential addition to every wine lover's library"Marguerite Thomas,
  • "There are plenty of food and wine pairing books on the market, but when Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg ... chime in, we know it's going to be an informational read."Amanda Gold, San Francisco Chronicle
  • "Best Wine Book Of The Year: THE FOOD LOVER'S GUIDE TO WINE. Not because Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg co-authored it, though that would be reason enough. But because their latest book is good. Very good."

    Jenn Garbee, LA Weekly
  • "May be their best book yet." Rozanne Gold, Huffington Post
  • ON WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT: "This husband-and-wife team has long had the knack of being on the cutting edge of America's fascination with the food world...In this new work on the magical pairing of food and wine, Dornenburg and Page again rely on a formidable array of insiders to inform and enliven their research." - Chicago Tribune

    "The husband-and-wife team of Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page-he is a chef, she a journalist-has produced four books in the past six years, and these are the best places to experience the cult of the New American Chef." - New Yorker

    "...Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page had me at 'hello' a long time ago. That was seven years ago when I read their first book, Becoming a Chef. They went on to enthrall me with Culinary Artistry and then Dining Out, books that have enriched the fount of culinary knowledge in North America..." - Vancouver Sun

On Sale
Nov 3, 2011
Page Count
352 pages

Karen Page

About the Author

Karen Page is a two-time James Beard Award-winning author whose books include The Flavor Bible, which was named one of the year’s best cookbooks on both Today and Good Morning America, one of the 100 best cookbooks of the last twenty-five years by Cooking Light, and one of the ten best cookbooks in the world of the past century by Forbes.

A former Washington Post wine columnist, she is also the author of What to Drink with What You Eat, which was named the IACP Cookbook of the Year and Georges Duboeuf Wine Book of the Year. She lives with her husband, author and photographer Andrew Dornenburg, in New York City.

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Andrew Dornenburg

About the Author

Karen Page is a two-time James Beard Award-winning author whose books include The Flavor Bible, which was named one of the year’s best cookbooks on both Today and Good Morning America, one of the 100 best cookbooks of the last twenty-five years by Cooking Light, and one of the ten best cookbooks in the world of the past century by Forbes. The former Washington Post wine columnist is also the author of What to Drink with What You Eat, which was named the IACP Cookbook of the Year and Georges Duboeuf Wine Book of the Year. She lives with her husband, author and photographer Andrew Dornenburg, in New York City.

Andrew Dornenburg studied with the legendary Madeleine Kamman at the School for American Chefs and has cooked professionally in top restaurants in New York City. Their website is

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