The Essence of Wine

Writer, Alder Yarrow, and photographer, Leigh Beisch, have teamed up to take readers on a journey that both describes pleasure and evokes it. The stunningly beautiful book distinguishes itself by revealing the “essence” of wine in captivating ways. (All photos in this post courtesy of Alder Yarrow)

The sensual photographs are the starting point. Then, Alder Yarrow weaves his words in among them, describing these “visual aromas” in paradoxical and metaphorical ways that are both practical and imaginative. Then, with each “essence”, he adds a list of wines that characteristically contain that aroma/flavor.

The photos and descriptions were all originally blog posts on Alder Yarrow’s, but seeing them assembled in the book is a wholly different experience. They are divided into sections:
Harvest (fruits)
Garden (herbs, spices, flowers…)
Kitchen (coffee, chocolate, nuts…)

Yarrow explains in his “Introduction” that the photos are meant to help wine lovers connect two parts of the brain: one that smells the aroma or tastes the flavor and the other, that names it. He already offers his readers a free aroma card, but the visuals in the book take the concept to another level.

What is astounding is that Yarrow adds more. The book includes six short pieces that “define” wine, not in a linear way, but in an intuitive way. They mirror both the simplicity and the complexity that is inherent in wine.

My favorite section is the one entitled, “Wine in Context”, perhaps because wine, especially Italian wine is often pulled out of context in America. Our culture often tries to force wine into being a “stand alone”, consumer product to be rated, ranked and scored. But Yarrow explains that the “essence of wine” is something else.

He writes, “…it needs to be said that a focus on merely what is in the glass misses most of what makes wine meaningful” (Alder Yarrow, The Essence of Wine, (Vinography, 2014) p. 57.)

He goes on to point out that a complete picture of a wine is connected to:
Senses: “This is the root of all wine appreciation but it is not the full vine.” (Yarrow, p.57)
Typicity: “..Whether the flavors of the wine are typical for the varietal, and whether the wine’s expression of the place it was grown–its terroir–is usual or unusual.” (Yarrow, p.57)
Humanity: “Beyond the bottle and the grape, beyond the geographic origin, all wine is irrevocably embedded in a human context.” (Yarrow, p. 57.)
Culture: “It’s no surprise then that wines [of a local region] go beautifully with their local cuisines, having co-evolved in the context of a specific culture.” (Yarrow, p.58.)
Emotion and Memory: “The final layer of context for the wine we drink encompasses our own psychology, emotions and memory.” (Yarrow, p. 58)

He concludes the section by returning to the idea of “sensory analysis” and noting:
“But as delicious as we find the flavors and aromas of wine, they are merely the first sentence in a much larger story of context, meaning and pleasure.” (Yarrow, p.58.)

This is the kind of book that can be picked up over and over. It is both a reference and an inspiration, a road map, and a free pass to having your own experience with wine. And everyone does. What you might consider being your all-time favourite wine, may not have the same effect on other people, so it’s a good job that you can look at places like Wine Access to find your preferred flavour. Because that’s the beauty of wine, everyone’s journey is different.

It was published through a Kickstarter campaign and is only available in limited edition through Vinography ($75). (To Order) Well worth the price, it will be an exceptional addition to your library whether you are just beginning to taste and learn about wine or are a connoisseur.

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