cover image Thirsty Work

Thirsty Work

Matt Skinner, , foreword by Jamie Oliver. . Running Press, $24.95 (175pp) ISBN 978-0-7624-2533-4

Skinner is the wine manager of Fifteen, the London restaurant run by Jamie Oliver. With Oliver's name appearing twice on the front cover (and thrice on the back cover of the review copy), Skinner appears to be grabbing his friend's apron strings and hoping to ride this occasionally interesting treatise on wine up the bestseller list. In an overly conscious effort to avoid sounding snobbish or pretentious, "awesome" and "mind-blowing" become adjectives of choice while authoritativeness sometimes gives way to bad puns or too simple declaratives: "Talk about keeping it in the family. Pinot Blanc is the distant love child of Pinot Gris." There are six essential chapters. "Basics" could be called Grapes 101, while "Toolbox" is an explanation of how to use the nose, mouth and eyes in wine appreciation, and "Fruit" provides brief, useful descriptions for dozens of wines, with each entry including a phonetic pronunciation, followed by musings on the style and taste of the wine, as well as a somewhat random "f.y.i." paragraph (e.g., we learn that Merlot is "an incredibly 'gluggable' variety"). The remaining chapters cover the growing of grapes, how various wines are actually made and a nicely thought-out geographical survey of all the major wine regions. Photos. (Oct.)