By Thomas Madrecki
Depth and breadth are two words frequently at odds in books attempting to survey a topic as far-ranging and diverse as wine.
Wines of the Southern Hemisphere: A Complete Guide, by “World Wine Guys” Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jenssen, attempts to tackle that challenge, at least for that sub-equatorial subset of the vinous world. In many respects it is an admirable book, with a definite knowledge of the topic and a respect for hundreds of the most venerated producers in South America, Australia and Africa. But it almost goes without saying that a book this broad will come up short in some respects.
At issue are the book’s intentions. Is it a book of producers, akin to a survey of wines you should drink and purchase, or is it an educational exploration of the southern hemisphere? Did the writers simply wish to enumerate the many wines worth your time, or did they want to tell you what makes those wines special or unique? And perhaps most glaringly, did they want the book to stand as a reference tome, or did they want you to actually read it cover-to-cover?
For the first half of those questions, Wines of the Southern Hemisphere is more than up to the heavy task at hand. In clear, concise prose, DeSimone and Jenssen inform you that so-and-so producer is based in so-and-so town and produces so-and-so wines of so-and-so quality. Later, there are a handful of interviews with winemakers and a sampling of recipes to pair with the wines.
Of course, it is possible that I expected something different from this book, and thus approached it from the get-go with standards it could never meet. In fact, I am almost certain of this, because I seriously doubt DeSimone and Jenssen would be unable to write an equally informative book about southern hemisphere wines while attempting to tell us more about the geography, growing conditions, winemaking methods, etc. in play.
That sort of book may be of greater value to the general reader, with its characterizations of wine types and styles, and its greater emphasis on appellations and grapes. For the wine professional, however, Wines of the Southern Hemisphere should find a good home on a bookshelf. Whether you’re a sommelier, importer, distributor or simply a real nut about purchasing specific labels, you’ll find the book’s hundreds of pages worth the investment.
Wines of the Southern Hemisphere is available now from Sterling Epicure for $24.95.