Now she’s got a book out, Hip Tastes – The Fresh Guide to Wine, which is sort of an introductory text on wine for people too intimidated by that aisle at the grocery store or the wine list at their favorite restaurant. Again, I’m all for it.
Hip Tastes is indeed a pretty good primer on wine, though it isn’t without some issues. The best part is that, from start to finish, Cochran talks in plain English about wine, laying out grapes, regions, and etiquette issues like how to pick a wine when you’re dining out. It even dips into “advanced” stuff: I love that she took the time to outline the six types of sweet German wines and offers a handy primer on the typical styles of various Champagne houses. The section on food and wine pairings are also helpful, as is a pronunciation guide in the back of the book.
For a beginner’s wine guide, though, a lot of Hip Tastes feels a little off topic. At 300 pages, it feels too long, and the very tall and slim design doesn’t work well with a book this thick. I suppose it’s meant to be taken with you on your trips to the store or the wine country, but it’s too fat to fit in a pocket and too chatty to use as a quick reference. The latter half of the book could easily have been trimmed down or ejected entirely.
The appendix is where I figure most wine buyers will spend their time, and here the book is not really of much help. This section outlines major wine regions of the world and provides “recommended producers” for each. Sadly, it’s heavily focused on wines that no new wine drinker will ever sample: Three pages of Bordeaux recommendations (oh, Petrus is a good brand!?) are followed by only 20 recommended wineries from all of Napa Valley, from which most U.S. wine drinkers will be getting their bottles. Worse still, her recommendations for top wines from Sonoma Valley include at least three outright terrible picks, which either shows a lapse in judgment or simply bad taste. The long tabular style of the appendix makes it hard to read, too.
Still, for novices and outright newcomers this isn’t a terrible book. While one gets a bit of the feeling that Cochran is sort of rehashing her Master Sommelier coursework (which she is still working on) in book form in order to help pay for the classes, maybe that isn’t such a bad thing. Wine educations will certainly cost a lot more than the 15 bucks this book runs…
B / $15 / buy it here