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Jon Bonné’s book avoids some of the common problems that plague the world of modern wine advice. Rather than telling you exactly which wines to buy or drink this evening, Bonné instead offers timeless tips about how to be a more fulfilled and well-rounded wine enthusiast. Although the advice in this book is geared toward beginners, there are still quite a few chapters that serious collectors will also find enlightening, and that can help anyone improve their collection. In fact, considering some of the essential pieces of advice from Jon Bonné’s book might help you recapture the excitement and intrigue of fine wine.
Who Should Read Jon Bonné’s Book
The New Wine Rules truly has something for everyone, however, the book is targeted primarily toward people who are interested in starting a wine collection for the first time. He offers straightforward, simple advice for beginners of all levels, from those who want to upgrade from drinking inexpensive jug wine to those who want to start a small collection of Margaux. Bonné takes a no-judgment approach to wine advice–his goal is to encourage readers to drink higher-quality wines than they were drinking before. After reading this book, a budding wine enthusiast might upgrade from a fruit-forward bottle of California Syrah from a well-known producer to a more unusual, complex bottle from the Northern Rhône made by a small-scale winery. In short, Bonné encourages beginners to experiment with unique wines and regions in order to learn more about them.
Yet Jon Bonné’s book isn’t just for beginners. It’s true that most of the information you’ll find in this book will be a refresher if you already have years of experience with wine. That said, there are tips in “The New Wine Rules” that are worth considering, even if you have been collecting bottles of Sine Qua Non and Bollinger for decades. Bonné offers useful advice about getting out of a wine rut and learning how to explore wines with enthusiasm. Bonné reminds serious collectors that exploration and experimentation are always worthwhile, and that you will enjoy your existing collection more when you take the time to try something new. So what are some of Bonné’s main points? Let’s start with what he suggests for beginning wine enthusiasts.
If You’re a Beginner, Focus on Small-Scale, Unique Collections
The main takeaway that Bonné wants beginners to understand is that a wine collection doesn’t have to be enormous or worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to be valuable and worthwhile. In one of the more controversial chapters of the book, Bonné claims that beginners can spend less than $300 on their first wine collection; that they don’t need thousands of dollars to invest up-front. Of course, while it depends on what wine you’re investing in, a $300 budget typically won’t get you very much wine. But Bonné argues that it can be the perfect first step for people who are still learning about the regions and styles they enjoy most.
So, rather than spending $300 on just one bottle of 2009 Cos d’Estournel without knowing whether you actually enjoy fine Bordeaux, beginners following Bonné’s advice might instead choose to buy a half case of mixed wine in the $50 to $70 price range. This would allow you to try a wide range of wines that are still high quality, from 2001 Vieux Donjon to 2012 Rhys Pinot Noir. Once you’ve tasted a range of styles in this price range, you might decide to invest in more expensive wines from particular regions that you enjoy. If you loved the complex Rhône flavors of Vieux Donjon, then you might decide to invest next in an incredible bottle like 2007 Beaucastel. In other words, rather than focusing on the wines that other collectors enjoy, it’s important to decide for yourself which wines you prefer before you begin investing seriously in wine.
If You’re a Serious Enthusiast, Break Away from Misconceptions
As a serious wine collector, you likely already know which French regions you enjoy, and which wine styles appeal most to you. The most important lesson that you can learn from Jon Bonné’s book is to break away from past wine traditions that no longer hold true. For instance, Bonné encounters many knowledgeable wine enthusiasts who still see Merlot as an outdated, deeply unhip wine style. However, if you take the time to look for well-crafted bottles, Merlot can be one of the better investments on the market. Prices are often lower than they should be because the wine isn’t very popular among serious wine enthusiasts, and the worst versions of this wine tend to vanish from the shelves completely due to its poor marketability as a style. Only the producers who are passionate about the wine style will continue to make it, and you may get the deal of the century by investing in wines like this. Similarly, you don’t have to drink only dry wines just because most collectors prefer them. Sweet wines can be just as complex and impressive as their drier peers. In general, it’s important for experienced collectors to question declarative statements like “Sweet wine is only for dessert,” or “Serve white wine with fish.”
If you take anything away from Jon Bonné’s book, it should be this sense of childlike exploration and the questioning of established wine authority. By approaching every wine you drink as if it’s a brand new experience, and by experimenting with unusual food pairings or lesser-known regions, your excitement for wine may grow. In the end, that’s what wine collecting is all about: thoroughly enjoying this liquid art without fretting over too many snobbish details.
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