Wine for Dummies

Wine For Dummies

The book Wine for Dummies is a well-respected, how-to book on wine. This easy-to-read handbook on wine was co-authored by Ed McCarthy and his wife Mary Ewing-Mulligan. Ed is a wine writer, Certified Wine Educator (CWE) and wine columnist for WineReviewOnline.com and Beverage Media. Mary Ewing-Mulligan, Master of Wine (MW) is a wine educator.

Wine for Dummies is currently in its 4th edition and has been translated into 36 languages. This very helpful book covers the ABC's of wine for the novice and provides very in depth, informative information and tips for all wine drinkers on a variety of subjects including Italian, French, Spanish and German wines.

Ed and Mary have written over ten other books in the "Dummies" series, including their newest book California Wine for Dummies. Ed also authored Champagne for Dummies.

Interview with Ed McCarthy, co-author of Wine for Dummies

LoveToKnow had the opportunity to interview Ed McCarthy and get his perspective on several of the challenges faced by wine drinkers including:

  • Health issues of wine
  • Knowing what to buy
  • Finding wine values
  • Aging wine
  • Decanting wine
  • Selecting wine for novices

Wine and Health

LoveToKnow (LTK): Can wine be healthy? What's the story on wine calories, carbs, resveratrol and sulfites?

Ed McCarthy (EM): Yes, wine is healthy. A growing amount of information is showing how wine is certainly good for you - especially for the heart. Physicians also think it helps prevent cancers, high blood pressure and several other health issues. Of course it is only healthy if it is drunk in moderation. It is clearly healthier than abstinence - wine drinkers tend to live longer and have better health.

Calories are not really a big problem with wine. A glass of wine will have about 110 calories. White wine has about 15 calories less than red wine. So, if you are only having a couple of glasses a day, calories are not a problem. Some people tend to eat more when they are enjoying a glass of wine with their meal, but the added calories are from the food, not the wine. Doctors recommend that lower weight individuals drink less wine than heavier individuals - with women drinking two to three glasses a day and men drinking three to five glasses.

There are carbohydrates in wine; but, they are not a simple carbohydrate. Again, when drunk in moderation, the carbs in wine should not cause a health problem.

Resveratrol is a key ingredient in red wine and is an antioxidant, which has been shown to have anti-aging properties.

Concerns about sulfites are a big myth that refuses to die. Sulfites are a natural product of wine production. Wine producers add a very small amount of sulfites as a preservative to keep the wine from aging too quickly on the wine seller's shelf or once the buyer gets the bottle home. The amount of sulfates that are added are limited to a very small amount - just parts per million. There are more sulfites in dried fruits than there are in wine. Sulfites are not a threat to the wine drinker unless the wine drinker is a severe asthmatic.

No one is coming out and saying that wine in moderation is bad for you.

Selecting Wine

LTK: Wine buying can be intimidating. Do you have any tips for selecting a good bottle of wine at the grocery store or wine shop?

EM: If you are a novice, go to a wine shop. Unlike a busy grocery store, a wine shop has someone there to help you who knows a lot about wine. Find a wine merchant who you like and trust. A good merchant will ask you several questions such as "Do you like your wine dry or a little sweeter?" and "What food will you have with the wine?" Take their advice and buy the wine. Then take the wine home and try it. If you agree with the wine merchant's opinion, then you have a wine guru.

A lot of people are afraid to ask for help, even though a wine merchant would be delighted to help you. That's why they are there. You have to ask. You have to get over that fear. Just go ahead and say "I need help."

Another tip is to buy a good beginning book on wine such as Wine for Dummies. Learn about wine, how it's made, and the different types of wine. Wine buying is an overwhelming prospect for many people. Just remember that you shouldn't make your wine selection based on a pretty label or a nice name.

LTK: Any recommendations on how to drink great wine without spending a lot of money?

EM: There are a lot of good wines that are inexpensive. You just need to expand your horizons. If you usually only drink California wines you should consider buying wines from other wine producing areas - such as out of the United States. Wines in the United States tend to be higher in price than wines from other countries. You can get a good bottle of wine from:

  • South America, particularly Chile and Argentina, for $10 to $12
  • France and Italy - France and Italy are the biggest producers in Europe. Not all French wines are expensive. Look for wines from the south of France where you can get a lot of wines from the Loire Valley or Cotes du Rhone for $10 to $12.

You don't need to spend a lot of money to get a good bottle of wine. Some California wines are starting to be packaged in Styrofoam boxes and packages. Bandit, produced by Three Thieves, is available in a one liter box for about $9. There is also a smaller size (250 ml) available for about $6. Bandit is available in Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio. The box packaging and shipping is cheaper than the costs of producing wine in glass. These savings are passed on to the consumer, making this a good value on a good wine.

Serving Wine

LTK: Is it important to let wine age or can I enjoy it right away?

EM: Inexpensive wines are not made for aging. Generally, if a wine is under $20 you should drink it right away. An expensive wine such as a French Bordeaux or Burgundy, or a California Cabernet sold for $35 or more will often improve with age.

LTK: Does all wine have to be decanted?

EM: Most wines don't have to be decanted. In fact, you should never decant Pinot Noir because it can lose its aroma. All vintage ports should be decanted. Most expensive Cabernets will be enhanced with decanting.

LTK: Any recommendations on a few good wines to get started with?

EM: In general, a true novice usually enjoys starting with a very light wine like a White Zinfandel. Other novices will probably enjoy starting with an inexpensive (under $10) white wine, rose or a lighter red wine:

  • White wine - Beginning wine drinkers might enjoy a Chardonnay, Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc
  • Rose wine - Try both types of rose wine - dry and sweet
  • Red wine - Novices usually enjoy starting with a lighter red such as a Merlot or Australian Syrah. Generally, an inexpensive red wine will be a lighter red wine.

A review copy of California Wine for Dummies was provided by the author's publicist for this article.

Wine for Dummies