Lettie Teague knows wine. She has been the wine editor at Food & Wine magazine for almost a decade. The only question she is asked more than "Can you recommend a great wine for under $10?" -- great cheap white: Argiolas Costamolino Vermentino from Sardinia; great cheap red: Alamos Malbec from Argentina -- is "What is the best way to learn about wine?"
After many years of fielding these questions, Lettie was determined to debunk the myth that learning about wine is hard. She decided to find just one wine idiot and teach him a few fundamentals -- how to order off a restaurant wine list without fear, approach a wine merchant with confidence, and perhaps even score a few points off a wine snob.
Enter her neighbor, good friend and complete wine neophyte Peter Travers, Rolling Stone magazine's longtime film critic.
Peter Travers proved the perfect Eliza Doolittle to Lettie's Professor Higgins. As a film critic he made bold pronouncements ("This movie stinks," which could be readily translated to "This Cabernet tastes like Merlot") and exhibited a finely tuned visual sense ("The cinematography could be improved" could easily become "This wine is too white"). But, most important, Peter knew almost nothing about wine.
As Lettie begins their lessons, Peter puts down his ever-present glass of "fatty" Chardonnay and learns that there is a huge world out there full of all kinds of wine. He is taught to swirl his glass to release the wine's aromatic compounds -- or esters -- above the rim and vows, "I'm going to do that for Martin Scorsese next time I see him. I'll volatize my esters for him."
Thus Lettie enlightens her wine-challenged but film-savvy friend about the Facts of Wine: how to hold a glass; the vocabulary of wine; how wine is made; how to read labels; how to tell the difference between grape varieties; how to make sense of vintages; how to glean information about a wine simply by looking at the shape and color of the bottle; and an overview of the great wine regions of the Old World and the New.
Finally, after many fact-filled, hilarious lessons, Lettie takes Peter to the most famous American wine region of all, Napa Valley, where he hobnobs with wine and Hollywood royalty and finally puts his new skills to the test in the real world.
Part buddy movie, part serious wine tutorial, Educating Peter is as much a treat for oenophiles in on the joke as it is for beginners who think Chablis is a brand name of wine.
Lettie Teague is an executive editor at Food & Wine magazine. She writes a monthly column for the magazine, "Wine Matters," for which she won the 2003 James Beard M. F. K. Fisher Distinguished Writing Award. She is also the illustrator and coauthor of Fear of Wine.
"Lettie Teague is a true original -- witty, articulate, and in love with wine as well as fascinating people. Her debut book will enthrall, charm, and educate both wine connoisseurs and neophytes. In short, it is a brilliant and captivating read from one of America's most gifted commentators on all things about wine."
-- Robert M. Parker Jr., founder, The Wine Advocate
"I enjoyed the opportunity to learn, even after thirty years as a winemaker, new facts and approaches to wine, as well as to enjoy the camaraderie of two professionals, both passionate and knowledgeable and at the top of their respective fields. I would recommend this book to the wine novice as well as the wine lover."
-- Ed Sbragia, wine master, Beringer Wines, and owner/wine master, Sbragia Family Wines
"We applaud the entertaining new wine book 'Educating Peter.' [...] Studded with Hollywood names and factoids (director Martin Scorsese's favorite wine is Chianti), the book teaches the basics, from how wine is made, served and tasted to characteristics of wines from the Old World (Europe) and the New World (most of the rest of the globe). It's a hook that's ideal for young wine lovers and movie buffs who find wine encyclopedias off-putting, given not only Rolling Stone's mostly under-30 demographics but also the number of film-world luminaries involved in wine." (April 11) -- The Washington Post, Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg
"If Nora Ephron were a wine journalist, her work would read like that of Lettie Teague." (March 14) -- The New York Sun, Peter Hellman
"Like a boozy Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle, or maybe the Professor and Gilligan, these two rack up dozens of hours together in the pursuit of knowledge. [...] If this doesn't sound like other beginner wine books, that's because it's not. [...] The pace is never plodding, and you don't feel like you're a fourth-grader reading 'Dick and Jane.'" (May 4) -- Daily News, Rachel Wharton