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Jon Bonnés Useful Rules For all Interested Parties

January 19th, 2018

By Brent Bracamontes

In the last entry in our blog, I recommended a Hugh Johnson’s semi-autobiographiucal book A Life Uncorked. As I noted in that piece, I marvel at Johnson’s ability to communicate about wine with charm and rich description, though I find that I appreciate it more when I compare it to many of the other wine books that I have collected over the years. Many of the books that line my shelves are wine reference books, which generally serve the purpose of relating very technical information about grapes, regions, viticulture, and vinification practices. But as my own interests have moved away from more formalized wine education and toward more general appreciation and consumer guidance, I find myself much more interested in reading books that advertise wine consumption as an element of lifestyle, more so than those that focus on factoids and extremely technical information.

Unlike Hugh Johnson, Jon Bonné is a relatively new name in the world of wine writing. He spent a portion of his career as the wine editor for the San Francisco Chronicle, but has since moved on to the post of Senior Contributing Editor for PUNCH, an online magazine focusing on all things drink. In addition to writing regularly as a columnist, Bonné has also demonstrated himself to be a refreshing new voice in the world of wine books. His 2013 book The New California Wine was praised by many for its analysis of recent trends in winemaking in California. I have also caught glimpses of Bonné’s personality and perspectives on Twitter (a forum in which he is fairly active), commenting on various contemporary issues trending in the world of wine.

Bonné’s most recent book, The New Wine Rules, received glowing praise by book reviewer Tamlyn Currin on Jancis Robinson’s website, who applauded Bonné’s “new” rules, stating, “His advice is rock-solid, plain, yet it’s liberating.” Currin’s review also compliments the book for not being aimed directly at wine novices, but also offering useful and insightful perspectives for persons already someone in-the-know about wine. This is certainly not to imply that Bonné’s book does not offer useful, comprehensible guidance for new wine drinkers. Some sections of his book diagram ways to open a bottle of wine under cork with a waiter’s friend corkscrew, a device that Bonné describes as the only bottle-opening tool anyone really ever needs. (I second that!) Other sections that will surely appeal to non-experts are “There’s a difference between fruity and sweet,” “You can drink rosé any time of the year,” and “Dry wine isn’t as dry as you think it is.”

By reviewing these section titles, someone with a great deal more wine knowledge in their pocket may feel as though this book would be a catastrophic waste of time, especially when one considers the plethora of dense reference texts on wine that are available. But as someone who has spent a decent amount of time flipping back and forth between encyclopedia entries and memorizing names of appellations and vineyards, I can attest to a certain utility in Bonné’s guidance. Some sections in The New Wine Rules seem to be important reminders for individuals who may feel swept up in conventions of knowledge-focused wine culture. For example, one section Bonné features is “Forget ‘the best’ wines. Drink Good Wines.” While this may seem like a somewhat vapid slogan, it resonates with me. With so many persons interested in flaunting the rare bottles they’ve been privileged to taste, or the “unicorn” wines they’ve somehow acquired for their cellars (a term that Bonné openly admits to loathing in this book), we may sometimes forget the incredible value and pleasure that comes from consuming well-crafted and affordable wines from diverse regions. I may not be drinking world-class Burgundy or first-growth Bordeaux on a regular basis, but I can point to some damn good Cru Beaujolais and respectable Sancerre in my cooler that I am proud to have discovered, purchased, and recommended to friends, all while maintaining an air of fiscal responsibility. Other sections that I found useful in Bonné’s new book are “Acidity may be the most important quality in wine” and “Appellations are about much more than where a wine is made.” All of these sections include commentary that is both insightful and approachably written, and which most certainly may appeal to consumers of all different levels of expertise and taste.

I encourage you to take a look at Jon Bonnés The New Wine Rules, and I even more emphatically encourage you to stop by the shop to chat about some of your own wine rules and perspectives. By collegially comparing perspectives with each other, we might just be on the right path to improving as “wine citizens.”