Pros - Tasty wines and good coverage of even obscure regions.
Cons - Unbalanced representation of different varietals.
Reviewed by: Ruben Urias
The book, 500 Red Wines, is a helpful guide to reasonably priced wines from around the world. Selected by author Christine Austin, her recommendations include detailed notes allowing you to find wines that fit your lifestyle. Wines are selected from both established and emerging regions, and include a broad assortment of varietals. Recommendations of your preferred varietal or price range may be limited at times, but that should not prevent you from finding suitable wines to enjoy. The book is small, but attractive, with plenty of color photos to make browsing fun. If used properly, this book will guide most any reader toward some impressive wines.
According to the introduction, the author selects wines that offer the most flavor for the money spent. Prices range from under $20 to over $50, with a number of selections at each price level. She also bases her decisions on skill, telling her readers that even the unlisted wines of any winemaker included in this book are bound to be good purchases as well. Together, this information can go far in leading readers to delicious wines for any occasion.
After this brief introduction, and some additional coverage of wine basics, the author simply shares her 500 selections. The wines are organized by country and region, and come with notes, price ranges and other helpful tips. The more popular growing regions such as California, France, Italy, and Spain are, of course, thoroughly covered. But smaller regions such as Oregon, Chile, Argentina, and Canada also make solid appearances. And much praise should be given to the author for including regions that are generally ignored by other writers. Some of these regions include Uruguay, Israel, and Lebanon along with the Eastern European countries of Hungary, Bulgaria, and Romania. This coverage of every growing region, including the obscure, gives this book a very comprehensive feel.
In direct contrast to the inclusive nature of this book, however, readers should not expect proportionate recommendations of any particular varietal or price range. For example, over half of the 19 California wines that are under $20 are Zinfandels. And sadly, out of those 19, only one is a Cabernet Sauvignon—one of California’s most popular grapes. And surely, the dizzying sales of Merlot within California entitle the varietal to more than simply two recommendations out of over 60 California wines. That said, readers can minimize these shortcomings by not limiting themselves to the listed wines, and recalling the author’s tip that recommended winemakers’ unlisted products will also be good purchases.
While the title may sound overwhelming, 500 Red Wines is really just a practical, self-guided reference list. By using the book as a guide, you will significantly reduce the time and money wasted on inferior wines. This in turn means that exploring a new region will be less of a gamble and much more enjoyable. And if for some reason you are not able to find a specific bottle of wine, there are 499 other wines ready to take its place. With its 5x5” dimensions, and full color pictures, searching for that next exciting bottle of wine will be a pleasure.
NOTE: While not certain, it appears that the author simply provided the wine recommendations and notes, with all other introductory information being supplied by the publisher. This is inferred from the fact that a sister volume, entitled 500 White Wines, shares significant word-for-word passages with this particular book’s introduction.