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Comprehensive Guide Uncorks Best, Worst American Wines

Associated Press

For thousands of years, no potable substance has so captivated human beings as wine. The bibliography of the field is colossal, and now there is a new, all-American volume for that endless ferment.

Three years and 5,884 wines later, Anthony Dias Blue has brought forth, with the help of Doubleday, “American Wine.” It’s an impressive work in which he rates every U.S. wine worth rating--from zip to four stars--with informal notes on the wineries and wine makers.

Right out of the crusher, there’s something juicy in this major work. Blue no sooner gets into his introduction than he, a wine elitist whether he likes it or not, begins taking apart the wine snobs. They’re not going to be happy about it, but they might as well get used to it. It’s a trend, and welcome. Wine snobs are enemies of wine.

An ‘Exclusive Men’s Club’

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Says Blue of the stuffed shirts before he even gets into numbered pages of his book: “For them, the enjoyment of wine is very much like an exclusive men’s club. They perpetuate a mystique that they hope will serve as a barrier against the onslaught of the barbarians. Their greatest dread is that wine will be accepted as a normal part of everyday life, thus causing their feeling of superiority to evaporate.”

The 550-page, $29.95 book, meant to be a “guide,” would be rather unwieldy to haul around, but most worthwhile to take notes from before heading out on a wine hunt.

California wine isn’t the only big deal in the book, although it is the biggest. Blue advises that New Jersey is capable of producing three-star whites, as are states including Idaho, Ohio and Oregon. A two-star pineapple wine comes from, where else? Hawaii. And a 1981 Johannisberg Riesling from New York state got a coveted four stars.

Blue starts with a little American wine history, tips his hat to Napa Valley’s Robert Mondavi as the starter of the nation’s progression to premium, and builds to May, 1976, when France’s noblest nectars fell in a blind tasting before upstarts from California.

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“The tasters were mortified,” Blue notes deliciously, marching on through the forest of American wines produced in 37 states. The wineries are taken alphabetically, rated from zero to four stars. He uses red ink for especially good buys.


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