The subtitle of this book is ‘Uncork your creative juices’ and I really enjoyed Gelb’s upbeat approach to the contribution wine can make to an enjoyable life. Don’t be dismayed by some of the ‘left brain, right brain’ blurb, Gelb is good on history (especially the Renaissance), culture and enjoyment. He also suggests useful mnemonics such as WINO (weight, intensity… ) for description and TIPSY (Type, … Years) to guide wine purchases. The science in this book is peripheral, at best implicit rather than explicit, and you shouldn’t expect to be wowed by it. However, the underlying message, regarding engagement with wine, is a useful one and some of his practical ‘exercises’ are effective.
Gelb has previously written on ‘untapping potential’ and the idea that we can all be as creative as Leonardo da Vinci. This is optimistic, to say the least, but positive psychology demonstrates that a ‘broaden and build’ approach based on competency, rather than rectifying deficits, can improve our sense of well being (so optimism, even the blind sort can pay off). I liked the way Gelb debunks without being destructive; most wine talk is guff, but the playfulness of Gelb’s approach avoids cynicism. He cites Jose Ortega y Gasset’s suggestion that metaphor is ‘magic’ and a ‘tool for creation’ and goes on to suggest a series of rhetorical questions which can be used to appreciate a wine. For example;
‘If this wine had a shape, what would it be?’ and ‘What images, associations, colours or memories does it inspire?’
These can appear ludicrous or trite but actually result in metaphors that are no more outlandish than many used in ‘the trade’. Gelb gives permission for creativity and play which is well needed to counteract all the pretension pedalled by wine bores who simply regurgitate the opinion of others as ‘the truth’ about a wine. Individuals own their subjective experience of a wine and live in their own taste worlds. What is vital is that they explore this subjective experience, triangulate and try to understand it. This is often best achieved through mindfulness, discourse and social interaction, and Gelb celebrates this.
This is a thoughtful book that is inclusive, idiosyncratic and fun but the downside of this is that it is a bit ‘scatter gun’ in its approach and has some padding (much of the final section is essentially appendices). The four sections seem convenient rather than logical with the ‘practical tips’ coming first. I guess this is because ‘tips on buying’ are an attractive hook in terms of sales. The historical chapter (‘The Elixir of Genius’) in section 2 is really very good but seems incongruous plonked in the second half of the book as the information contextualises many of his arguments. These are minor gripes and this is an accessible book with much to enjoy.
Gelb, J. (2010) Wine Drinking for Inspired Thinking Running Press