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The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide to…

The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert: Take a…

by Richard Betts

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I was stunned by the audacity of this book, and then I was stunned again when I realized that it was only me that felt this way, judging by the scores on Goodreads!

For one, the scratch and sniff element of the book, which was the thing that attracted me to it, was feeble. Mostly there was a smell of a sort of plasticy deodorant. The only one that came close to the real thing was the butter smell. So you definitely won’t learn how to discern smells in wines from this, not even basic ones. Also on this point it hardly needs stating that the diminishing return this book will give over time, as the scratch and sniff areas wear out, makes the $20 cover price seem crazy. Especially considering that it also has the design of a kids board book with only 24 pages! I got this from the library but it seems (and this is the first time I've said this) that buying it might be a better option, unless you can get it while it's fairly new.

Another thing that I hated about this book, and this made me really mad, was the patronizing and contradictory message regarding "wine snobs". He started the book by using the word "terroir" as a wine snob word suggesting that he hated it only to then define terroir as a term later in the book saying "it's real...and can be very interesting". The fact is that, as a Master Sommelier, Betts is pulled between wanting to use the proper terminology and remembering that he is supposed to be hip in this particular title. The worst example of this is when he warns us that there are sometimes problems with wine caused by chlorophenols and then in brackets he says "whatever right?!?" - wait, you're writing this book dude, if you want to make it totally dumbed down go ahead - no one is going to stop you, just use a different word! Or just have the confidence in your readers understanding that sometimes there is only one correct word.

Then there are the factual inaccuracies for example telling us on page 10 that pear and apple scents are considered “subtle”, not “exotic”, in white wines and then in the wonderfully simplistic conclusion saying "And you'd like a little bit of pear and apple (exotic)". Ummm? Unfortunately he says at the top of this page "Let's make use of this book to actually find something to drink" - well if I did that I wouldn't think that pears and apples were exotic.

You might be thinking why the dickens is this dude being so down on what is surely meant to be a light and fluffy fun book? I guess you're right in a sense, I could lighten up a bit but the point is that even within the world of light and fluffy the mistakes and inconsistencies are too telling. Not to mention that the author is trying to have it both ways - trying to come across as one of us when he clearly knows his onions and could have written a far more successful book. By the way I don't like wine snobbery either but there is a difference between wine snobbery for its own sake and the genuine inclination to learn something and to use the proper terms around a subject, any subject. Sadly this book falls between the two and wont teach you anything in particular because it doesn't quite know who it's speaking to.

In the end this is a money spinner that hangs on its one cool feature, which unfortunately doesn't work. Not worth the time or money.

( )
  MartynChuzz | Feb 22, 2016 |
Isn’t this fun? Yes, it’s a real scratch and sniff book. And, no, you probably won’t become a wine expert, but you will know lots more about this mysterious world. It’s not as tricky as you think. And it’s delightfully good fun. ( )
  debnance | Mar 21, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0544005031, Hardcover)

A Look Inside Essential Scratch and Sniff

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(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:33 -0400)

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