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The Accidental Connoisseur: An Irreverent Journey Through the Wine World

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  404 ratings  ·  40 reviews
What is taste? Is it individual or imposed on us from the outside? Why are so many of us so intimidated when presented with the wine list at a restaurant? In The Accidental Connoisseur, journalist Lawrence Osborne takes off on a personal voyage through a little-known world in pursuit of some answers. Weaving together a fantastic cast of eccentrics and obsessives, industry ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published March 1st 2005 by North Point Press (first published March 15th 2004)
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Aug 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Wine lovers
This is one of those well-written journalistic travel books by an author with expertise in a specific field, this time a wine critic rambling through California, Italy, and France. Osborne is a fabulous writer, entertaining and self-deprecating. Some of his turns of phrase are a little exuberant, others require a dictionary, but all in all I enjoyed this book.

One thing that was interesting: Osborne rails on Napa. The town is "Disneyfied," the sunlight "shrill," everything is a copy without
Mar 29, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone interested in wine
The title says it all, sarcastic, hilarious, and lacking pretension; the Accidental Connoisseur is a memorable road trip through the world of wine. You will meet a lot of the big players in the global wine industry, become familiar with the vocabulary of an oenophile; all without the snooty, dryness associated with books on wine tasting. Open a nice bottle and enjoy the journey.
Jul 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved absolutely everything about this book. His playful and engaging style of writing reminded me so much of the young William Dalrymple-- humorous and self-deprecating, not to mention charming! The project itself is very fun: person who can't put in words why he loves the wine he loves, sets out to travel the world of wine to see what happens. First, there is the idea of taste: living life well versus a kind of consumer fetish... What does it mean to have good taste? One's own taste?

Also, I
Dec 15, 2017 rated it liked it
This was quite the mixed bag for me. I think the best way to review this will be a pros and cons list.

-Some wonderful moments where the author delves into the regional history of wine. I enjoyed these moments very much.
-The interviews with the more eccentric winemakers are a treat.
-Luckily, a good amount of the book contains either one or both of the above.

-The author himself is... hard to like. The idea of this book seems to be to have a guy who doesn't consider himself to be a
Oct 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Think Anthony Bourdain meets the wine world. Clever, witty, intelligent. Osborne's unforgiving British humor combined with his unwillingness to buy into the pretentiousness of the wine industry makes for a laughable but decidedly intriguing read. This is a book for those who love wine but on a "normal consumer" level. He investigates diverse snapshots of the wine industry, including questioning the merits of a Napa Valley "vintner" who has patented software that tells you how (on a chemical ...more
Apr 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book on wine that among other concerns tries to winkle out the whys of price/value, the homogenization of modern wine and just what is tradition anyway. The author is an accomplished, acerbic and witty travel writer and that's shown to good ends here. This is one of the most entertaining (while also pretty merciless) wine books I've read and I look forward to reading the author's other books.
Jun 23, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Those interested in entering the world of wine
This book took away my fear of drinking wine (or rather, my fear of not knowing what I'm "supposed" to be tasting), it's fun, easy to read, light on wine technicalities and let me in on the secret that sometimes even wine writers don't understand what they're drinking. Great for the beginning wine enthusiast!
Jun 20, 2007 added it
Recommends it for: No One.
This book is a nauseating combination of pretentious and uninformative. I loathed it.
Apr 17, 2009 rated it it was ok
While there were a few sections that made me chuckle, and a few little insights into the wine world, this book wasn't as funny, irreverent, or interesting as I thought it was going to be.
Dec 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
Osborne takes readers on a lovely romp around the Western world of wine, most prominently lingering in France, Italy, & California. He blends an interesting amount of history with anecdotes of his own encounters. And he's as down-to-earth as someone writing about elite vineyards and vintages can be. A true delight for any wine lover.
Archie Lightfoot
Dec 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Superb. A lighthearted gallop across the USA and Europe, exposing the nonsense of good taste in wine. Highly entertaining and educational (if you are at all interested in wine).
Jessica Haider
GoodReads Summer Reading Challenge 2018 task: Read a book about drinks or drinking

Though I prefer mixed drinks, I do sometimes drink wine. I am by no means a wine expert though. This book had some interesting factoids about wine in it and I found it fascinating how there is very much a science to how American vineyards make wine. The book had bits of humor and irreverence throughout (for example, the author referred to the wine in a Catholic mass as "Our Lord's hemoglobin".
Dec 06, 2011 added it
The in-the-know thing to say about what a wine tastes like is to say it tastes like "grapes". A couple of the wine makers that Osborne interviews scoff at the language of the wine reviewers and instead use that description.

This is also a kind of critique of the idea of "terroir". Can you really taste the environment in which a wine is produced? In some incredibly indirect sense, but we're hardly discerning enough for its effect to be other than "psychological"---in the sense that one tastes
Phil Martin
Jan 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: food-drink
This is a great piece of travel writing as well as a good book about wine.

If you enjoy drinking wine and tasting wine but feel a little like you don't get it in the same way as the enthusiasts, this is a great book for you.

Osborne Journeys across Europe tasting, or more accurately, drinking wine with growers and buyers, makers and sellers. It is a journey that has you wondering where you went wrong in life. How is it that some people get to vagabond round the vineyards of Europe, relaxing,
Nov 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
I got nervous at first that I needed to know too many of the wine world identities to appreciate this book, but I soon realized that although Osborne meets with all of those people in his book, he is using them simply as the canvass for which to introduce bigger questions about wine.
What is the best bottle of wine? Is it based on the grape, the terroir, the experience you are having while you drink it, etc.
What is taste?
Is there any reason to buy into the Parker categorization (or any other, for
Jan 20, 2016 added it
I found this book languishing in the headboard of the bed ... my wife bought it but found it too boring to actually read. The cover has a quote from a Financial Times review - "Possibly the most entertaining book about wine ever written." My conclusion - it is more entertaining to drink wine than to read about it ... Not a bad book - just not that entertaining. A tour through the famous and not so famous wineries of California, France, and Italy. Note that there are many phrases in French and ...more
Jeanne Julian
Jan 02, 2017 rated it liked it
You pretty much have to be a wine enthusiast to enjoy this book. You'll enjoy his lack of pretension, appreciation of wine and context, and humor. Being a Francophile also would enhance your reading experience. But, I must confess that, months after finishing the book, I find it not that memorable; it left a pleasant taste in my mouth, but I'm not sure why. As the author says about his encounter with the revered Lafite: "I couldn't honestly remember that much about the Lafite. It had been good, ...more
Aug 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
A humorous and offbeat take on the world of wine set as a travelogue. Osborne travels the world and visits various wine producers to get at the elusive quality of taste. His observations are keen and he really appears to be genuine in his quest to learn all he can about the wines he is drinking. Not a book for those seeking an education in the finer points of wine and its enjoyment-this reads more like a Bryson's book on hiking the AT. Highly recommend.
Brian Von
Feb 07, 2016 rated it liked it
An interesting read for enophiles though not enthralling. Learned a lot about wine regions I didn't know much about i.e. Languedoc, Piedmont, and Tuscany. I appreciated Osbournes historical accounts of the 1855 Bordeaux classification, the evolution of wine descriptors from the 50s to 70s to Parker, and his rationale behind romancing the past and the dehumanizations that comes from the modernizing and homogeneity of today's mass market wines.
Jan 06, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2013, wine
I read this because it happened to be available while I was traveling. I found it entertaining even though I'm not very knowledgeable about wine. Osborne is not interested in educating readers about wine, instead he tries to express the flavor of the wine world (or bits of it, in France and Italy.)
Stella Vance
Feb 13, 2013 rated it liked it
This book was enjoyable to start with, all full of florid prose and potential, but it could have been cut down by a third. There's only so much that can be written about wine and wine making and wine makers before it feels cyclic and purgatorial. I wouldn't not recommend it, but don't go out of your way to pick this up.
Sep 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: general
This is markedly different from the glossy wine books, wine catalogs, or wine appreciation literature - it is none of these. This is mostly the account of the author's travels as he experiences first-hand, vine plantations and wine making. He has some interesting market insights too. The book makes an interesting read to me as an accidental consumer of wine.
Terrence Jones
Nov 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
A tour of the wine world with an open mind but little tolerance for the overly haute.

Lawrence Osborne has a beautiful and fluid style of writing and absorbs the reader in the stories of the wine world. The best sections are a tour through the traditional peasant wine making areas France and Italy.
Jul 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
I learned a lot about wine but not sure how much I'll retain much next time I visit the wine shop... This book is more about witty anecdotes with both known personalities like Robert Mondavi and unknown "garage vineyards" in California, France and Italy. I really enjoyed Osborne's pursuit of the definition of 'terroir' and explanations of the technical advancements in wine making.
Jan 22, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wine-and-food
author looks at wine, wine appreciation, wine growing, wine making, in a few locations around the globe, California, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Tuscany. he talks to some of the biggest, heaviest hitters in the mundo vino, so that's interesting. and he's irreverent as hell, and likes to get drunk and write about it, so that's good too but, skip to page 120 to start and it will be better.
Sep 05, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: culture
A book completely unpretentious book on wine. The author circles the globe in a quest to define the meaning of taste, and along the way writes an excellent exposition of wine for the beginner, or an interesting travelogue for the more experience enologist.
Entirely enjoyable discussion of "taste" relative to wine. All sorts of other good facts along the way. Somewhat of a travel narrative; somewhat of a history book. Mostly just stories about the journey of learning about wine.
Adam Gossman
I read this a few years ago and perhaps was too young to appreciate it's depth. It's a good book on wine but also just a good book. Osborne's voice is solid and engaging, his subject matter is awesome- he talks about his time with Mondavi and Parker. Solid book!
Jan 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
I love this book. It is wine writing at its most casual, entertaining and witty. I highly recommend it to wine geeks and non wine drinkers alike. Reading about Lawrence Osborne's wine travels will make you want to drink a few pints with him. You will want to be dude's friend.
Jul 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
His language is a bit uppity, but you know I love that. An absolutely fantastic romp through the wine world. This book is what I would do for a year with an unlimited budget. He writes about wine and travel in a way that just gets me.
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Lawrence Osborne is a British novelist currently residing in New York City.

Osborne was educated at Cambridge and Harvard, and has since led a nomadic life, residing for years in France, Italy, Morocco, the United States, Mexico, Thailand and Istanbul.

He is the author of the novel Ania Malina, a book about Paris, Paris Dreambook, the essay collection The Poisoned Embrace, a controversial book about
“One can rarely say enough about the kindness of Italians. One is always treated as a human being who needs unpredictable things—like a moment by oneself with a bottle on the beach. They have a true gift for what can only be called spontaneous delicacy.” 2 likes
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