‘The World in a Wineglass’ by 'Food & Wine's Ray Isle is out now
Walking through a wine shop can feel intimidating, especially when you don’t know where to start.
In his book The World in a Wineglass, out now, Ray Isle, the executive wine editor at Food & Wine, invites readers to look past the things people say about wine and instead interrogate characteristics like where the wine comes from and the people who make it. (Food & Wine is PEOPLE's sister publication under Dotdash Meredith.)
"The book is about really paying attention to what matters: where a wine comes from, who made it, and why they made it the way they made it," Isle tells PEOPLE.
Rather than focusing on subjective information like tasting notes or the Wine Spectator 100-point scale, which assigns bottles a score based on blind tastings of the wine, Isle suggests understanding more about where the wine originates – its climate, its soil, its history – as well as learning about how it’s produced.
"The power of point scores for wines has started to diminish," he writes in the book. "Chalk it up to a savvier wine audience, the influence of social media, wine score grade inflation, you name it. There are a number of reasons, but among them is a greater interest in questions like how a wine was made or how the grapes for it were grown."
"Today, most sommeliers and restaurant wine buyers don’t pay the slightest attention to scores," he adds.
Throughout his book, Isle explores concepts in sustainability like biodynamic and natural wine making and regenerative agriculture.
"What I am hoping to do here is celebrate a specific realm of wines: ones whose grapes are grown with care and with concern for the environment; ones that express the character of the place they are from and the sensibility of the person who made them; ones that, if you let them, offer rewards beyond simple flavor," Isle writes. "These are wines that can answer three simple questions: Where does it come from? Who made it? How did they grow their grapes, and how did they make their wine? If a wine can answer those questions, and the answers feel good to you, then it’s time to find a corkscrew, get a glass, and drink it."
The World in a Wineglass features chapters on dozens of wine regions across the world, from Bordeaux to Portugal, Lebanon, the west coast of the United States and more.
Focusing on affordable and accessible wines, rather than expensive collector items, in each chapter, Isle introduces the reader to a number of vintners throughout the region and helps shape the understanding of the wines they create. Isle only recommends wines from owners he's talked to personally, or from wineries he's visited (or both).
The bottles mentioned are labeled with a price indicator, and most are under $100.
"The truth is that you can live an absolutely wonderful life of drinking wine without ever buying a bottle that’s over $100," he writes.
The World in a Wine Glass is available now.
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