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Secrets of the Somms

November 15, 2010 |  6:02 am

Sommeliers Rajat Parr, wine director of the Mina Group, and Jordan Mackay, wine and spirits editor of San Francisco magazine, have a new wine book out.

"Secrets of the Sommeliers: How to Think and Drink Like the World’s Top Wine Professionals" offers an insider's glimpse of one of wine geekdom's most coveted jobs. The duo interview some of the world's top somms and offer lessons in tasting wine, buying and storing wine, pairing wine with food, serving and ordering wine, etc.

The most intriguing chapter, though, is entitled "thinking like a sommelier." Aha. It turns out an essential part of expertise is travel. (I'm all for that.) Here, I learned that Parr visits French wine regions at least twice a year, always stopping in Paris for a late-night blind tasting with his friends Marco Pelletier and Manuel Peyrondet, sommeliers of the Hotel Le Bristol there. Sounds like fun.

"The French somms are driven," Parr is quoted as saying. "It's inspiring to drink with them. These guys taste old Jurancon, old Chinon, off-vintage white Burgundies, old Sancerre. That's how I learn. My list often changes because of what I taste with them."

His tips on travel in the wine country and how to benefit from it should be read by every wine buff who ever dreams of visiting Burgundy or any other wine region. They may seem obvious, but are essential: Observe the protocols at a wine-tasting appointment, walk the vineyards, take notes assiduously, find out where the winemakers eat, check out the home cooking and the local farmers market. 

Then there's the sommelier’s toolbox.

A good gift for the wine-obsessed.

“Secrets of the Sommeliers: How to Think and Drink Like the World’s Top Wine Professionals” by Rajat Parr and Jordan Mackay, Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, $32.50.

-- S. Irene Virbila

Photo: The cover of “Secrets of the Sommeliers." Credit: Ten Speed Press