Madeline Puckette remembers the exact moment she realized she had become a wine snob.
The certified sommelier (back then she worked at RN74 and Poppy) was spending time with her business-and-life partner Justin Hammack and his family when she dissed the wine Hammack's mom was enjoying, calling it "crappy." She laughs about it now—"why on earth would I say that to this woman that I love?"—but at the time, it was a wake-up call. She was turning into one of the stuck-up somms she used to roll her eyes at.
That moment came to inform the direction of her then-new site, Wine Folly. Drawing from her training as a graphic designer, Puckette created colorful infographics to supplement her no-nonsense blog posts. Her graphics grew popular on social media, and her work was featured in publications like the Washington Post and the Seattle Times. (And, ahem, this one.)
When their Washington Post spot drew the attention of a literary agent, Puckette and Hammack decided to look into publishing a book—one that fell somewhere between impenetrably complex sommeliers' guides and Wine for Dummies. As with the site, Hammack would handle the technical and business side of things, and Puckette would supply words, pictures, and wine expertise.
"There are books for wine experts and people going into the industry, and there's books for people who just want to clown around," Puckette says. She wanted to bridge the considerable gap between the two.
Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine, which hit shelves yesterday, maintains the friendly tone and punchy graphics of the site that begot it. It opens with the absolute basics: how many glasses are in a bottle, what does 'dry' mean, what is ABV. It's unlikely to scare off true beginners, but there's plenty here for seasoned drinkers too. Puckette shares her tasting techniques, detailed notes on dozens of grape varietals, pairing suggestions, and region-by-region maps of the top 12 wine-producing countries in the world.
Wine has a particularly steep learning curve, even compared to other complex drinks like coffee and beer, and the intimidation factor that surrounds it can be intense. Puckette thinks it doesn't have to be.
"When you learn something that's very hard to learn, there is a sense of pride you get from having that knowledge," she says. "It's easy to use that knowledge as a way to put people down."
Yes, there's enough information in Wine Folly's new book to turn you into a wine snob. But the best thing is it won't make you want to act like one.