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Cork Dork: A Wine-Fuelled Journey into the Art of Sommeliers and the Science of Taste

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Professional journalist and amateur drinker Bianca Bosker didn't know much about wine - until she discovered the world of elite sommeliers who dedicate their lives to the pursuit of flavour. Astounded by their fervour and seemingly superhuman sensory powers, she set out to uncover what drove their obsession, and whether she, too, could become a 'cork dork.' With boundless Professional journalist and amateur drinker Bianca Bosker didn't know much about wine - until she discovered the world of elite sommeliers who dedicate their lives to the pursuit of flavour. Astounded by their fervour and seemingly superhuman sensory powers, she set out to uncover what drove their obsession, and whether she, too, could become a 'cork dork.' With boundless curiosity, humour and a healthy dose of scepticism, Bosker takes the reader inside underground tasting groups, exclusive New York City restaurants, California mass-market wine factories and even a neuroscientist's fMRI machine as she attempts to answer the most nagging question of all: what's the big deal about wine? Funny, counterintuitive and compulsively readable, Cork Dork not only illuminates wine production and consumption, but also shows how cultivating our taste buds can have enormous ramifications for both our brains and our lives.


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Professional journalist and amateur drinker Bianca Bosker didn't know much about wine - until she discovered the world of elite sommeliers who dedicate their lives to the pursuit of flavour. Astounded by their fervour and seemingly superhuman sensory powers, she set out to uncover what drove their obsession, and whether she, too, could become a 'cork dork.' With boundless Professional journalist and amateur drinker Bianca Bosker didn't know much about wine - until she discovered the world of elite sommeliers who dedicate their lives to the pursuit of flavour. Astounded by their fervour and seemingly superhuman sensory powers, she set out to uncover what drove their obsession, and whether she, too, could become a 'cork dork.' With boundless curiosity, humour and a healthy dose of scepticism, Bosker takes the reader inside underground tasting groups, exclusive New York City restaurants, California mass-market wine factories and even a neuroscientist's fMRI machine as she attempts to answer the most nagging question of all: what's the big deal about wine? Funny, counterintuitive and compulsively readable, Cork Dork not only illuminates wine production and consumption, but also shows how cultivating our taste buds can have enormous ramifications for both our brains and our lives.

30 review for Cork Dork: A Wine-Fuelled Journey into the Art of Sommeliers and the Science of Taste

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jasmine from How Useful It Is

    About: Cork Dork: A Wine-Fueled Adventure Among the Obsessive Sommeliers, Big Bottle Hunters, and Rogue Scientists Who Taught Me to Live for Taste is a memoir written by Bianca Bosker. It was recently published on 3/28/17 by Penguin Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House, paperback, 352 pages. The genres are non-fiction, food, memoir, wine, and science. This book is intended for readers ages 18 and up, grades 13 and up. My Experience: I started reading Cork Dork on 3/31/17 and finished it on About: Cork Dork: A Wine-Fueled Adventure Among the Obsessive Sommeliers, Big Bottle Hunters, and Rogue Scientists Who Taught Me to Live for Taste is a memoir written by Bianca Bosker. It was recently published on 3/28/17 by Penguin Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House, paperback, 352 pages. The genres are non-fiction, food, memoir, wine, and science. This book is intended for readers ages 18 and up, grades 13 and up. My Experience: I started reading Cork Dork on 3/31/17 and finished it on 4/18/17. Wine amazes me even more after reading this book. This book offers me more than I bargained for. There are abundant of info on wine and those wine experts known as Sommeliers and they must be geniuses in order to know it all. The blind tasting is beyond words! They must have some amazing taste buds! At a blind tasting, your expected answer goes something like “This is a Merlot-dominant blend from the right bank of Bordeaux from the village of Saint-Emilion in the 2010 vintage of Grand Cru Classe quality.” p.75 Who can do this if not geniuses? There are competitions too where the competitors will compete in this blind tasting on 6 different wines and it’s timed! In this book, readers will follow Bianca Bosker, a journalist taking a year and a half journey to learn and live the life of wine. She starts at the bottom of the ladder as a Cellar Rat to learn the basics on wine and to get free tastings on variety of wines producers makes or restaurants purchases. From there on, she went on to meet other wine enthusiasts to learn in-depth about wine, such as taking an exam to become a Master Sommelier and joining a competition as a judge instead of a competitor to observe how it all unfold. Through her adventures, she unravels and demands entrance to secret meetings that obsessive sommeliers, big bottle hunters, and rogue scientists meet to obsess over wine. Studying for the exam is ridiculously difficult, 2200 flash cards and 116 crib sheet, but yours may be more. This book has it all. Bianca taught me how to perform blind tasting and the right way to enjoying a glass of wine. She taught me on the history of wine, the steps to become a Master Sommeliers, locations of vineyards, and much more. This book deserves multiple readings because it’s rich with information and experiences that reading once just becomes too overwhelming. The Don’ts on serving wine is enough to make me dizzy, let alone the history on the sense of smells. I like knowing the secrets on ordering by the glass at the restaurant to how amazing the Sommeliers are. They don’t just serve wine, they have the expertise, charm, calm, and overall knowledge of not just wine but what go with wine. I highly recommend this book to everyone who is interested to learn more about wine. It doesn’t hurt to gain extra knowledge. Pro: history of wines and sense of smells, steps to become a sommelier, types of wines, blind tasting, secret meetings, informative, humor, cover, step-by-step instructions, very well written, Con: not easy to read through the history bits I rate it 5 stars! ***Disclaimer: Many thanks to Penguin Random House for the opportunity to read and review. Please assured that my opinions are honest. xoxo, Jasmine at www.howusefulitis.wordpress.com

  2. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    I enjoyed this book at the start, and then slowly started to despise it until I was about 60% done with it. At that point there were fantastic sections that dig into what truly defines “good wine” and how variable the definition can be. I literally judged this book by the cover, which displays a blurb comparing this book to Kitchen Confidential. I didn’t need to read much of this book to see that comparing Bosker to Bourdain is a little ridiculous. Bourdain spent his life working his way through t I enjoyed this book at the start, and then slowly started to despise it until I was about 60% done with it. At that point there were fantastic sections that dig into what truly defines “good wine” and how variable the definition can be. I literally judged this book by the cover, which displays a blurb comparing this book to Kitchen Confidential. I didn’t need to read much of this book to see that comparing Bosker to Bourdain is a little ridiculous. Bourdain spent his life working his way through the bowels of the restaurant industry and learned to define good food and good chefs along the way. Bosker is a journalist who wanted to write about the wine world and spent a year studying wine and the people working their way through the bowels of the wine industry. This isn’t necessarily a problem, but the comparison bothered me a bit while reading. Bourdain talks like a grizzled vet who has been in the trenches, while Bosker seemed perennially gobsmacked by how crazy the wine world can be. That seems a little harsh. In reality, this is an interesting book. Bosker certainly brings a fresh perspective to wine, and shakes up some of the conventions that have gone stale. By the end, she arrives at a definition of “good wine” that sticks with you long after you finish reading. Part of my problem is Bosker’s seemingly disingenuous interest in the wine world. I just don’t believe that she started on this path for anything more than to write a book. She doesn’t have a lot of skin in the game because this isn’t a career path for her. There are big moments that should have a lot of emotional payoff, but they didn’t land because I wasn’t able to become emotionally invested in Bosker’s plight. What bothers me is that I felt like the author was dipping her toe in, to see what it’s like, not truly interested in spending the rest of her life living and breathing wine.

  3. 5 out of 5

    JanB

    A big thank you to my friend Mary - I won this book on a giveaway on her blog, bookfanmary. My husband and I are hardly wine connoisseurs. We drink wine, enjoy wine, and attend wine tastings when we get the chance, but liking and enjoying wine is far different than knowing wine. Several years ago we watched the documentary, Somm, which documented the rigors of becoming a master sommelier (a "cork dork"). Which, by the way, is tough, very tough. So I was thrilled to receive a copy of t A big thank you to my friend Mary - I won this book on a giveaway on her blog, bookfanmary. My husband and I are hardly wine connoisseurs. We drink wine, enjoy wine, and attend wine tastings when we get the chance, but liking and enjoying wine is far different than knowing wine. Several years ago we watched the documentary, Somm, which documented the rigors of becoming a master sommelier (a "cork dork"). Which, by the way, is tough, very tough. So I was thrilled to receive a copy of this book and get an inside look into the world of wine. The author documents the 1 1/2 years she spent studying and learning to become a sommelier. She tells of the experiences she had honing her tasting skills while also dishing out some juicy bits about swanky NYC restaurants and the service industry. She also uncovers, often humorously, secrets to the elusive descriptions of the flavors in wine. I enjoyed this book but be aware it can get a little technical at times. However, if the reader isn't interested in delving that deeply into the science of it all, those parts can be easily skimmed to get to the juicy bits. I will happily remain a casual drinker of wine, but I have great respect for sommeliers, and the knowledge and passion that drives them. This book may not be the end all, be all of the world of wine, but for a rookie like myself, it offered a peek into their world, and I will never approach a glass of wine in quite the same way.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Book Pairings (Laci Long)

    Rating: 5 Pairings: 2015 Pedernales Texas Albarino & 2014 Silverado Vineyards Petit Verdot. I selected both of these wines because they are unlikely gems in the wine world, just like Bianca Bosker’s Cork Dork. Long ago I was romanced by the wonderful world of wine and I even toyed with the idea of becoming a sommelier a few years ago. Okay fine it wasn’t that long ago….I’m only 27 but around 22 I became obsessed with learning about wine. Not to the extent of the cork dorks and sommelier Rating: 5 Pairings: 2015 Pedernales Texas Albarino & 2014 Silverado Vineyards Petit Verdot. I selected both of these wines because they are unlikely gems in the wine world, just like Bianca Bosker’s Cork Dork. Long ago I was romanced by the wonderful world of wine and I even toyed with the idea of becoming a sommelier a few years ago. Okay fine it wasn’t that long ago….I’m only 27 but around 22 I became obsessed with learning about wine. Not to the extent of the cork dorks and sommeliers within the pages of this book, but nonetheless I love learning about wine so this book was the perfect pairing for me. ;) Cork Dork follows the adventures of Bianca Bosker from tech journalist to cellar rat in the elite world of wine. Bosker takes us on a journey that reveals what it really takes to become a super-taster like the elite sommeliers around the world. I loved the combination of anecdotal evidence, idiosyncratic methodologies, and scientific research to better understand how you can hone your senses like the professionals. It really is fascinating. We also get glimpses into the world of upscale dining in New York City restaurants (be prepared to be shocked by the amount of money NYC elite will drop on wine), a California mass market wine producer, and a neuroscientist’s research using fMRI machines. There is no shortage of informative detail in this book, but Bosker’s writing style makes it a compulsive read. I highly recommend this to novice wine drinkers and cork dorks alike. Bosker is a breathe of fresh air in an industry that can feel stuffy and pretentious. Also check out her account and the hashtag #pairdevil for some amazing pairings of wine and takeout food. More About the #BookPairings: I had a hard time selecting just one wine to pair with Cork Dork, so I chose two. One red and one white, both of which are from vineyards that I have had the pleasure of visiting and learning from the experts that run them. The white wine is a little gem from the heart of Texas Hill Country. I selected the 2015 Pedernales Texas Albarino, which highlights a spanish grape varietal that thrives in Texas weather. This wine has a creamy mouth feel but also packs wonderful acidity with green apple and citrus flavors. It is the perfect wine to sip in the dead of summer heat. The red wine I chose is from a beautiful vineyard in Napa called Silverado. The 2014 Silverado Vineyards Petit Verdot Mount George Vineyard uses one of five common Bordeaux varietals.This wine packs a punch with dark fruit flavors, such as blackberry and cherry, and floral/herbal notes, such as violet and lilac.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Book Riot Community

    I’m a fan of both food writing and immersive journalism, and this book rang both of those bells for me. In Cork Dork, Bosker leaves her journalism job behind (well, mostly) in order to learn the ways of the sommelier. Along the way, she also meets up with smell scientists, participates in competitions, and delves into the many nuances of flavor. I had a feeling I’d enjoy this one, but I didn’t realize how much. Bosker’s personality shines here, plus the book is filled with facts and speculation I’m a fan of both food writing and immersive journalism, and this book rang both of those bells for me. In Cork Dork, Bosker leaves her journalism job behind (well, mostly) in order to learn the ways of the sommelier. Along the way, she also meets up with smell scientists, participates in competitions, and delves into the many nuances of flavor. I had a feeling I’d enjoy this one, but I didn’t realize how much. Bosker’s personality shines here, plus the book is filled with facts and speculation that made me go: “…huh.” — Steph Auteri from The Best Books We Read In June 2017: https://bookriot.com/2017/07/03/riot-...

  6. 4 out of 5

    Samantha March

    As a casual wine drinker, I took on Cork Dork in hopes to learn a little about wine, be entertained and gain some knowledge. I think all of that happened, but it ended up being a tough read for me. I think this book is for very enthusiastic wine drinkers, sommeliers, or readers who really want extremely in depth knowledge about wine. For a more casual wine drinker or general reader, it’s hard to get in to. It can seem drawn out at times and it was hard to keep focus on. There were definitely par As a casual wine drinker, I took on Cork Dork in hopes to learn a little about wine, be entertained and gain some knowledge. I think all of that happened, but it ended up being a tough read for me. I think this book is for very enthusiastic wine drinkers, sommeliers, or readers who really want extremely in depth knowledge about wine. For a more casual wine drinker or general reader, it’s hard to get in to. It can seem drawn out at times and it was hard to keep focus on. There were definitely parts of the story that caught my attention or I was able to repeat a fact to friends, but overall it was a bit of a struggle to get invested in Cork Dork. I received a review copy

  7. 4 out of 5

    Julie Ehlers

    Cork Dork was fabulous! Reporter Bianca Bosker takes the reader along on her quixotic quest to become a certified sommelier, a journey you will enjoy even if you aren't particularly interested in wine. Along the way you'll meet the sort of obsessive types who are always interesting/amusing regardless of what they're obsessing over, go to suspense-filled sommelier competitions and bacchanalian, wine-soaked feasts, tag along with restaurant employees (something I always find fascinating), and learn al Cork Dork was fabulous! Reporter Bianca Bosker takes the reader along on her quixotic quest to become a certified sommelier, a journey you will enjoy even if you aren't particularly interested in wine. Along the way you'll meet the sort of obsessive types who are always interesting/amusing regardless of what they're obsessing over, go to suspense-filled sommelier competitions and bacchanalian, wine-soaked feasts, tag along with restaurant employees (something I always find fascinating), and learn all about the science of taste. But what really makes this book come alive is Bosker's writing, lively and funny and blessedly masterful—something by no means guaranteed in a young tech reporter, and such a welcome relief. If you liked Sweetbitter, consider reading Cork Dork, its nerdier nonfiction counterpart. I used to be SUPER INTO wine, even though I couldn't afford super nice bottles, but these days I'm more mildly interested than wholly enthused. As much as I liked Cork Dork, it didn't necessarily make me want to drink more wine. But that's OK, because Bosker doesn't really have a goal of making the reader drink more wine. What she really wants is for all of us to notice the things we're experiencing, be they tastes or smells, sights or sounds. She strives in this book to become a certified sommelier, but ultimately, her message is that we don't need to be certified in anything to have a full and fascinating life. All we really need to do is learn to pay attention to the world happening around us. I'll raise a glass to that. I won this book in an Instagram giveaway. Thank you to the author and to Penguin Random House.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Randal White

    Cork Dork manages to completely peel back the layers surrounding the wine world and it's mystique. I have to admit, I love wine. And have spent a copious amount of time trying to educate myself about it. Despite studying all the written material that I could find, and tasting many, many wines, I still could not detect the smells and tastes that sommeliers said were present. I suspect many of you find yourselves in a similar situation. Bosker, with no real experience, endeavors to become a sommel Cork Dork manages to completely peel back the layers surrounding the wine world and it's mystique. I have to admit, I love wine. And have spent a copious amount of time trying to educate myself about it. Despite studying all the written material that I could find, and tasting many, many wines, I still could not detect the smells and tastes that sommeliers said were present. I suspect many of you find yourselves in a similar situation. Bosker, with no real experience, endeavors to become a sommelier, in only 18 months. Through her experiences, I absorbed more information than I have in any other wine book. Right in the beginning, she states, "if you've ever wondered what all the fuss is about a wine, whether there's really a discernible difference between a $20 and $200 bottle, or what would happen if you pushed your senses to their limits, well then, I have some people I'd like you to meet". And, if you read the book, she will introduce to you a crazy cast of characters. Sommeliers who completely give up any semblance of a normal life to just taste wine, scientists who study smells and tastes, and many other just plain odd folks. If you have ever listened to someone describing the smells, or tastes of a wine, and thought to yourself, they have to be pulling my leg, than this is the book for you. The descriptors get wackier and wackier, not just things like green apples or blackberries, but "wet asphalt", "surgical glove", asparagus pee", "dried cardboard", and "salami farts". Think that it's a scam? You have a point, and Bosker reveals the entire story (although I won't, so not to spoil the surprises). Ever wondered what people were talking about when discussing the "legs" of a wine, the acidity, the tannins, or the alcohol content? Bosker explains not only what they are, but what they mean. In very simple to understand language. I've watched television programs about people attempting to become sommeliers (Uncorked, for example), and found them fascinating. Bosker graphically describes what they are like. From the knowledge tests, to the blind tastings, to the service portion. And goes through them herself. Ever wonder about how the so-called "experts" rate the top wines? The author covers this in depth, and the controversies resulting (not to spill the beans, but some of the ratings are dubious, at best). Throughout the book, Bosker is not only drinking wine and having a good time, but veers off into exploring many wine-related areas. The science of smell, and of taste. The type of people who are avid wine collectors. The new controversial practice of creating whatever type of wine you want in a factory, including being able to replicate some very expensive wines. The terminology of sommeliers and wine merchants (necrophiliacs, hand sells, trigger wines, and cougar juice, for a few). And what to watch for when dealing with a sommelier. I won't divulge the ending, suffice it to say that it was very satisfying. This is one of the most informative books that I have read this year, as well as one of the best written. I plan on keeping it handy to refer to for a long time. I highly, highly recommend it!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Olive

    See my review on booktube: https://youtu.be/C2I8BevGXII

  10. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Tasting notes: gleeful, ebullient, learned, self-deprecating Suggested pairings: Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler; Top Chef, The Great British Bake Off Bianca Bosker, previously a technology journalist, gave herself a year and a half to learn everything she could about wine in hopes of passing the Court of Master Sommeliers exam. Along the way she worked in a variety of New York City restaurants, joined blind tasting clubs, attended an olfactory conference, and blagged a TopSomm guest judge spot. The challenge was not just ab/>Suggested Tasting notes: gleeful, ebullient, learned, self-deprecating Suggested pairings: Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler; Top Chef, The Great British Bake Off Bianca Bosker, previously a technology journalist, gave herself a year and a half to learn everything she could about wine in hopes of passing the Court of Master Sommeliers exam. Along the way she worked in a variety of New York City restaurants, joined blind tasting clubs, attended an olfactory conference, and blagged a TopSomm guest judge spot. The challenge was not just about educating her palate, but also absorbing tons of trivia about wine growers and production methods and learning the accepted standards for sommelier service. The resulting book is a delightful blend of science, memoir and encounters with people who are deadly serious about wine. Taste and especially smell are underdeveloped human senses, but it is possible to train them: at the end of the book Bosker gets in an fMRI machine and proves that – like a London taxi driver with route-finding – there’s evidence of her brain having formed advanced connections in the areas involved in taste. Everyday wine drinkers may be particularly interested in the discussion of price versus quality, and the book made me think about how the passing pleasures of the flesh are still worth celebrating. Some favorite lines: On how to open a bottle of sparkling wine: “The cork should be twisted and released into a napkin with a pfft sound no louder than—and these are the technical terms I was given—a ‘nun’s fart,’ or ‘Queen Elizabeth passing gas.’” “Smell, curator and keeper of memory, allowed me to be a time traveler, and more than ever before I had control over my destination: I could pick a scent or a wine, then whisk myself to a time, feeling, or place.” From her guru, Morgan Harris: “Wine for me is just a touch point to a wider world view. That I am not important. That I am a sack of water and organs that’s going to be here on the Earth for eighty years if I’m lucky. And so I should figure out some way to make that count.” The unassuming criteria of another of her mentors, Terroir wine bar chain co-creator Paul Grieco: “The wine must be yummy. One sip leads to a second sip. One glass leads to a second glass. One bottle leads to a second bottle.”

  11. 4 out of 5

    Gina *loves sunshine*

    3.5 stars to a very good audiobook - the author was an incredibly enthusiastic writer and reader and I think that made the book exciting. So much of the info was way out of my league and probably even over my head. But I kinda pretended like I knew what she was talking about and just let the info roll and I learned a few things!! I found the whole thing to be super super interesting even though it was a crazy detailed road to a job. This is an in depth look at the author's journey to 3.5 stars to a very good audiobook - the author was an incredibly enthusiastic writer and reader and I think that made the book exciting. So much of the info was way out of my league and probably even over my head. But I kinda pretended like I knew what she was talking about and just let the info roll and I learned a few things!! I found the whole thing to be super super interesting even though it was a crazy detailed road to a job. This is an in depth look at the author's journey to becoming a sommelier - which seems very intense and hard core. To actually taste a wine on the spot and be able to tell exactly what bottle it is - crazy!! I really don't know that much about wine - I spent my early years hating it. I realized I just hated what other people were drinking and picking. Once I found the grape varieties I liked, I have really enjoyed picking, trying and enjoying red wine. So these new tidbits of info were fun to learn!!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Deb

    Probably 4.5 stars for me total. I really enjoyed this entertaining, informative and enjoyable book about Bosker's somewhat crazy foray into the world of wine, tasting and sommeliers and her pursuit to become a "cork dork." It's important to note that you don't have to know a lot about wine or be a wine fanatic to enjoy this book (I'm not--I enjoy wine, appreciate it, and know what I like and don't like and that's about it it), but being a foodie or food lover helps. The information a Probably 4.5 stars for me total. I really enjoyed this entertaining, informative and enjoyable book about Bosker's somewhat crazy foray into the world of wine, tasting and sommeliers and her pursuit to become a "cork dork." It's important to note that you don't have to know a lot about wine or be a wine fanatic to enjoy this book (I'm not--I enjoy wine, appreciate it, and know what I like and don't like and that's about it it), but being a foodie or food lover helps. The information and science "stuff" that Bosker explains so accessibly, has applications on tasting and enjoying any food or beverage. Having spent many years in the coffee industry and training to be a company "coffee master"--although not nearly as in-depth or rigid as trying to become a certified sommelier, made me relate and some of her tasting experiences brought me back. ;-) I'm glad that Bosker undertook her journey because no way I would sign up for that kind of dedication, but she had be both laughing and taking notes that will add to my wine confidence and some that I'll use in any tasting and further learning about food and drink. I like and firmly agree with the quote: "Every person has the capacity to find and savor the soul that lives in wine--and in other sensory experiences, if you know how to look for it." Cork Dork gives plenty of ways to look for it. I read this as a library e-book, but it is a book I'll be buying and adding to my food and wine books.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Meg - A Bookish Affair

    In "Cork Dork," author Bianca dives into the world of sommeliers. Now, I like wine. I know what color I prefer (red). I also know what kinds I prefer (malbecs or pinot noirs are clutch in my book). I know that I enjoy wine but that is about it. This book opened my eyes to a brand new world. Much of this book looks at the world of sommeliers. A little bit of obsessiveness, a little bit of science. A lot of one of my favorite subjects! In this book the author explores the intriguing wor In "Cork Dork," author Bianca dives into the world of sommeliers. Now, I like wine. I know what color I prefer (red). I also know what kinds I prefer (malbecs or pinot noirs are clutch in my book). I know that I enjoy wine but that is about it. This book opened my eyes to a brand new world. Much of this book looks at the world of sommeliers. A little bit of obsessiveness, a little bit of science. A lot of one of my favorite subjects! In this book the author explores the intriguing world of sommeliers who are on the hunt to fine-tune their palette in order to become the best that they can be. I had no idea how rigorous sommelier training is! Some of their methods are unorthodox. I had to laugh about some of the people in the book deciding to like things lick rocks in order to fine-tune their taste a little bit. The author also goes into the science of wine-making and what makes different wines unique. She looks at why some wines are so much more expensive than others and whether or not the prices really worth it, something I have always wondered about myself. I really appreciated the way that the author did a deep dive into the subject. In some ways this book reminded me of some books like Mary Roach is where the author takes a deep dive into something that you've never really thought about all that much before. This book was thoroughly entertaining and I recommend it to my fellow winos!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Montanaro

    Fascinating nonfiction book about one woman’s journey to becoming a Cork Dork. Bianca Bosker is a journalist who decided to learn the secrets of sommeliers, and she takes her readers along with her on this crazy, obsessed, interesting and insightful experience. From NY to Napa Valley to Virginia Beach to South Korea and beyond, she studies what it takes to be one of the world’s experts on wine. As a wine lover, I really enjoyed this book. It is funny, chock full of detail, revealing and yes, tea Fascinating nonfiction book about one woman’s journey to becoming a Cork Dork. Bianca Bosker is a journalist who decided to learn the secrets of sommeliers, and she takes her readers along with her on this crazy, obsessed, interesting and insightful experience. From NY to Napa Valley to Virginia Beach to South Korea and beyond, she studies what it takes to be one of the world’s experts on wine. As a wine lover, I really enjoyed this book. It is funny, chock full of detail, revealing and yes, teaches you a lot about wine. But it’s more about the process of becoming a sommelier than it is a treatise on wine itself. So keep that in mind. Think Cork Dork = Absolute Wine Nerd! An enjoyable, dense, rollicking ride into the world of wine expertise.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Katie/Doing Dewey

    Summary: Light, funny, and engaging mix of personal experience, history and science in the style of Mary Roach. When tech reporter Bianca Bosker stumbled across a wine tasting competition, she was blown away by the ability of sommeliers to "after a single sip of wine, identify the grape it was made from, in what year, and where it was produced down to the exact location, within acres." She was also intrigued by their passion for wine, as well as the passion of the many creators and collectors Summary: Light, funny, and engaging mix of personal experience, history and science in the style of Mary Roach. When tech reporter Bianca Bosker stumbled across a wine tasting competition, she was blown away by the ability of sommeliers to "after a single sip of wine, identify the grape it was made from, in what year, and where it was produced down to the exact location, within acres." She was also intrigued by their passion for wine, as well as the passion of the many creators and collectors of wine. To determine what made wine so special to these people, she gave up her job and decided to try to become a sommelier herself. Starting as a 'cellar rat', storing and retrieving bottles of wine, she slowly works her way into the wine world. She eventually attends exclusive tasting groups and visits expensive restaurants and dinners for dedicated wine collectors. She also learns about the science of wine tasting and wine creation. This is the story of her experiences and what she learned. I was excited when I picked this up and saw that it was blurbed by Mary Roach. The blurb turned out to be a good fit, because the style did remind me of Mary Roach. Slightly less science focused and not quite as hilarious, but definitely funny, engaging, and conversational. This book also reminded me of Mary Roach because Bosker kept the story entertaining by mixing science and history with anecdotes describing her own experiences in the wine world. It felt a little lighter than Roach's books to me, but I still thought it was a great read. I learned a lot and it made me want to learn even more. It wasn't pretentious, included lots of practical advice, and made wine feel more accessible. If you like Mary Roach or have any interest in wine, I'd definitely suggest giving this a try.This review was originally posted on Doing Dewey

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    What a good book! Bianca is a great writer. I am far from being a "cork dork" so this could have been a way over my head and boring book, but I was really engaged and learned quite a bit about wine. I might even splurge on a more expensive bottle some time just to see what all the fuss is about!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    Reading about wine was actually quite interesting. Bosker's prose is lively, and she doesn't talk down to the reader.

  18. 5 out of 5

    David

    Sommeliers are like those little birds that pick food particles off the teeth of crocodiles, the Long-Suffering Wife recently said during a discussion of this book. Intellectually, we know that they have a useful function and are a cheerful adaptation in a complex ecosystem. Viscerally, they are somewhat stomach-turning to contemplate. While the little birds perform an task analogous to your semi-annual (if you can afford it) trip to the dental hygienist, sommeliers often have the similarly usef Sommeliers are like those little birds that pick food particles off the teeth of crocodiles, the Long-Suffering Wife recently said during a discussion of this book. Intellectually, we know that they have a useful function and are a cheerful adaptation in a complex ecosystem. Viscerally, they are somewhat stomach-turning to contemplate. While the little birds perform an task analogous to your semi-annual (if you can afford it) trip to the dental hygienist, sommeliers often have the similarly useful function of separating the silly rich from their ill-gotten gains and funnelling it back into the economy of real things, where it can bounce around from pocket to pocket of people who actually need it (starting with restaurant staff) until it is inevitably re-captured by the undeserving. Whether you can look serenely upon the doings of silly rich and their symbiots may predict the amount of enjoyment you will get out of this book. I didn't mind, but then again I regularly listen to calming music and perform deep-breathing exercises just to get through the average day, so I didn't feel that the book added much more aggravation to my ambient background levels. This book is in a familiar format for a certain category of non-fiction books, which is: Author stumbles on obscure subculture operating quietly but openly, usually, in New York City. Author investigates subculture and becomes fascinated. Author learns about the fiercely competitive high-stakes championship competitions of the subculture. Author takes it on his- or herself to enter, train, and perhaps even win fiercely-competitive high-stakes championship of the subculture, even though he or she is a newcomer and people normally train for years and/or endure many failed attempts before winning fiercely-competitive etc. I'm sure that there are nearly as many of these as there are obscure subcultures to write about, but a best-selling example of this format is Moonwalking with Einstein, about the subculture of memory arts. At first, I found the memory-arts subculture a little less off-putting than the wine subculture, mostly because the memory-arts subculture lacks the overlay of conspicuous consumption, fraud, snobbery, and greed that that are sadly present in the wine industry. After a little more time reading, however, I thought that, under the layers of conspicuous consumption, fraud, etc., sommeliers and other wines nerds are actually more appealing because they are genuinely interested in beauty in a way that memory artists (who are mostly interested in showing off how smart they are) were not. Not only did sommeliers want to drink delicious, handsome-looking wine, made with care and mindfulness, but they also (generally) wanted to wear attractive clothes, eat good and healthy food, provide memorably pleasant experiences for others, and be in attractively-decorated surroundings. Sadly, all of the above are limited by the fact that attractive clothes, good and healthy food, etc.. inevitably cost more than the alternative, leading to the inevitable desire to extract money from the well-to-do, no matter how unpleasant they (the well-to-do) are. Personal feelings about sommeliers aside, I found this a very enjoyable and interesting book. I learned many things, including: – Contrary to thousands of T-shirts, Benjamin Franklin said wine, NOT BEER, is “constant proof that God loves us” (page xvi). – The “tongue map”, which they forced me to learn in elementary school, has been debunked (p. 83, 88). – Although there are scientific studies that indicate that so-called wine experts cannot tell the difference between wines in blind taste tests, there are also studies that indicate that wine expertise is not a sham (p. 108). – Today's wine jargon (e.g., “layers of grapefruit and minerality”) was invented by a group of scientists at the University of California, Davis, in the 1970s, or, as the author put it, wine's “naturalistic, food-based lexicon is about as traditional as disco” (p. 203). – There are so many Wine Economists in the US that there is an American Association of Wine Economists (p. 212), which (not for the first time) made me wonder why there are so many fun and fascinating professions that my high school guidance counselor was seemingly unaware, and therefore failed to recommend that I go into. – The metal wire on the cage covering the cork in a champaign bottle is called a muselet (p. 230). In my opinion, the best parts of this book occurred when the author got out of New York City and visited the rest of us. The visit to wine scientists at UC/Davis, cited above, was interesting. I especially enjoyed the chapter when she journeyed to Virginia Beach and met an aspiring sommelier operating outside the big money echo chamber. No spoilers here, but the book ends on a positive note, which I am always welcome to, that self-education can change and improve one's brain even as an adult and therefore, by implication, it is never too late to learn and improve oneself.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Helen Dunn

    Ages ago I watched a reality show called Uncorked about people studying to pass certification tests from the Court of Master Sommeliers and I totally loved it. I was thrilled when’s friend gave me this book on the same subject. I know next to nothing about wine but I loved reading this book about the wine industry. This sort of close inspection of an obsessive subculture is one of my favorite type of book to read so it’s no surprise how much I enjoyed it.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Tina

    Do you like wine?  I like wine.  Do like a well researched book with an engaging writing style, entertaining stories plus a hearty dose of clear and informative information?   I found this book to be all of those things....but again, I like wine so I was interested in this journey. Bianca Bosker introduces herself: "I am a journalist by training and a type-A neurotic by birth, so I started my research the only way I knew how: I read everything I could get my hands on, carpet-bombed sommeliers' in-boxes, and showed up atjourney.Bianca Do you like wine?  I like wine.  Do like a well researched book with an engaging writing style, entertaining stories plus a hearty dose of clear and informative information?   I found this book to be all of those things....but again, I like wine so I was interested in this journey. Bianca Bosker introduces herself: "I am a journalist by training and a type-A neurotic by birth, so I started my research the only way I knew how: I read everything I could get my hands on, carpet-bombed sommeliers' in-boxes, and showed up at places uninvited, just to see who I would meet." I liked this woman immediately.  Type-A style is fascinating to me as I am such a laid-back type-B that I would never, ever dream of tackling anything with this sort of drive and passion.  It's over-drive!  She never quits.  Impressive. Quote from the first chapter: “When you inform your friends and relatives that you have left your stable job as a journalist to stay home and taste wines, you will begin to get concerned phone calls. You say: I’m going to hone my senses and find out what the big deal is about wine. They hear: I’m quitting my job to drink all day and improve my chances of ending up homeless.” As you move through the book you are taking this journey with Bianca Bosker.  Please remain seated..........The details and dedication of becoming a sommelier is daunting.  It's their job to help select a wine appropriate for the meal and the guests' tastes all the while  making money for the restaurant.  The markup is very significant when it comes to wine and beverages. But the tasting sessions they live for, the money they spend, the endurance and tolerance for so. much. wine.......it's a journey.    It's a journey I personally would not be up for with the expense and my non-discriminating palate, never  mind being kind to my liver.   I buy wine because I like having it with dinner. As mentioned in the book, "Marketing will get you to buy a wine once.  Sensory will get you to buy it twice."   Take a look at the bottles I have posed with the book - these are not high priced wines, the most expensive one being $22 which I wanted to try. Sometimes I try a wine based on a review or because I am intrigued by the label (marketing) but I will buy it over and over again for the taste and pleasure (sensory).  This Chablis was a new one for us and we very much enjoyed it.  If you like the mineral taste in a wine, a Chablis is a good pick.  We had this with grilled Tile Fish and when the last of the bread and cheese was finished, I was sad the wine was also gone. With no common sense we promptly opened a bottle of Chardonnay.  I'm pleased to say we only had a small glass and saved the rest. :-) The Chablis was the better of the two wines and we would certainly buy it again. This book is recommended as it reads as a memoir but provides investigative reporting, funny antidotes and overall information on the wine and tastings.  If any of this appeals to you, you will enjoy this book.  I couldn't put it down.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    This book is a really fun, multidisciplinary, Legends-of-the-Hidden-Temple exploration of the world of wine*. Not content to simply immerse herself in the NYC somm scene, Bosker brings in the perspectives scientists looking at olfactory systems, a perfumier, neuroscientists, and broad cast of eccentric characters to provide a really rich account of what's going on when a person, and particularly a somm, drinks a glass of wine. The accounts from inside the working wine world, from her This book is a really fun, multidisciplinary, Legends-of-the-Hidden-Temple exploration of the world of wine*. Not content to simply immerse herself in the NYC somm scene, Bosker brings in the perspectives scientists looking at olfactory systems, a perfumier, neuroscientists, and broad cast of eccentric characters to provide a really rich account of what's going on when a person, and particularly a somm, drinks a glass of wine. The accounts from inside the working wine world, from her time as a cellar rat to shadowing top somms on the floor and behind the scenes at NYC's fanciest restaurants are fascinating. One of the best things about this book is that her approach to learning about and appreciating wine can be pursued by anyone, and her vision for wine culture - curiosity-driven, defining "good" as "one sip leads to another, one glass leads to another - is refreshingly inclusive and democratic. *One criticism: it is a very NYC-specific view of the wine world that, as one reviewer pointed out, is not universally representative. I think we all can agree that Napa ought to be knocked down a few pegs in the wine firmament, but the repeated disparagement of all things California was a bit egregious.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Britt O'Duffy

    Cork Dork was pitched to me as a text about the rigorous "athletic" training individuals undergo to establish sommelier expertise. I imagined a mostly palatable chronicle of a journalist's journey (not unlike Supersize Me) into the bowels of a subcultural community. Instead, I feasted on this text. The language was lavish, luscious, langorious - she captured the poetry of tasting a good wine. It was also accessible, digestible for novice "civilian" audiences. The sort of people who are used to d Cork Dork was pitched to me as a text about the rigorous "athletic" training individuals undergo to establish sommelier expertise. I imagined a mostly palatable chronicle of a journalist's journey (not unlike Supersize Me) into the bowels of a subcultural community. Instead, I feasted on this text. The language was lavish, luscious, langorious - she captured the poetry of tasting a good wine. It was also accessible, digestible for novice "civilian" audiences. The sort of people who are used to drinking wine from a box (or can). In this (and all) sense(s), Cork Dork was incredibly cathartic. It provided an opportunity to learn about the components of wine - be it three buck chuck, $30, $300, or $3,000 a bottle - without student loan / class anxiety, catholic guilt, or imposter syndrome. The educational elements - be it around sensation and perception, affective neuroscience, or behavioral economics - were comprehensible for psychology grad students and civilian readers alike. Would I recommend it? Let's just say that I bought a copy of this book for my previous boss (an oenophile), my thesis advisor, one of my bridesmaids, my dad, and a physical copy for our household bookshelves.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Koit

    I found this both a curious and an inspirational tale; Ms Bosker writes extraordinarily well and her experiences in the wine world, I imagine, have lit a few ideas for the future for the people who read this work. The style, excellent throughout, brings us into close contact with the author, hearing her thoughts and reasonings throughout her year of adventures amidst the wine people, and it is quite possibly this which I enjoyed most in here. I also want to visit these restaurants and I found this both a curious and an inspirational tale; Ms Bosker writes extraordinarily well and her experiences in the wine world, I imagine, have lit a few ideas for the future for the people who read this work. The style, excellent throughout, brings us into close contact with the author, hearing her thoughts and reasonings throughout her year of adventures amidst the wine people, and it is quite possibly this which I enjoyed most in here. I also want to visit these restaurants and bars that crop up throughout this text.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Thebookiemonster

    I really enjoyed this. I recommend it if you are actively interested in wine and trying to learn more. I don't recommend it for casual wine drinkers who aren't curious. It definitely made me want to be a sommelier and the writing was fun and lively. There were some lazily set up filler chapters (Gee I wonder if anyone studies smell? CHAPTER 6: MY VISIT TO THE INSTITUTE OF SMELL) but they didn't detract too much. The only cons about this book are the filler chapters and the fact I envy I really enjoyed this. I recommend it if you are actively interested in wine and trying to learn more. I don't recommend it for casual wine drinkers who aren't curious. It definitely made me want to be a sommelier and the writing was fun and lively. There were some lazily set up filler chapters (Gee I wonder if anyone studies smell? CHAPTER 6: MY VISIT TO THE INSTITUTE OF SMELL) but they didn't detract too much. The only cons about this book are the filler chapters and the fact I envy her for getting into sommelier clubs in NYC.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Really enjoyed listening to and then reading this book. Not as wine snobby as you might think- in fact at the end of her journey to be a certified sommelier Bianca writes “Feeling something for wine and unleashing your senses begins by just paying attention. And applying yourself with gusto.” I learned alot and enjoyed myself along the way- like Mary Roach for wine tasting🍷👍

  26. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    "What are you in the mood for tonight?" I'd ask the guest, " . . .new world or old world? Fruity or earthy? blackberry or cowshit?" If they still had trouble I'd go with, "So, what's your favorite band?" I picked this up from Paul. He believed in pairing wines off with anything, because he knew he could talk you into almost any bottle. "Listen," he said, "We're dealing with the most fickle thing of all: taste." "I'd been on a sensory adventure, & each night at Terroir it was my ch "What are you in the mood for tonight?" I'd ask the guest, " . . .new world or old world? Fruity or earthy? blackberry or cowshit?" If they still had trouble I'd go with, "So, what's your favorite band?" I picked this up from Paul. He believed in pairing wines off with anything, because he knew he could talk you into almost any bottle. "Listen," he said, "We're dealing with the most fickle thing of all: taste." "I'd been on a sensory adventure, & each night at Terroir it was my chance to take people on a journey of their own. The trick was convincing them to come along."

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Swann

    This was a fun book! I was just floored with how complex the wine world really is. I have referred to myself as a "wine-o".....I am not a wine-o. Not even close! The flavors and the types of grapes and the regions...it's crazy! I really enjoyed reading about it and I'll be paying a lot more attention the next time I drink some wine. *This was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Alec Rigdon

    So I'm not the best when it comes to non-fiction (barring humorous memoirs), but I found the subject matter in Cork Dork very intriguing. Bosker strings a solid narrative of her own personal journey to become a sommelier with ample facts about the process, wine, and how we taste in general. Her tell-all, down to earth attitude kept me reading, even when some of the technical jargon got heavy. I'm happy to have stuck with this book through the end and must say it has piqued my interest in explori So I'm not the best when it comes to non-fiction (barring humorous memoirs), but I found the subject matter in Cork Dork very intriguing. Bosker strings a solid narrative of her own personal journey to become a sommelier with ample facts about the process, wine, and how we taste in general. Her tell-all, down to earth attitude kept me reading, even when some of the technical jargon got heavy. I'm happy to have stuck with this book through the end and must say it has piqued my interest in exploring more wines.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Camille

    A sucker for stories about food, wine and the restaurant business, this book grabbed me immediately. Bosker's cool style and desire to learn about wine structured the story, but what held it together was her absolute doggedness in learning everything there is to know about wine. A rare person has that kind of determination. Respect.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    Bosker is obsessive about wine. And you don't have to be to take the journey with her. There is a little for everyone here. Great characters. Science. History. Wine. Wine. Wine. She handles the subject matter with a journalist's touch, explaining and making accessible and also introduces the reader to fun people, new concepts, flavors and smells. If you've ever put your nose in a glass and said 'that tastes like sunshine' this is a good read for you.

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