Book Review: Wine’s Hidden Beauty by Sondra Barrett, PhD.

Welcome to the first ever book review on The Academic Wino!  I would love the opportunity to intermix my usual research article reviews with my own reviews of books related to wine.  If you are an author and would like to have your book reviewed on this blog, please email Becca at  I’m interested in all genres of books, however with the one stipulation that they be tied to wine in some way, shape, or form.

The book I’ve read for today is Wine’s Hidden Beauty, by author Sondra Barrett, PhD.

A little about the author:

Sondra Barrett received her PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Illinois Medical School, and then later pursued and finished her post-doctoral training at the University of California Medical School.  Barrett started off her professional career as a research scientist looking through the microscope trying to find cures for leukemia.  Throughout her years at the microscope, she perfected the art of molecular imagery.  Tired of being continually surrounded by pain and sadness, Barrett desired to give back to the children she studied by showing them beautiful images to them for hope and entertainment.

This love for both science and art eventually evolved into her fascination with photographing the molecular make-up of wine.  Noting that the pictures she created reminded her of her tasting experiences; Barrett showed her works to winemakers that sparked such an interest that she became the resident artist at Sterling Vineyards in 1984.  Hundreds or more of molecular photographs of wine were born over the years, further evolving her career into one that married all of her loves that coalesced into the field of psychoneuroimmunology, which is a body and mind sort of medicinal approach.

About the book:

Moscato Azul (cover image)

Now, I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but without even opening up to the first page, I knew it was going to be awesome!  I’m sure you are all aware of, due to the sheer nature of this blog: I’m somewhat of a nerd, so seeing a magnified image of the molecules of wine, in full color and all its “butterfly glory” made my heart skip with excitement.  The book is loaded with big, beautiful photographs of all types of wine (old, young, red, wine, etc) that leave you stopping to try and “taste” the wine pictures with your minds’ palate.

The book is divided into 8 different chapters, nearly all of which flow together in a harmonious fashion.  In the first chapter, Barrett breaks it down and tells all why she put together this book, and what she hopes the reader will take from it.  The second chapter describes the early histor of grapes and wine, and then gracefully illustrates the tight analogies between the life and death of wine and the life and death of living beings, all the while supplementing the words with beautiful photographs.

The third chapter gets into the nitty-gritty of taste, as well as the viticultural and enological timeline of grape growing and winemaking.  Toward the end of the chapter, the topic evolves into shaping the language of taste, and does a nice job marrying taste and the images that are created under the microscope.  The fourth chapter introduces many of the wine legends in the industry, and ties it all into what makes your own life legendary.

Certified biodynamic Sauvignon Blanc
from Patianna Organic Vineyards

The fifth chapter introduces the concept of cultivation for well-being, and discusses organic and biodynamic viticulture in California vineyards.  Barrett ties in this concept with the effects of wine on human health, which further evolves into the relationship between not only wine and physical health, but wine with romantic and emotional health.  She ends the chapter reminding the reader that one of the major functions of wine is to cultivate healthy relationships, be it with each other or with the environment.

The final three chapters; “The Spirit of the Grape”, “The Soul of Wine”, and “Savoring Life” tie up the book wonderfully, exploring how the grape and wine are alive and evolving, and how our experiences with them allow us to become more in tune with our own spirit, as well as strengthen the relationships we have with others.

In a way, this book was almost just as much a journey through the personal evolution of Sondra Barrett as is was about the science and romance of wine.  Throughout the book, I frequently found myself reflecting on my own thoughts and my own experiences, and how wine has transformed the relationships in my life (to humans, animals, and nature itself).  The book almost had me in a state of bliss while reading it, which I think is partially owed to the mystical experiences one receives through wine.  I also found myself wanting to drink wine as I turned through the pages!

This book is great for both the wine expert and the wine novice, and provides a great many photographs of incredibly beautiful images of the molecular structures of wine.  It’s a book that won’t take you long to read and looks wonderful on the coffee table as a piece of entertainment for your guests.

I highly recommend this book, Wine’s Hidden Beauty, and encourage every wine lover to pick it up and give it a read.

To purchase the book, you may find it here on the Amazon website: Wine’s Hidden Beauty

You may also purchase the book directly from Sondra Barrett’s website at this link. 

I’ll leave you with one of my many favorite quotes from the book:

“The grape fulfills her promise to help us humans’ open to happiness and a deeper connection with all living things.  Her spirited life engages ours.  The spirit of the grape shows life in microcosm and macrocosm.  When we peek into the inner life of this spirited potion we see the story of life.  

Remember she is here to make us happy.”

A big “thank you” goes out to Sondra Barrett for sending me a copy of this book to read and to cherish.  You may read more about Sondra Barrett by visiting her website here.

2001 Quintessa “Bordeaux Blend”

I am not a health professional, nor do I pretend to be. Please consult your doctor before altering your alcohol consumption habits. Do not consume alcohol if you are under the age of 21. Do not drink and drive. Enjoy responsibly!

2 comments for “Book Review: Wine’s Hidden Beauty by Sondra Barrett, PhD.

  1. February 18, 2012 at 5:21 pm

    Dear Becca,
    Thanks you for the awesome review of my book. I am so pleased you enjoyed the journey through its pages and saw it as a glimpse of my journey. BTW people can also purchase the book at my site – it costs more than Amazon but then people get a signed copy and a few wine cards. I am also happy that Wine's Hidden Beauty annointed The Academic Wino with its first book review. Many more.

  2. February 19, 2012 at 2:30 am

    I'm so glad you approve of the review! It truly is an excellent book!

    I completely didn't even think to find the link to purchase the book from your website. I tend to shop Amazon for nearly everything, so it's the first thing that comes to mind for me. Since reading your comment, I've since updated the post and have added the link to your shop on your website as well!

    I hope to read more from you in the future!

Comments are closed.