Book Review: The Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide To Becoming A Wine Expert, by Richard Betts

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I was really excited to read the book I am presenting to you today, since it brought back a lot of fond memories from my childhood.  Being a child of the 80s, even the words “scratch & sniff” make me smile!  Oh the things you could smell on those ‘scratch & sniff’ stickers!  It’s like you were in the lickable wallpaper room at Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, except you could smell but you couldn’t taste.

Alright, why the hell do I keep talking about ‘scratch & sniff’ in a post that is supposed to be a book review.  Well, folks, the world is finally complete:  there now exists The Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide to Becoming A Wine Expert by Richard Betts.

To purchase a copy of The Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide to Becoming A Wine Expert, by Richard Betts, follow this link to find it for sale on Amazon.com.

Copyright R.Yeamans 2013

Copyright R.Yeamans 2013

Dreamed up and created by Richard Betts, only the 9th person in the word to pass the Master Sommelier exam on the first try, The Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide to Becoming A Wine Expert is a super fun little “kids-style” book that takes the pretention out of becoming a wine expert.  With fun illustrations and an incredibly easy-going style, this book is great for the goofy wannabe wine lover who lived through and experienced some of the glorious childish artistic gems of the 80s.

“Wine is a grocery, not a luxury”

The Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide to Becoming A Wine Expert is anything but a serious book.  It’s meant to be fun and easy so that even a person with hardly (if any) wine knowledge can pick it up, be entertained, and maybe even learn a little bit!

The Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide to Becoming A Wine Expert starts off explaining what taste and smell actually is, and breaks them down into broad categories like fruit, wood, earth, and “other”.  After a brief tutorial on how to use the scratch & sniff book, Betts jumps into some of the major smells of red wine and white wine, with a couple of these flavors showcased as a scratch & sniff to make the experience much

Copyright R.Yeamans 2013

Copyright R.Yeamans 2013

more interactive for the reader.

After the fruits, Betts move onto the “woods”, and provides scratch & sniff examples of various flavors that can be extracted from an oak barrel into a wine.  Finally, Betts explores flavors of the “earth”, focusing on defining terroir on a very basic level, followed by examples of mineral stone scents as well as leather.

One less-than-ideal thing about The Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide to Becoming A Wine Expert is that not all of the scratch & sniffs “worked” for me.  For the most part, when I scratched  where I was told (it’s obvious where they are located), the scent that I noted was very similar to the smell that it was trying to imitate.  However, for three of the smells, it just smelled like the book pages to me—either there was something odd between my nose and those three smells, or the scratch & sniff was rubbed off already somehow during processing and/or shipping.  Two times in the book, I could scratch a pear, but both times, I could barely smell anything but book.  Also, to my disappointment, when I scratched the bacon scent, I also could only really smell the book pages.  Finally, with the butter flavor, I could smell something different than the book pages, but it didn’t really smell like butter to me either.  Other than those three, the other scents throughout the book were very potent and smelled markedly similar to what they were supposed to be representing.  In fact, some of my favorites were the black fruits, grass, and stone fruit scents.

One of my favorite aspects of the book wasn’t technically “in” the book at all.  On the very last page, there is a little pull out “poster” of “The Whole Wine World” that categorizes different wines based on different fruit, wood, earth, and “other” smells in a sort of hierarchical manner.  You start by choosing if you are

Copyright R.Yeamans 2013

Copyright R.Yeamans 2013

looking for a red or white wine, then the different fruit, wood, and earth flavors are further sub-categorized and basically directs the reader toward a specific wine varietal that they may like based upon the different types of scents they prefer.

The Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide to Becoming A Wine Expert, by Richard Betts, is a fabulous book for the wine beginner, though is also a fun little change from the more thought-provoking philosophical tomes that those with greater wine knowledge may go for.

If you’re still looking for a Christmas, New Years, or other Holiday gift for a friend or loved one who is interested in getting into wine and has a little kid still stirring deep down in their core, The Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide to Becoming A Wine Expert is the perfect gift!

To purchase a copy of The Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide to Becoming A Wine Expert, by Richard Betts, follow this link to find it for sale on Amazon.com.

Cheers, and Happy Holidays!

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