The last time I saw Mark Oldman was at a wine tasting he hosted. He was wearing a blazer with wide red piping on the cuffs and lapels -- if he'd had a whip, he would have made a great lion tamer. Overkill? For Oldman, par for the course.
Mark Oldman is not like other wine experts. He may be 40 now, but he's eternally young -- and he has the best qualities of youth. He's a rule breaker: "Anything you can't pronounce is a good value." A truth teller: "Only 2% of the wines on sale will get better with age." An attention-getter: He drives "one of 500 'Grabber Orange,' 400-horsepower street-legal racecars made by Saleen, a boutique manufacturer-modifier of high-performance Mustangs."
Above all, Mark Oldman -- who was, once upon a time, a Serious Person, picking up a Phi Beta Kappa Key from Stanford, where he earned a B.A. and M.A. in English and a J.D. from Stanford Law School -- is a showman. Just watch him talk about rosé. It's the color of "a socialite's purse" or "Donald Trump's hairline." But note how, after he grabs your attention, he imparts knowledge and enthusiasm in equal parts, leaving you extremely eager to crack upon a bottle.
When last we met Mark Oldman in print, we were reading his immodestly titled Oldman's Guide to Outsmarting Wine. [To buy it from Amazon, click here.] It was a smart, practical book with international flair --- in these pages, the Stanford grad leaves Napa far behind. I wasn't surprised that it was named Georges Duboeuf Wine Book of the Year. Or that it led to appearances at food festivals and wine seminars.
Now he's back, with Oldman's Brave New World of Wine: Pleasure, Value, and Adventure Beyond Wine's Usual Suspects. [To buy it from Amazon, click here.] This time, he assumes you have some knowledge of wine -- what? you didn't read his first book? -- and are now ready to venture into unknown territory: wines that don't come from California or France. These are, he says, tasty wines that insiders cherish. And because they're not so well-known, they're better values; as he points out, "The more popular a wine is, the more likely customers must pay extra for that demand."
You're drinking Pinot Grigio? Cabernet Sauvignon? Merlot?
You, especially, will cherish this book.
Oldman discusses 34 wines, six bubblies and three dessert wines. And he peppers the pages with wine commentary from 144 insiders, from Hollywood actresses to professional basketball players. "What kind of wine do I like?" asks satirist P.J. O'Rourke. "Other people's." Especially if they just happen to have a case of Lafite Rothschild Paulliac 1982.
Riesling from Austria? Sure. But also from Australia. Sauvignon Blanc? Yes, but from New Zealand. Vinho Verde, the fizzy white wine from Portugal. Pinot Noir from Oregon. Bargain Bordeaux. Cahors that's had hours to breathe. Washington State Merlot. Petite Sirah, "dark and intense as a dominatrix's boot." Lambrusco (yes, Lambrusco). And Rueda. Rueda? Watch...
No one will read this book and want to reach for a beer.