Book Review: The New Italy (Daniele Cernilli & Marco Sabellico, 2010)

Book Review: The New Italy - A Complete Guide to Contemporary Italian Wine
Daniele Cernilli & Marco Sabellico
published in 2000 although my paperback is from 2008

This is an older book I picked up on eBay for a few bucks, which is probably its fair value today. As a reference book I guess it’s ok, and I don’t begrudge it the shelf space, but I can’t see it being a regular go to guide unless one is really prowling the obscure regions, and even then its value is limited (today) based on which estates were covered when written 20+ years ago.

On the bright side, the book is very beautiful, and would be nice coffee table material if one rotates that kind of art/books in their living room. The organization is the typical Italian overview for the first 20 pages, which was useful/interesting (to me), but that will somewhat depend on the experience/knowledge of the reader.

At this point it follows a conventional breakdown of regional discussion, with very small snippets on select producers. One aspect of the book becomes more apparent here. There is a feel that the writing has been either poorly translated* or it just wasn’t edited by someone with oenophile knowledge. There are too many awkward expressions, strange idioms that need a English speaking wine enthusiast to massage for this printing. It’s not a huge thing, but it gets tiresome after reading the same phrase over and over. Additionally, although there is plenty of relevant wine / vineyard estate photography in the regional sections, there is also tons of pretty but non germane stock photography of Italian landscapes scattered about too. This is borne out by a close inspection of the photo credits in the end of the book - someone went shopping from the Italian equivalent of Getty Images / iStockphotos etc. with a ‘100 pix for the price of 10’ card or something. The maps are ok, not really that helpful for anyone who has a Hugh Johnson Atlas, but I guess they had to include some.

For me, the strongest sections were the Northwest, Tuscan, and Northeast areas. And the book tails off when it gets down to the southern / island regions. For those who are NOT fans of Cotarella, Tachsis and all the popular oenologues of the turn of the century, it would be painful chewing through certain producer profiles. (I loved Cotarella’s work though)

Copies are pretty cheap, $5-8 on Amazon and even less on eBay. It’s a quick read given how many pictures are in the book. I recommend, but not in a strenuous way.

  • I acknowledge that my critique is coming from the English speaking perspective

I read this book when it was first published and simply didn’t like it at all. A comprehensive let-down on most of the really important aspects and a stark contrast, to say the least, to Andrew Jefford’s France masterpiece from the same original Mitchell Beazley series.

I had very much the same feelings. I felt they completely missed the brief. Whereas New France did feel like it covered what was changing / emerging reasonably well, New Italy just felt like a regurgitation of the same old establishment names, some of them whom I definitely viewed as ‘fat, dumb and happy’ (i.e. shit / dull). New Italy just felt like a dated generic book on Italy. I gave it to a charity shop.