Thursday, November 27, 2008

Around the World with Alyssa Rapp

Alyssa Rapp (right) joins Chicago Pinot for a quick picture before signing more copies of her new book Bottlenotes Guide to Wine.

"Bottlenotes is a personal sommelier service; a platform to match wine to a buyer's personal taste." That's Alyssa Rapp, founder and CEO of Bottlenotes, an online company that's part online wine retail and part MySpace. There are 60,000 registered users of, over half of which have completed their Personal Taste Profiletm. Bottlenotes founded in 2005 and Ms. Rapp, like any budding entrepreneur, has used many different strategies to raise its profile. From personal appearances, podcasts, interviews, even filling goodie bags at the Oscars with her gift certificates. Her latest move is her first book Bottlenotes Guide to Wine: Around the World in 80 Sips, which she promoted at a launch party November 5 at the W Hotel on Lake Shore Drive. For two hours, she tirelessly signed books, answered audience questions and invited us to taste six wines currently available on her website.

"The book evolved from the Bottlenotes' Winecyclopaedia, a reference guide for wine enthusiasts replete with wine tasting terms, region guides, varietal guides, and more." The Winecyclopaedia features contributions from Ms. Rapp and many from her Yale and Stanford college interns over the past few summers. It starts with a history of wine, both as a beverage drunk for survival as well as the catalyst for a global industry. She discusses how wine is made (red, white and sparkling wines each have a different "recipe") and how to develop your personal "taste profile" (there is much more about this on Ms. Rapp's web site; fortunately, the book doesn't feel like a 300 page advertisement for it.)

Like most introductory wine books, Ms. Rapp also outlines the expected flavors you can expect to find from most of the major red and white varietals preferred by American consumers. I have probably read about a dozen of these books and it's always fun to see which grapes make the "major" group and those relegated to the "other varieties" section (Malbec is an "other"?)

The second part of the book takes us from Napa to New Zealand, to sixteen major wine regions; describing their history, what grapes have produced the best wine, and predicts their future market potential. If Ms. Rapp's guidebook is updated, I would like for her to include maps in the next edition; it would make this section a little easier to follow.

Overall, a very fun event. Bottlenotes, her web site, has just been updated, making it easier to find new wines to try and possibly new friends to share them with.

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