Field Book #7

How does your chosen text manifest physically?

For this lab, I choose to look at [The Wine Bible] ( by Karen MacNeil. I purchased this book last year and it is something I pick up every so often when I have time to study [viticulture] ( The book is a combination between a coffee table book and a textbook. It’s very heavy which makes it a pain to bring anywhere, and it’s over four hundred pages. It’s not for the faint hearted!

The Wine Bible is more like a reference book since it has an index and chapters and subchapters on everything that has to do with wine making and tasting wine. It’s like a dictionary for wine lovers. In terms of the physical book, it has:

  • Thin paper
  • Glued binding

Even though the book is printed on thin cheap paper (I’m assuming), it’s unbelievably heavy. If the paper was any thicker, that would make the book even more of a dead weight. Furthermore, the width of the binding is almost two inches. It’s a bit intimidating! But it’s not really the kind of book to read page by page. It’s more like a book that is used for reference.

How does its format relate to its contents and its cultural meaning(s)?

Here is a page from The Wine Bible. The format presented here is an example of what most pages include:

  1. Pink text boxes
  2. Black and white images
  3. Small text
  4. Double colums
  5. Multiple fonts

After studying the physical aspects of the book, I realized each page was filled with all sorts of images, headers, and fonts, which makes reading much more visually appealing. I thought to myself, what if this book was in the same format of a dictionary (or something like that)? It would be very different book, and probably not a best-seller, since it would display information in the most boring way possible.

In terms of its contents, the book is meticulously organized by the origins of wine, grape types, how to taste, wine regions, and more. It covers every place in the world that produces wine: California, France, Italy, Germany, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, etc. It’s important to cover each region because, Chardonnay’s for example, taste very different depending on where they are grown. It could taste crisp with notes of green aples and citrus, or it could taste like buttery popcorn with an undertone of coffee. There are reasons that contribute to the different notes: soil, sun, climate, weather, water, nutrients, and care.

The title of the book The Wine Bible indicates that this is the essential book that every sommelier, vineyard owner, and student needs. The word “Bible” does not have any religious associations but it does imply that it is the go-to book for anything that has to do with wine.

In what ways does its format (and the cultural ramifications of its format) resemble the historical-textual artifacts you worked with in our lab and learned about in our readings, and in what ways is it distinctly modern?

The Wine Bible relates most closely to Station Two: Editions of Morse’s Geography from the lab because they are both used for education. Morse’s Geography was a school textbook used to educate students about the geography of America and in the later editions, countries of the world. There were a few factors that indicated Morse’s Geography was used for school:

  • Not heavy
  • Small size
  • Quiz questions in the back
  • Preface about young masters

The format is similar to The Wine Bible because it is divided by regions and countries. Of course, the information is different but the set up is similar. The cultural ramifications about the format indicates that there were copies of these mini textbooks for each student in a geography class. It’s the kind of book that students could use to refer to when they did homework. If the textbook was meant to stay in the classroom for students to share, it would have been heavy and large.

The Wine Bible is distinctly modern because of the amount of information in the book. Everything you need to know about viticulture and wine tasting is in this book. It’s a collection of century old information from all corners of the world. It’s interesting to compare it to Morse’s Geography because that book had multiple updated editions over twenty years (about 1800-1825). A flood of change was happening, geographically, at that time. So the book editors had to continue adding and subtracting information about new territories and new scientific discoveries (ie. astronomy). So far, there are only two editions of The Wine Bible but in the second edition, she tasted over 10,000 wines for accurate research. What a job!