“I want to learn more about wine; what book should I buy?”
It depends upon what you want to do with your wine knowledge. Do you want to be a winemaker, do you want to be a grapegrower, do you want to be a sommelier, do you want to sell wine retail? Or do you just want to know more about one of your favorite subjects? If the latter, here are three books that you should have.
The World Atlas of Wine. The latest (6th) edition is by the original author, Hugh Johnson, and by Jancis Robinson. It is published by Mitchell Beazley. The original edition, put out in 1971, was a stunning departure from all previous wine writing offerings. Not only did it possess well written, down to earth descriptive text but it also provided absolutely brilliant, detailed maps of the regions the wines’ mentioned came from. It was like going from a stick shift car to an automatic or from the 15 pound mobile phone of the 1980’s to a Droid. It literally showed the reader where the holiest of holy vineyards were geographically--yes, Larmat’s maps did that earlier but only 8 French people saw them—and it described why they were, well, “holy”. Yes, I’d rather go and visit these spots in person, but this is the next best thing.
The Vintner’s Art: How Great Wines Are Made, by Mr. Johnson and the great Australian writer and winemaker, James Halliday. It was published by Simon & Schuster. Released in 1992 it is a little bit dated, especially in terms of the wines that modern producers are turning out. But it looks at quality in grapes and their wines in terms of both nature’s offerings and how humans can best nurture and interpret them. What does a certain climate provide, a certain soil, the aspect of the vineyard, the grape variety? How cold should I ferment their grapes, in what containers and for how long? How do I age the wine? This whole book looks at what the recognizably classic winemakers have done with what the best nature has had to offer and why. It’s not a judgemental book, it’s one of options based on the best local conditions. In short, it will probably frustrate engineers looking for reliable formulae and algorithms, but it will help the novice understand why some wines are more interesting than most others.
The Wines of America by Leon Adams (McGraw Hill). This might not make a list written for the global wine market but it fits quite nicely here for the American consumer. It, too, is a bit outdated. Its present value lies both in the vast net Adams casts as well as his fairly objective view of what many spots in this country could offer. It also puts the reader in the proper historical framework to understand not only how we have developed as a wine drinking nation but how many obstacles were thrown in our path along the way.
Read these three tomes through and you will be more wine knowledgable than most of the experts.