If any of your wine drinking friends or relatives have expressed an interest in learning more about the noble grape and how it goes from a vineyard anywhere in the world, to bottle, to your local merchant, what to look for and where to plan future escapes, check out the books listed below as memorable gifts.
Some are well-written reference books, where you can browse through at your leisure, adding bits of wine knowledge here and there. The maps and descriptions are worth the price of admission. Others set a stage and tell a tale of discovery with lively narratives. I’ve included a few technical books for those aspiring to delve even deeper in understanding the soil, the vines, the grape and how the best winemakers strive to assist mother nature rather than dominate.
Happy reading and please respond with any additions you recommend.
The World Atlas of Wine, 7th Edition Hardcover – by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson.
“The World Atlas of Wine is the single most important reference book on the shelf of any wine student.”―Eric Asimov, The New York Times
Hugh Johnson has been a valued resource since he published his “World Encyclopedia of Wine” some 30 years ago. Jancis Robinson is editor of the next book on the list, a great resource.
The Oxford Companion to Wine (Oxford Companions) Hardcover – by Jancis Robinson and Julia Harding.
“It’s a valuable reference book and great fun just to pick up and read.” –Ben Giliberti, The Washington Post
Jancis has more wine-writing credentials and awards than most human beings. Her wine reviews are always among my favorites. She has a classic palate and can bring the nuances and fine details of even delicate wines to life with her sometimes witty reviews.
The Wine Bible — by Karen MacNeil
“MacNeil’s writing style is engaging and conversational, and if you want to know anything about wine her book is the place to start” – Forbes.com
McNeil has a witty way of working through often complex topics and making technical information palatable, which undoubtedly evolved from her years teaching at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley and having several television shows, including on PBS.
Kevin Zraly Windows on the World Complete Wine Course: Revised and Expanded Edition
Could be college courses in Wine 101 and 201, introduction to wine, with layers of complexity added throughout. It evolved from his actual classes in the Windows of the World restaurant and exhibits his sense of humor and quick ways with a quip.
Oz Clarke: Grapes & Wines: A Comprehensive Guide to Varieties and Flavours
“Authoritative . . . Offers in-depth information about today’s most important grape varieties.”–Anthony Dias Blue, “Orient Express Magazine”
Tasting a wine made from an unfamiliar grape and wondering about its qualities, characteristics, origins and more? Oz leads the way for your discovery, with style and great detail, including the nuances impacted on a variety by geography, soil and other factors.
For a handy pocket-sized (almost!) reference:
Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine 2017: 40th Anniversary
A handy reference as a stocking-stuffer.
Adventures on the Wine Route: A Wine Buyer’s Tour of France — by Kermit Lynch.
Insightful tour with Kermit as he looks for fine wines and great values for his customers in England and beyond. With keen observations on different wine areas, such as Beaujolais, which is not a civilized lady but a “one-night stand of wines,” and Burgundy, where creating a thing of beauty is “a legitimate artistic goal” but difficult because the Pinot Noir grape is “a delicate little beast.
The Accidental Connoisseur: An Irreverent Journey Through the Wine World — by Lawrence Osborne
Osborne goes from America to France discovering wine: the high-tech world in California with databases attempting to predict the best approach to making wine in any given years based on many metrics, to the terroir in Bordeaux to the experiments at Antinori in changing the traditional Chianti blends that led to the creation of the Super Tuscan category. He skewers the pretentious along the way, with fine style.
Wine and War: The French, the Nazis, and the Battle for France’s Greatest Treasure — by Donald Kladstrup
Wonderful tale of the ingenuity, resourcefulness and brilliance of the Bordelaise in saving some of their finest wines from being consumed like vin ordinaire by the occupying forces, or seizing it and sending it to Germany for the pleasures of the Nazi high command.
The Wines of Burgundy — by Sylvain Pitiot and Jean-Charles Servant
The Wines of Burgundy — by Clive Coates
The Great Domaines of Burgundy: A Guide to the Finest Wine Producers of the Cote d’Or, Third Edition Hardcover — by Remington Norman. Also his “Grand Cru.”
Oz Clarke Bordeaux: A New Look at the World’s Most Famous Wine Region — by Oz Clarke
The Complete Bordeaux: The Wines the Châteaux the People — by Stephen Brook
The New France: A Complete Guide to Contemporary French Wine — by Andrew Jefford
For the techies:
Understanding Wine Technology — by David Bird (chemist and master of wine)
The Science of Wine, second edition — by Jamie Goode
Understanding Vineyard Soils — Robert E. White
Tasting French Terroir — by Thomas Parker