Must read for winelovers
Whether you are a novice or an experienced wine professional, there are a number of wine books on the market that can enhance your knowledge and act as great reference tools. Here are a few to add to your library:
The Wine Bible (2nd Edition) by Karen MacNeil
The first edition of The Wine Bible found its way beyond the industry and into the hands of the consumer and, seemingly, more consumers than any wine book previous to its release. It helped bring wine to a larger audience and demystify it for many who might otherwise hesitate to delve beyond critics’ wine reviews.
MacNeil’s writing style is accessible and lacks pretense, but is not dumbed down. The 2nd edition expands on the first with additional information, coverage and anecdotes. She helps give wine its context of place by describing the cuisine and people of the various wine regions along with historical anecdotes (e.g. the purpose of the punt; the quirky law banning flying saucers in Châteauneuf du Pape; etc.), recommended producers and tips on service and enhancing your enjoyment of wine.
It is particularly great to see coverage of Canada’s wine industry expanded in this new edition (I would love to see it, and it needs to be, expanded even further in future editions).
If you are or know someone who is getting into wine and can only have one all-purpose reference book on your shelf, this is a great choice.
Wine Grapes by Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding & José Vouillamoz
Time to get your wine geek on with this comprehensive coverage of close to 1400 grape varieties used to make wine. Robinson, a Master of Wine and perhaps the best known wine writer on the planet, et al., cover taste profiles, regions of production, synonyms, behaviour in the vineyard, ampelography and genetic relationships of grapes.
Under each grape is a brief characterization, colour of berry, principal synonyms (including incorrect ones), the origins and parentage, viticultural characteristics, where it’s grown and what it tastes like.
This book should be ready-at-hand for every wine shop, wine bar, restaurant and anyone who really has an interest in learning about wine at a higher level. Wine starts in the vineyard, and having an in-depth knowledge of the grapes used for its production is imperative.
In addition to being a useful reference tool, the appearance of the book itself is quite academic and reminds me of some of my university biological science textbooks. Something to sit down and read cover to cover? For the wine enthusiast, maybe not. For the true wine geek, absolutely!
Native Wine Grapes of Italy by Ian d’Agata
If Italian wine is your thing, then Native Wine Grapes of Italy goes well beyond Robinson’s Wine Grapes. D’Agata, the scientific director for VinItaly and contributor to Decanter and Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar, may be the world’s leading authority on Italian wine, and this book covers aspects of Italy’s regionality, cultural, historical, scientific and genetic context with respect to the hundreds of the country’s native grapes that have been identified.
D’Agata’s encyclopedic knowledge is astounding, but his ability to convey his knowledge is what makes this book so readable (particularly for the Italian wine geek). It’s as if you can hear d’Agata speaking, storytelling and (for those that know him) laughing at his own jokes.
Definitely not for the faint of heart, Native Wine Grapes of Italy goes into more depth and detail than most people (whether consumer or trade) would ever venture. It clarifies and corrects much of the inconsistencies and erroneous information that has been taught about Italian wine. It covers groups and families of grapes, speaks of biotypes and phenotypes, genetic crosses and the major (and minor) native grapes grown in each of Italy’s 20 wine-producing regions. It is fitting that this book is the required “textbook” for VinItaly International Academy’s Italian Wine Expert and Ambassador certification course.
If you have a serious interest in Italian wine, or if you are in the wine industry (whether you deal directly with Italian wines or not), this book must find its way to the corner of your desk (for easy reference as opposed to collecting dust on your bookshelf).
Hungry for Wine: Seeing the World through the Lens of a Wine Glass by Cathy Huyghe
Let’s cut to the chase. Quite simply, I love this book.
I’ve always believed and said that wine gets its context from the people, place, culture and history of its home. Huyghe, wine columnist for Forbes.com and Food52, humanizes wine and puts it in a context that anyone can appreciate whether a wine drinker or not. The book is divided into 12 short stories. Each is focused around a single bottle, and each is written in Huyghe’s approachable style, drawing us in and allowing us to experience, as her travel companion, the passion, politics, joys and struggles of the people and places in the stories she shares. With her, we literally and figuratively “see the world through a glass of wine.”
Huyghe’s stories are varied, from expressions of regret for never having an occasion “special” enough to open that special bottle to those who have abandoned their corporate white-collar existence and focused their lives around wine and their community; from the financial, political and cultural struggles of producing wine in countries such as Greece, South Africa and Turkey to producing wine in the face of war because “people must continue with the work of their lives,” and to the migrant vineyard workers who are away from their homes for months in order to support their families and simply put food on the table.
These stories make us realize that wine is so much more than just what’s in the glass. They also help us to appreciate so much more what is in the glass. We can and should revel in the enjoyment of a glass of wine because of what it represents.
And we should all live by Huyghe’s Hungry for Wine Manifesto. Whether you are a wine lover or not, and regardless of whether wine plays a significant role in your life, Hungry for Wine is a must read, because it’s about something we all should be able to relate to … people.