When I got into the wine business, I was a novice’s novice. I studied poetry and fiction in college. All I knew about wine was that it was made from grapes and it contained alcohol. Shortly after my winemaking apprenticeship at a California winery began I realized that the world of wine is much more awe-inspiring than my initial assessments. And I wanted to learn more.
As a winemaker, I had a grasp of the mechanics, but it wasn’t until I dove into a few good books that I discovered just how saturated I could get, studying wine. I have spent a fortune on wine literature and textbooks over the years. Some of my purchases were a waste, while others remain priceless.
Following is a short list of wine books that I have found to be helpful, edutaining, and insightful.
THE STORY OF WINE by Hugh Johnson – Viewed through the lens of wine, this treasure chest of stories is brimming with eno-cultural evolution. Beginning before Antiquity and leading through the modern wine movements, Johnson weaves colorful narratives about wine with science, socio-politics, economics, art, and religion. This is absolutely one of the best books for understanding the role that wine has played through time.
THE WINE BIBLE by Karen MacNeil – For a newcomer, the world of wine can seem overwhelming and confusing until you read this book. MacNeil breaks down the key concepts of major winegrowing regions, the grape varieties that are planted there, and the general styles of wine found in shops and restaurants around the world, and she makes learning about wine fun. This is a wonderful and relaxing book for those interested in the wines of the world.
WINE by André Dominé – In a crowded room where everyone is chattering about the same thing, it is often difficult to hear a single voice. Dominé is that voice. Examining history, geology, weather, and local culture, Dominé gives readers a comprehensive guide to the gastronomic importance of every major and minor wine region in the world and the individual elements within them. This book is very generous on content and one of the most impressive wine books to come out in recent years.
THE WORLD ATLAS OF WINE by Jancis Robinson and Hugh Johnson – This joint effort by Robinson and Johnson reflects some of the more important changes in wine over the past few years. Today’s wine regions are developing rapidly. As viti-vinicultural techniques change to reflect consumer tastes, some books get outdated very quickly. The seventh edition of this classic study guide (2013) uses the past to understand current trends and the potential future of wine.
THE OXFORD COMPANION TO WINE edited by Jancis Robinson – This is the quintessential resource for the winelover who wants to know everything there is to know about wine. Though some of the sections are short on details, the cross-references within each section will have you wandering through these pages like a kid in Candyland. I should warn you, however, there is no going back to nescience once you’ve opened this book.
What are your favorite wine books? Let us know in the comments!