Far fewer people read wine books than cookbooks. Many are written at a high level of scholarship by Masters of Wine (MW’s) for other wine connoisseurs. It’s harder to find an entertaining wine book penned by a professional writer. A select number of authors are able to translate their immense wealth of knowledge into a useful book for the everyday wine explorer. My favorites among them:
Instructional: How to Taste: A Guide to Enjoying Wine by Jancis Robinson. I love the authority, friendliness, and practical tasting exercises in this book. There are theory and practice sections on wine tasting skills — different types of oak, regional differences, the impact of temperature, pairing. The book is written by a distinguished MW, columnist, TV personality and editor of the Oxford Companion to Wine.
Fun: Bacchus & Me:Adventures in the Wine Cellar by Jay McInerney. The author of Bright Lights, Big City, McInerney is very funny and very perceptive. The first line of each essay draws you in: “Driving up the D2 through Bordeaux, I fell much the way others might as they cruise Mulholland Drive with a “Map of the Stars’ Homes” pinned to their steering wheel.” “Since I first contracted oenophilia I have read – with little comprehension – about the influence on wine of rootstocks, clones, and soil composition, but hardly anything about the importance of onomatopoeia.”
Travel: Adventures on the Wine Route: A Wine Buyer’s Tour of France by Kermit Lynch and Vineyard Tales: reflections on wine by Gerald Asher. The first book is a collection of personal vignettes of French winemakers that oozes with passion by a Berkeley, California wine merchant with nearly godlike status. The second has the voice of an intelligent, knowledgeable and wise gentleman, and takes us to wine regions around the world.
Chemistry: Understanding Wine Technology: The Science of Wine Explained by David Bird. This is a gem. If you’ve been confused by polyphenols, cool fermentation or volatile acidity, Bird explains it and you’ll understand it.
Production: The Vintner’s Art: How Great Wines are Made by Hugh Johnson & James Halliday. I like the way this book is organized, with the choices, consequences and techniques of making different styles of wine. The diagrams and charts make the process of winemaking comprehensible.
Reference: The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson, Michael Broadbent’s Vintage Wine: Fifty Years of Tasting Three Centuries of Wines, The Wines of Bordeaux; Vintages and Tasting Notes 1952-2003 by Clive Coates, Christie’s World Encyclopedia of Champagne sparkling wine by Tom Stevenson, and the Mitchell Beazley series on individual wine regions. These reference books are nothing short of awe-inspiring – meticulously researched and thoughtfully written by people with extraordinary palates and the highest standards of excellence.