When so many perfectly good wine books are published each year, sadly, for a beginner, the world of wine books is almost as confusing as wine itself. So how on earth does a novice know where to start a wine book library?
On the one hand you could focus on the books full of wine reviews that have made the greatest impact on the wine market and that would include of of course Robert Parker’s, The Wine Buyers Guide and Clive Coates’, The Wines Of Burgundy and Gambero Rosso’s Italian Wines…but these wine reviews are now updated annually and the books that were once indispensable are either now out of date or they’ve been transferred online where they are more easily searched.
If you’re studying wine production then David Bird’s Understanding Wine Technology will help you get through the science of wine production. On the other hand The Great Wine Blight by George Ordish will take you back in time to ‘the unknown disease’ of the 1860s (phylloxera).
However my advice is to look at what the book shelves of any wine trade professional. If you do that there will be two books that appear on every shelf (and one that should be on every shelf).
Here is my top three wine books according to every person who ever worked in the wine trade:
The Oxford Companion To Wine
Edited by Jancis Robinson
The comprehensive book is the ultimate reference on wine and wine making. It caters for the wine novice and the connoisseur alike and goes a fair bit deeper into each subject than most other wine buying guides. Technical terms, processes, grape varieties and important names are all explained intelligently by an a-list of contributors but the language remains approachable throughout. Many moons ago this was the first wine book that I read from cover to cover and it’s a book that has continued to inspire my love of wine ever since. It has been republished several times and is now in its fourth edition.
The World Atlas Of Wine
The World Atlas Of Wine was first published in 1971 and with each edition it has become a classic standard wine book for wine connoisseurs and professionals. With every new edition more wine regions are added to reflect the changes in the global wine scene. The authoritative reference book is now co-written by Jancis Robinson on and is on its 8th edition.
I would argue that it is impossible to understand wine without maps. The topography, soil, sunshine, rainfall and aspect all affect the outcome of a wine and a great map (and this book has plenty of them) has the unique ability to help explain the difference between a Premier Cru and a Grand Cru vineyard when their vines might be just inches apart.
If you too are a frustrated cartographer you will be delighted to know that plenty of other wine atlases have been published and I’ve not yet discovered a bad one amongst them.
Milady Vine – The Autobiography of Philippe de Rothschild
by Joan Littlewood
At the age of eighty the great wine maker Philippe de Rothschild decided that his tell all confessional memoirs should be written by his companion, the influential theatre director, Joan Littlewood. It feels like an unlikely partnership, particularly as you begin to plod through the first pages where Philippe catalogues his exploits. Eventually the pace changes and the early twentieth century is brought into focus. Eight months in a Moroccan jail, his return to France, the confiscation of the family property because the Rothschilds are Jews, his escape on foot across the Pyrenees to Spain, the death of his wife in a concentration camp and the building of a wine empire all in one remarkable memoir.