The world of wine can be daunting. There are so many countries, regions, appellations, wineries, wine producers, varieties, terms and other things to know that it can be overwhelming. Even to experts.
However, three new books (well, one new book and two new editions of existing works) have all just come out or are about to. So if you’ve been thinking about updating your wine library, or are starting to consider holiday gifts for the wine-lovers in your life, these are three great, distinct choices.
Oxford Companion To Wine Fourth Edition by Jancis Robinson and Julia Harding, $41.99, Out September 1, 2015
This is one of the most seminal wine books in the world, compiled by one of the most influential wine writers now working, Jancis Robinson. I had the chance to meet her at a symposium last year, and she was just a wealth of knowledge (and humor), all of which shines through in this new edition.
This is a great gift for snobs and humble amateurs alike and covers over 4,000 topics from viticulture, to wine history, geography and grape varieties. Over half of the entries have been revised and updated, and she has produced over 350 entirely new entries including sections on aromatic compounds, the Hong Kong wine market, the natural wine trend, the language of tasting notes and even wine apps and social media, among others. Robinson has also gotten input from 180 other wine experts (58 of whom are contributing for the first time to this edition) from around the world who have written entries on topics and regions in which they specialize, so it’s far from the monolithic work of a single voice and mind. Instead, it’s an informative patchwork that includes both microscopic detail and a broad overview of the world of wine.
Wine Folly: The Essential Guide To Wine by Madeline Puckett and Justin Hammack, $15.17, Out September 22, 2015
Madeline Puckett is a certified sommelier and Seattle-based wine blogger behind the site Wine Folly, along with her husband Justin Hammack, who takes many of the photographs. The two of them are also just plain fun to hang out with and talk wine, as I discovered on a trip to Rioja with them back in 2013.
But more than all that, Madeline is very smart and original when it comes to thinking about the world of wine. She isn’t afraid to discuss off-the-beaten-path regions, varieties, winemakers, pairings and tastes. She is a phenomenal graphic designer to boot, and she regularly creates amazing infographics to help explain the topics she covers on the site.
She and Justin have just come out with their first book based on the content from Wine Folly, but with over 200 new infographics demystifiying everything from food-wine pairings, serving tips, variety profiles and more. It looks plain gorgeous, and those genius graphics help make some complicated ideas very simple and, dare I say it, palatable. I would definitely suggest this book for the folks in your life just starting out with wine and who are more visual learners. It should also make a great coffee-table book par excellence thanks to the sharp, colorful design.
The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil, $18.60, Out October 1, 2015
Along with Jancis Robinson, I actually got to meet Karen MacNeil at that same wine symposium last year, and she is as engaging and accessible in person as her writing is. Her original Wine Bible has been one of my favorite wine books for years now, and I often give it as a gift to friends interested in wine because it is such a fantastic resource. Karen has just released a second edition about 10 years after the first, into which she has put five solid years of work and included dozens of new regions (including Japan and India!) and sections.
I honestly can’t say enough nice things about this book. Not only does she cover the classic regions with both precise expertise and clear explanations, but she also includes tons of fun facts, trivia, history, anecdotes and more. Some of the features I most appreciate include lists of suggested wines from each region, a thorough glossary with many commonly used terms explained, and helpful hints on everything from choosing the right stemware to reading bottle labels from various countries.
Whether you’re just getting into wine, or have years of experience and knowledge under your belt, I think this is a great addition to your personal library. Best of all, it’s under $20!