Inevitably, a whole flood of wine-related books is timed to capture the lucrative Christmas market. Here’s a run-down on some that have landed on my desk. There’s a link to Amazon UK against most titles, and buying via such a link earns wine-pages a small commission.
Inside Burgundy – iPad edition
Author: Jasper Morris
Publisher: Berry Bros & Rudd
Price: £14.99 from iTunes app store.
buy the book from Berry Bros for £50.00
Jasper Morris’s magisterial Inside Burgundy was published in 2010. The fruit of over 30 years’ worth of insider knowledge, the book soon became an essential source for those interested in exploring the region’s wines in greater depth – with one caveat. Anyone intent on physical exploration of Burgundy would have to tote two kilos of book with them. Now, Berry Bros has reissued the book in five volumes specially adapted for the iPad platform. Wine-pages’ columnist Natasha Hughes recently evaluated the first instalment – on the Côte de Beaune – and says “the interactivity afforded by this iPad version certainly brings something extra to the party. While a book offers the reader glorious full-colour photos, it can’t feature interactive maps or videos that allow Morris to explain the quality factors that pertain to certain vineyards in greater depth. As you read through the text, you can also add your own comments or tasting notes, allowing you to add personalised layers of complexity to the already thorough text.” The hard-back book is £50 from Berry Bros.
Life’s Too Short to Drink Bad Wine
Author: Simon Hoggart
buy at Amazon for £8.31 with free delivery
This is the second edition of this wine guide from the well-known wine and political writer Simon Hoggart. It’s an individual and often quirky look at the world of wine as Hoggart chooses exactly 100 examples to recommend, There are only 10 all new examples in this edition, so those who bought the first one might like to hold fire for #3, but otherwise it is thoroughly enjoyable: his ‘reviews’ of the wines are eclectic and amusing, interspersed with asides that often blossom into full-blown essays on various matters vinous. It’s not so much a wine guide as series of anecdotes, opinions and amusing sketches based around his 100 favourite bottles.
Authors: Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding, José Vouillamoz
Publisher: Allen Lane
buy at Amazon for £84.00 with free delivery
The most magnum of magna opera, this 1,280-page brand new work is subtitled “A complete guide to 1,368 vine varieties, including their origins and flavours.” Jancis Robinson and her right-hand woman and fellow Master of Wine Julia Harding have put an enormous amount of research into this text book, ably assisted by renowned grape geneticist Dr José Vouillamoz. The book is above all an academic work, with the authoritative text and lovely illustrations reminiscent of a great, scholarly botanical book of the 19th century with its full colour plates. It’s true that 21st century ampelographic techniques might lie behind the clarity with which the grape varieties are identified and described, but the overall effect is of a timeless classic.
Bordeaux St Estephe
Author: David Copp
buy at Amazon for £9.99 with free delivery
This is a self-published book from David Copp, who has spent a lifetime working in the wine trade and in wine journalism, and who has a particular love for the relatively unsung Bordeaux commune of St Estephe. Perhaps it is because I once had a wonderful week’s holiday in a gîte, on a wine estate in the commune where I got to know its sleepy byways very well, but I really warmed to this book. Copp captures the tranquillity of the area, and more than that, his infectious enthusiasm for the Châteaux, both the highly-regarded stars and the almost unknown minor estates, leaps from every page. It’s a labour of self-published love and whilst of minority interest arguably, really is an important work for this region and a good one too.
My Top Wines for 2013
Author: Oz Clarke
buy at Amazon for £5.59 with free delivery
The Oz Clarke machine rolls on with his best-selling Pocket Wine Book 2013 of course (£11.99, but £5.28 from Amazon), and this small paperback in which Oz chooses and recommends a couple of hundred wines. It is unashamedly populist, as its focus is on wines priced from £3 to £30, so I find it hard to believe this really is a definitive list of his favourite wines. But nonetheless, many will enjoy the lists of top 50 whites and reds, top 50 around £6 and so on and its shape and price makes it a perfect stocking filler.
The Winegrowers’ Handbook
Authors: Belinda Kemp and Emma Rice
buy at Amazon for £6.86 with free delivery
A book that will be of minority interest I am sure, as it is a handbook for those wishing to set up a vineyard and or winery in the UK. That means readers are likely to be very serious about this subject which is a good thing, because presumably they will be forgiving of the rather lumpen writing style and huge litany of typos and errors in what must be a self-published title. Despite that, the knowledgeable authors (a PhD in Viticulture and lecturer at Plumpton College, and a winemaker running her own custom crush business) do cram useful information into the densely-packed pages, not just on growing and making wine, but on marketing and handling the business aspects of running a vineyard or winery too. A curate’s egg, but there’s a lot to commend.
Editor: John Livingstone-Learmonth
Publisher: Bottin Gourmand
buy FRENCH edition at Amazon for £28.61 with free delivery
A book which currently appears only in its French edition on Amazon UK. However the English edition can be ordered from gigondas-vin.com for €39 with delivery within Europe for an extra €5. This is another minority interest title perhaps, but the diametric opposite of The Winegrower’s Handbook being a very high production value, full-colour, large hard-back with sumptuous use of photography and weighing in with almost 500 pages. Published in France, it is massively detailed, with contributors from France and around the world contributing not only estate profiles and wine tasting notes, but all sorts of historical, technical and scientific background. The reviewed English edition strikes me as written in English rather than French with translation.
The Good Food Guide 2013
Editor: Elizabeth Carter
Publisher: The Good Food Guide
buy at Amazon for £11.51 with free delivery
Of course the first thing you do when opening this book is immediately find your local region, so you can spend the first half-hour flicking through and tutting, sighing and wringing your hands over all the things they’ve got ‘wrong’ – the good restaurants they’ve missed out, and the poor ones they’ve reviewed in glowing terms. That’s the curse and the joy of all restaurant guides of course, but it is also half the fun of reading them. Now in its 62nd year, this venerable UK guide bases its reviews and recommendations on research carried out by an army of unnamed but qualified contributors. It does not accept advertising or sponsorship and all meals are paid for, so though you may disagree with some entries, we must assume they are presented honestly and that still makes it a useful and, for the foodie, absorbing read.
Best Wines in the Supermarkets 2013
Author: Ned Halley
Publisher: W Foulsham & Co
buy at Amazon for £6.79 with free delivery
Ned Halley has been publishing this annual guide for a few years now. I confess that when I reviewed the first edition I was sceptical about whether a guide to inexpensive bottles on supermarket shelves could possibly survive in these online days when so many up-to-the-minute reviews and recommendations are available. But survive it has, and now it is backed up by its own website (a password for which is contained within the book) which I guess extends its usefulness. Halley has a witty and occasionally waspish style, which readers will enjoy.
1001 Wines You Must Try Before You Die
Editor: Neil Beckett
buy at Amazon for £10 with free delivery
This is the most recent edition of this book, though it has actually been out for a year. However, the good news is that at its half-price tenner on Amazon it is still a very worthwhile buy with almost 1000 pages of content. I’m not a huge fan of the ‘bucket list’ craze and plethora of ‘…before you die’ titles that have covered almost every subject under the sun in the past few years, but at least this one is well done. It has a small army of contributors (well, 44) but those included real experts such as Michael Edwards on Champagne or Huon Hooke on Australia. Each wine has a label and short description and amongst the 1001 there is real diversity and some nicely obscure choices crop up.