Gift Guide for Wine-Lovers: Deeply Enjoyable Wine Books

2011 Food & Cooking Gift Guide

Thanksgiving is over, and so the holiday season is upon us. I love books, all books — but particularly wine books. Not just the technical academic books, but especially the wine books that tell stories, that recount history, that give us insights into the people and passion behind the wines.

If you are looking for some good book ideas for your wine-loving friends, here are some of my favorite reads this year.

TOP ROW

1 The Widow Clicquot - The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It by Tilar J. Mazzeo, $10.87 at Amazon (Kindle version for $9.99): A beautifully written and fascinating read. Tilar Mazzeo is a cultural historian and this is strongly reflected in the research and detail of this book. This book charts the life, trials, tribulations, ingenuity and unflagging determination of Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin, the famed 'Grande Dame' of Champagne, as she grows their small wine business into one of the most successful Champagne Houses of all times, through difficult political, economic and financial times.
2 A Vineyard in My Glass by Gerald Asher, $19.77 from Amazon (Kindle version for $16.17): A compelling compilation of wine essays by Gerald Asher, acclaimed international wine merchant, writer and author. The essays reflect his philosophy that every wine tasted is in fact 'a vineyard in his glass' - the pleasure not solely derived from the physical elements in the glass, but from the total environment from whence it came. A thoughtful, provocative journey through the wines of France, Italy, Spain, Germany and California.
3 Summer in a Glass - The Coming of Age of Winemaking in the Fingerlakes by Evan Dawson, $10.98 at Amazon: I had this book for a while before delving in. What a read. Evan Dawson is a truly gifted writer and his eloquent prose draws you in from the first page. The book is written in the form of several, beautifully written personal stories. Heartfelt stories about the winemakers of this challenging cool climate wine region in upstate New York, their lives, their passions, their dreams and most important their collective spirit and belief in their wines.
4 Naked Wine: Letting Grapes do What Comes Naturally by Alice Feiring, $15.57 at Amazon: A provocative narrative, from one of our most prolific natural wine advocates and writers. This book strongly reflects Alice's philosophy about wine, and her quest for the natural, pure, unmanipulated wines. As she states on her website; "I'm hunting the Leon Trotskys, the Philip Roths, the Chaucers and the Edith Whartons of the wine world. I want them natural and most of all, I want them to speak the truth even if we argue." Whether you agree or not with everything Alice says, this book is beautifully written, funny, inspiring, passionate and above all personal and tenacious in its viewpoint. I loved it.
5 Authentic Wine - Toward Natural and Sustainable Winemaking by Jamie Goode and Sam Harrop, MW, $19.77 at Amazon: Another book on the 'hot' topic of natural wine. Less of a personal journey and more of a thorough, detailed analysis about what constitutes a natural wine. The authors explore sustainable, organic and biodynamic practices in relation to natural wine, why and how winemakers 'intervene" in the process, as well as looking at the whole 'natural wine movement'. A very well written and useful book with a long shelf life. Once read, it is one to dip in and out of regularly.

BOTTOM ROW

6 Reading Between the Wines by Terry Theise, $12.21 at Amazon (Kindle version for $ 9.87): Now available in paperback, I reviewed the hardcover version about a year ago. I am still as fond of this personal narrative from Terry Theise, who for almost thirty years, has been the champion and importer of some of the most wonderful boutique wines from Austria, Germany and Champagne. Reading Between the Wines is delightfully philosophical and showcases Terry's life and love affair with wine. It draws you in as a thinker, makes you wonder and it even compels you to argue back at times.
7 In Search of Pinot Noir by Benjamin Lewin, MW, $29.60 at Amazon: A prolific writer and thinker, I often wonder how Ben has the time to write so many deeply researched and meaningful books. Well, he has done it again. A must read for any Pinot Noir lover, who wants to really understand this erratic, idiosyncratic grape that produces some of the world's most beautiful, and most loved wines. The prose is engaging. It challenges accepted wisdom, provokes new thinking and makes comparisons about how and where Pinot Noir best thrives. Above all it is beautifully written.

All of these books are available from Amazon.com, your local independent bookstore, and your public library.

Until next week happy shopping and good reading!

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(Images: Mary Gorman-McAdams; publishers via Amazon)

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