Wine Books as Gifts: Mary's Recommendations for the Holidays

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I love wine books. I buy them all the time and always have a few on my wish list for when the holidays come around. This week I thought I would tell you a little about some of my favorites that I think would make excellent holiday gifts.

Wine books are lovely gifts. As well as being enjoyable, they can be incredibly educational, enabling you to travel cross the globe to the many diverse wine regions, exploring them in the context of history, culture, climate, terroir, viticultural and winemaking practices as well as getting to know the faces and people behind many of the world’s greatest as well as lesser known wines.

This is not an exhaustive list, nor in-depth reviews of each book, rather it is a short overview of each, as well as reasons why it is on my list of gift recommendations.

  • The World Atlas of Wine (7th Edition) by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson, $35.49 on Amazon: Obviously Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson need no introductions as two of the world's finest and most established wine writers. This 7th edition is completely updated with so many more maps and new wine areas covered. I was so excited to buy this new edition that I actually (accidentally) bought it twice! So someone near and dear is getting a copy for Christmas this year.

    I have all the editions of this book. It is amazing to look back at the earlier editions and see how coverage of the world of wine has evolved. The United States (and not just California) gets a fine spread of pages and maps in this new edition, as does China, Australia and the emerging (or rather re-emerging) wine areas of Central and Eastern Europe. This is really a beautiful and authoritative wine reference book. Maps make it so much easier to understand the world of wine.

  • Complete Wine Selector – How to Choose the Right Wine Every Time by Catherine Cole (foreword by Huge Johnson), $28.94 on Amazon: So many people will love this book. Aesthetically, it is very contemporary and appealing to the eye. Bright and colorful it is a well written and easy to understand (without dumbing down) guide to choosing wine. In section one, the chapters are broken down by wine style. Examples include a chapter on crisp, lean whites, a chapter on lively, aromatic whites and so on for five chapters and five different white wine styles. There is also a chapter on rosé wines and four chapters on the different styles of red wine.

    Later sections of the book cover tips on buying wine, serving and drinking wine, viti/vini made simple as well as suggestions for food and wine pairing. While there is nothing radically new in the information contained in this book, its strength is in its presentation, its illustrations and photographs, which collectively bring everything to life. This is a very lovely and user-friendly wine book book.

  • Pomerol by Neal Martin, £50 (direct form author’s website): This was my first wine book purchase of 2013. And while I occasionally sit down and read it for an hour or so, I use it more as a reference book, to dip in and out of on the subject of Pomerol. It is packed full of facts and figures. This was a much-needed Bordeaux wine book. Of course there are lots of books written on Bordeaux, but this is the first one that focuses exclusively on the tiny right bank appellation of Pomerol. I love the fact that it goes way beyond the great names of Pétrus and Le Pin.

    The book starts off charting the history of the region, discussing the terroir, the grape varieties planted as well as the typical viticultural and winemaking practices. Part two delivers detailed profiles on 44 producer estates. Other producers not profiled in detail get a paragraph description in the third section, along with a vintage guide going back to 1945.

  • The Wine Savant – A Guide to the New Wine Culture by Michael Steinberger,
    $17.40 from Amazon: A guide book of sorts, not necessarily a comprehensive view of the wine world, but more of a reflection of Mike’s personal view of today’s wine world. First and foremost, Michael Steinberger is a wonderful writer. Noted for his satire, wit and investigative style, Mike takes nothing for granted. I felt this was an honest book written from the heart (with perhaps a little ego thrown in).

    In the book Mike makes no apologies for being an oenophile, and like Terry Theise in Reading Between the Wines questions why we feel the need to dumb down or excuse wine’s complexity. The Wine Savant is well thought out, and well balanced in terms of its arguments for and against certain assumptions and is written in a very practical as well as analytical tone. Well worth a read.

  • The New California Wine - A Guide to the Producers and Wines Behind a Revolution in Taste by Jon Bonné, $21 from Amazon: this book is not just a well written and enjoyable read, it really is an eye-opener to the major mind-shift that has been evolving in California wine country over the past 20 years. Today terroir is king. In the books Jon recounts how a growing group of young, innovative wine producers are seeking out the best soils and microclimates in their quest to make exceptional wines. The books gives us endearing and personal insights into many of these people, charting their stories and voyages to wine and to California.

  • Canadian Wineries by Tony Aspler (and photography by Jean-François Bergeron), $22.55 from Amazon: I wanted to like this book form the get-go. Firstly, I like it because it was about Canadian wine and wineries, which made a nice change. Secondly, as I read through the book, I was enthralled by the content. Author Tony Aspler is considered one of Canada’s leading wine authorities. By teaming up with renowned photographer Jean- François Bergeron, an extra layer is added. The photographs really make you want to go and visit the wine regions.

    This book is beautifully presented. The chapters are broken down by wine region covering British Columbia, Ontario (with an extra little chapter on the famous icewine), Québec and Nova Scotia. The book also introduces us to the people, their families and passion behind the wine. This is a great book for anyone planning on visiting any of the Canadian wine regions.

Of course this is by no means a complete list of all the worthwhile wine books available. Two still on my Santa wish list are Inventing Wine: A New History of One of the World's Most Ancient Pleasures by Paul Lukacs and The Champagne Guide 2014-2015 by Tyson Stelzer. I keep hoping!

Happy Holidays everyone!

(Image credits: Mary Gorman-McAdams)

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