Best Books on Wine
There are so, so very many good, great and fantastic books on the subject. Here is a list of the ones that I find particularly useful, insightful or entertaining.
General Reference – The Must-Haves
There are three, all of them benchmarks. If anyone asks “what are the best wine books,” here they are:
The Oxford Companion to Wine – Jancis Robinson and Julia Harding, Fourth Edition 2015, Oxford University Press
Nothing else comes close, this is an encyclopedic reference for all things wine. It is also, quite literally, the textbook for the WSET Diploma. While specialist books will contain far more information about some of the topics covered, you will find that many of the entries in the Oxford Companion have been written by the same authors who are responsible for those specialist books you are looking at. If you own only one book on wine, make it this one.
The World Atlas of Wine – Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson, Seventh Edition 2013, Octopus Publishing Group
Far more than a mere collection of maps – although that would actually be enough, considering the superb quality and detail of the maps. Nearly every wine region in the world is included, with important information on each and every one. Indispensable for coming to grips with the lay of the land, wherever that land might be.
Wine Grapes – Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding and José Vouillamoz, 2012, Penguin Books
‘Monumental’ is the word to describe this reference work on 1,368 varieties of vine. The latest DNA analysis and historical research are employed to illuminate vine origins, parentage, viticultural characteristics, where it is grown and how the wine tastes. You will find all of the known synonyms for every variety, and much more besides. There are also beautiful colour illustrations of 78 individual varieties.
The Wines of France – Jacqueline Friedrich, 2006, Ten Speed Press
One of my favourite books on France or, indeed, on wine. Every region and appellation is discussed, every style examined. Thousands of producers are listed, with specific wines mentioned. An entertaining, insightful and – above all – very useful book, if you can track it down. Now already getting a bit old, but still an excellent reference.
Oz Clarke’s Bordeaux – Oz Clarke, 2006, Westers International Publishers
Oz Clarke’s writing style is clear, enjoyable and informative. This book is a very good overview of Bordeaux and includes write-ups on hundreds of producers.
Bordeaux: Médoc & Graves – Stephen Brook, 2006, Mitchell Beazley (Octopus Publishing Group)
Difficult to find a better reference for the “left bank” than this one, from a legend of the wine world. It remains one of the most important references for the region, and deserves to be regarded as such.
The Wines of Burgundy – Clive Coates MW, 2008, University of California Press
Burgundy appellations are confusing to nearly everybody who hasn’t spent a lot of time in the region or drinking their way through the wines. This book is an extraordinary compendium of the villages, appellations, producers, wines and vintages. Daunting, yes, but it could hardly be otherwise and still be able to supply everything that you need in just one book. In spite of its considerable heft and dense subject matter, it is an enjoyable read.
Christie’s World Encyclopedia of Champagne and Sparkling Wine – Tome Stevenson and Essi Avellan MW, 2014, Sterling Epicure
The sections on sparkling wine production generally and Champagne in particular – including entries on many, many producers and their wines – are extremely good. But that level of detail is not maintained for all of the other sparkling wines of the world.
South-West France (such as Cahors, Madiran and so on)
South-West France: the Wines and Winemakers – Paul Strang, 2009, University of California Press
There are, sadly, not many books written on this fascinating corner of France and the oft extremely-structured wines it produces. So much the better that this is a well-written book offering a good level of detail, including descriptions of many producers.
Southern France (Languedoc, Roussillon, Provence, Corsica)
The Wines of the South of France – Rosemary George, 2003, Mitchell Beazley (Octopus Publishing Group)
So much has happened in the South of France since this wonderful book was last updated. Clearly, a revised edition is sorely needed – but to understand the styles of wine, the culture and to get an idea of the surprising diversity of the South, this is the best book I have read. And Rosemary George has a wonderful, enjoyable writing style that is, nevertheless, packed full of information.