You can find a wealth of wine knowledge on the Internet. You can listen to books on your iPod or even read them on your cell phone, but there's something about the heft and feel of the real deal. Few things are better than curling up with a good book, letting the words take you away. When it comes to wine, hundreds of new titles are released each year, but only a favorite few have found a home on my bookshelf. If you have a wine lover who loves to read (or you want to give yourself a little something), here are four suggestions:
The Oxford Companion to Wine, third edition, Jancis Robinson, editor
A hefty volume that is an indispensable reference guide to everything wine. You'll find entries on a wide range of subjects from sunlight, "the ultimate energy source of all life and of wine itself," to obscure grape varieties like Txakoli's Hondarribbi Zuri. You probably won't sit down and read it cover to cover, but it will help make you an instant wine expert. Pricey at $65 retail, but good deals abound.
World Atlas of Wine, sixth edition, Hugh Johnson & Jancis Robinson
If you're like me and want to know the "where" in a visual sense, as well the verbal, the latest edition of this classic is a must. It's another expensive tome ($50—again look for deals), but an absolutely gorgeous volume with lots of color and two-page spreads.
Adventures on the Wine Route: A Wine Buyers Tour of France, Kermit Lynch
Written some 20 years ago, this is still one of the more pleasurable reads about wine and all that goes with a love for the fermented grape. Kermit Lynch is a wine importer with a keen sense, admirable candor and an easy-reading, relaxed style. The venerable M.F.K. Fisher called it "one of the pleasantest and truest books about wine I've ever read."
Red, White and Drunk All Over, Natalie MacLean
If the politically incorrect title upsets you, may I suggest following moderation in all things, including moral indignation. The reviews of this book suggest it's a great read: thoroughly irreverent while being surprisingly informative. MacLean is a winner of the M.F.K. Fisher Distinguished Writing Award—good enough for me. This is the one I hope to find under my tree (if we ever get around to buying a tree this year).