But this pretty gentle pruning is indicative of Jancis' insightful respect for great Riesling: others would surely have cut Germany's coverage yet further in light of its current unpopularity among wine drinkers. Another change is that Hugh begins his Spanish coverage with Sherry; it's now stuck behind the table wines. Still with Europe, we find that Austria has grown a little, in Hungary I'd question whether Tokaji still deserves a double-page spread, and Central and Eastern Europe have been updated to reflect the political changes there.
The new world has been extensively rewritten, but the space devoted to it hasn't really expanded. As a result, it still feels a bit too condensed. The USA coverage stays much the same size, Chile gets an extra page and Argentina gets one of its own; Australia gets two extra; and New Zealand and South Africa stay the same 2 and 4 pages, respectively. To reflect accurately the modern wine world, there really needs to be more space for all these countries. It's a book that has utility both as a reference work, and also as a well written reading book that can be dipped into at leisure.
My final thought: let's hope that when the time comes for the next edition that geography will still be just as important in the wine world as it has been in the past. Go to the Amazon. If you want evidence of how much the world of wine has changed over the last decade, then compare this long-awaited update of Tom Stevenson's Sotheby's Wine Encyclopedia with the second edition, published 10 years ago in Overall, this Encyclopedia is a remarkable achievement.
Fully illustrated with plenty of maps and photographs, there's a wealth of information here that successfully bridges the gap between the needs of the hardened geek and the enquiring beginner. The first 50 pages provide fairly standard reference material on subjects such as how wine is made, tasting techniques and grape varieties.
The rest of the book takes us on a tour of the wine regions of the world. The prime focus is on appellations: after a general introduction, each region and subregion is described in detail, with a selection of the leading producers highlighted. Producer profiles are included for some of the key regions; to me, this is one of the most useful features, and I wish there could have been more. Each section includes a selection of the author's favourite wines from that region, adding a personal voice that doesn't interfere with attempted objectivity elsewhere.
Throughout, Stevenson writes entertainingly and clearly; he's not afraid of expressing strong opinions where necessary, but when he does, they always seem to be defensible. Take, for instance, his views on how German wines can improve their tarnished image, and his suggested way forward for the English wine industry.
I've spent the last few days browsing effortlessly through this book, and although I've only really scratched the surface, it has already become an indispensable reference source. I imagine a lot of interesting material never made it into the final pages, and my only regret is that we don't have access to this. I'd be particularly keen on more producer profiles.
As an aside, the almost-simultaneous publication of the latest edition of Hugh Johnson's Wine Atlas now under Jancis Robinson's wing should set up an interesting head-to-head. Many wine geeks will probably end up buying both. On this evidence, the Sotheby's Wine Encyclopedia will be hard to beat. Few would disagree with the assertion that the South of France is one of the most happening places on the wine map. It's also one of the fastest-changing, so this book is a much-needed navigational aid for fans of this dynamic region.
It's a substantial, bulky work of more than pages, dealing comprehensively with the wines of the Roussillon, Languedoc, Provence and Corsica. Logically laid out, the different sub regions and communes are covered chapter by chapter, with the key producers in each profiled in detail. George has clearly done a tremendous amount of research which must have been great fun , and the coverage is pretty comprehensive. It's not just about wine: there's plenty of historical and cultural context, too, and the text paints a vivid picture of the country and people behind the wines.
There's a lot of discussion about the dynamic state of flux in region is in, with ambitious young producers replacing complacent vignerons, and moribund cooperatives being revitalized. Throughout, there's a great sense of optimism and hope, only partially dampened by the unwieldy officialdom of the INAO.
Overall, it's a superb work. However, I have a few slight frustrations and bear in mind that these are just minor criticisms of an otherwise fantastic book. First, the format. It's a lengthy book, with the text broken up only by the odd black-and-white map. You get the feeling that a creative editor with more of a budget could have really done something spectacular with George's research and writing. As it is, the book isn't quite sure of what it's trying to be. Is it a reference work, or is it trying to tell a story? As a reference work its failing is that it's not laid out in an accessible enough format.
You need to dig through the text pretty hard to find what you are looking for. And the producer profiles are just a little too short on detail; the tasting notes rather too sketchy. And as a 'reading' book, the huge scope of the work and relentless detail means it's not an easy book to read cover-to-cover, despite George's fluent writing style.
And I suspect it's too much to ask for some photographs…? I would also have liked to see more strongly expressed opinions -- more infectious enthusiasm and passion.
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George rarely lets on that she's excited by the wines that she tastes, and hides what you'd suspect is genuine enthusiasm behind somewhat neutral, dispassionate prose. Despite these frustrations which I guess are mainly with the Faber format, but credit to them -- who else would have commissioned this?
Most wine geeks will be familiar with the Oxford Companion to Wine, the second edition of which was released back in Along with Hugh Johnson's Wine Atlas, this is one of the classic texts that should be on every wine lover's bookshelf. Well, the concise wine companion has some of the entries from the Oxford Companion included in its pages, and from leafing through the entries it's hard to see what's missing -- there are no noticeable omissions the preface mentions that only two subject areas -- distilled and fortified wine -- that have been omitted or substantially cut.
The cross-referenced entries are well enough written, in a semi-formal, economical and precise 'lexicographer-speak' language to make casual browsing worthwhile. Maybe I'm an unredeemable anorak, but I spent a happy couple of hours just reading from one entry to another. So, if you already possess the Oxford Companion, should you purchase this book? I'd say yes, for one key reason -- portability. You can fit this book in your briefcase or find space for it on your desktop, whereas its hardback predecessor is an unwieldy doorstop of a book. Well, the cover design looks a bit s: it is split vertically, with a weakly smiling, slightly embarrassed-looking editor on one side and the obligatory wine glass shot on the other.
But we can forgive this, because this is such a useful, well-written book. I'm quite keen on the Mitchell Beazley Pocket Guide series. The small format is attractive and they are nicely produced. Above all, they are extremely useful books to take with you if you are visiting wine country. First published in , this is the latest updated version of the wines of Spain, penned by veteran wine writer Jan Read.
The book consists of a systematic trawl through the regions of Spain, with entries for each of the key wine producers and sub regions arranged alphabetically. Star ratings are given for both there are two parallel rating systems, with hollow stars being replaced by filled stars to indicate value for money. Within each regional section, there's also a brief guide to the local gastronomic specialities, hotels and restaurants. A thorough index finishes things off. But I do have some criticisms. First, it's very 'old school': there's lots of emphasis on the wine regulations, and not a lot of opinion or descriptions of what the wines actually taste like.
The coverage is also very even handed, where it could have done with more emphasis of the interesting producers and regions, and less on the dull ones.
And while the writing style is thorough and correct, it's not a lively enough style to sustain casual browsing: this is clearly an information source. But my biggest criticism is that I get the impression that Read doesn't really have his finger on the pulse of the latest developments in the Spanish wine scene. However, it does seem a bit mean to single Jan Read out in this regard -- it is a criticism that can be levelled at most of the English language coverage of Spanish wine.
Verdict: a useful purchase, even though it's not fully up to date. Jancis Robinson's Oxford Companion to Wine is one of the classics of modern wine publishing, and this volume, edited by Bruce Cass but with Jancis listed as consultant editor is intended as a partner volume, dealing specifically with the wines of North America. It's perhaps a little unfair to Bruce Cass that Jancis' name should be associated with this book -- her direct contribution is limited to just a couple of short essays in the first section, although of course it certainly helps to raise its profile.
The book itself is divided in two. The first 60 pages are devoted to 15 well-written, concise and essays on an eclectic range of subjects pertinent to the North American wine scene. These are quite absorbing, covering subjects as diverse as 'Commentators and the wine media', 'Microbiology in North American wine', 'North American geneticists untangle the vine variety web', and 'Cybersales and the future'.
The next odd pages consist of the A-Z entries, much in the style of the parent volume which is extensively cross-referenced. Whilst these are pretty scholarly, they are written in a style that's lively enough to make this section fun to browse through preferably glass in hand. Bruce Cass pens many of the entries, and his writing has a gentle but still-appropriate sense of humour to it; other entries are authored by a team of eight experienced contributors of different specializations.
To finish off, there's a full index that makes a useful and necessary adjunct to the alphabeticized entries a feature that books of this sort often lack. Although the majority of the book is black and white, and illustration-free, there are eight double-sided colour plates, tipped-in in pairs at four locations.
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Buy this book from amazon. The Oxford companion to wine by Jancis Robinson. Editor Jancis Robinson has called on a large team of some of the most knowledgable wine experts from around the globe to produce over alphabetically arranged entries covering all manner of wine-related topics. Comprehensive and scholarly, yet at the same time readable enough for leisurely browsing.
This is a compulsory purchase for anyone who has a serious interest in wine. The big question for those who own a copy of the first edition is whether it is worth splashing out on the newly released second edition, which has been substantially revised.
The book begins by giving some perspective, tracing the history of wine and following through with chapters on the vine, designing a vineyard, terroir, grape varieties, weather, making wine, wine tasting and serving wine. The rest and great majority of the book is concerned with putting wine firmly in its geographical context, largely by means of maps of all the main wine regions across the globe and many of the minor ones too. Superbly designed and conceived, nicely illustrated and beautifully written, it is hard to overestimate how significant an achievement this book is.
Hugh Johnson may have been around for ever, but his writing comes across as intelligent and fresh, and his perspective combines a respect for tradition with a balanced acceptance of modern trends and developments. At his best when dealing with potentially controversial issues, he always seems to give a fair and accurate precis of the issues involved. Although I've classed this book as a reference work, it makes pleasurable browsing, and is another 'must buy' for any self-respecting wine nut.
A cynic might accuse Oz Clarke and his publishers Websters of blatantly ripping off Hugh Johnson's winning formula. This book follows exactly the format of Johnson's classic 'World atlas of wine', with introductory chapters leading through to an atlas-style survey of the world of wine. I know the feeling well!
Bella Wines: Pocket Guide to the Wines of Bordeaux
Chris is the man behind the excellent website www. I have clicked on The Wine Doctor at various times, and certainly used information when researching background details for Chateaux in Bordeaux. There is a great depth of knowledge and facts on the site. I have no idea how Chris manages to keep the site up to date as well as holding down a far more important job as a real doctor in a Neonatal unit. We met at Chateau de la Riviere in Fronsac, where I wanted to show Chris the latest wines as well as to have a good look around the amazing limestone cellars.
I know the feeling well! Chris is the man behind the excellent website www. I have clicked on The Wine Doctor at various times, and certainly used information when researching background details for Chateaux in Bordeaux. There is a great depth of knowledge and facts on the site.
I have no idea how Chris manages to keep the site up to date as well as holding down a far more important job as a real doctor in a Neonatal unit. We met at Chateau de la Riviere in Fronsac, where I wanted to show Chris the latest wines as well as to have a good look around the amazing limestone cellars.