The best books for those who like wine

Kathleen Burk Author Of Is This Bottle Corked? The Secret Life of Wine
By Kathleen Burk

The Books I Picked & Why

Essential Winetasting: The Complete Practical Winetasting Course

By Michael Schuster

Book cover of Essential Winetasting: The Complete Practical Winetasting Course

Why this book?

I began my education in wine in small classes run by Michael Schuster; this book is the next best thing. The title makes it sound a bit tedious, but it’s not. Inside is the key – ‘Taste with your head, and drink with your heart.' It is a bit depressing to hear someone say that ‘I don’t know about wine, but I know what I like’ – it sounds as though the speaker is embracing ignorance. Rather, it should be ‘this is a wine that I like and this is why.’ Besides, what could be more fun than learning about wine: it’s both intellectually interesting and tastes so good! Using this book, you can do it alone or – even more fun - with friends. 


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Vineyard Tales: Reflections on Wine

By Gerald Asher

Book cover of Vineyard Tales: Reflections on Wine

Why this book?

Gerald Asher is a wine writer who is celebrated for his range, his knowledge, his ability to see below the surface of things, and his compelling writing style. This book of essays about wine is one of my favourites, ranging as it does from wines with food, in which he goes in unexpected directions, to whether or not and how to decant wines, to drinking wine in Greece surrounded by the gods, to wines from Portugal and California and Oregon and Italy and France. He takes me to places I’ve never been and to wines I’ve never drunk, all with no effort on my part. Along the way, I learn and I enjoy. What a pleasurable book!


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In the Vine Country

By Edith Somerville, Martin Ross

Book cover of In the Vine Country

Why this book?

This is fiction masquerading as non-fiction. Published in 1893 but now re-published – do try to get a copy with the original illustrations – the story is about two upper-class female cousins from Ireland who receive a letter commanding them to go to Bordeaux to tour the vineyards. They know nothing about wine, except that a glass and a half of Château Lafite caused one of the cousins to snore quietly over her dessert. Nor do they know about Bordeaux or how to use the Kodak camera they were given to take photographs. Nevertheless, off they go, two intrepid young women braving the French hotel-keepers, the carts, the country people, and the owners. It is witty, historic now, and fun to read.


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Hugh Johnson's The Story of Wine

By Hugh Johnson

Book cover of Hugh Johnson's The Story of Wine

Why this book?

Hugh Johnson is one of the most famous, and certainly the best-selling, of all the world’s wine writers. This book was first published in 1989 and has held the field ever since. It’s a glorious sweep of the history of wine from the beginning to about thirty years ago, with masses of illustrations, which is one of the glories of the book. A new edition was published in 2020, which brings it up to the present, but it lacks maps and illustrations. On the other hand, he hints at what he thinks about scoring wines by numbers: he’s not keen, preferring sniffing and tasting and then using stars to indicate the quality. What, after all, is the perceived difference between a 91 wine and a 92? And why start at 50?


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The Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding

Book cover of The Oxford Companion to Wine

Why this book?

If I had to choose only one wine book to own and use, this would be it. It contains thousands of entries of varying lengths and complexity, all clearly written: do you want to know where the wines of Cadillac come from and what they taste like in fewer than a hundred words? Here it is. If you want to know how climate change is affecting vines and wines around the world, its three big pages will tell you. What is the wine called PX? Would you like to know all about California and its wines? France? China? What is biodynamic agriculture? Who are the most famous wine writers and what did they write about? Almost anything you might want to know about a wine-related subject is in this book. There is nothing else like it.


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