The best storytelling books about how history has influenced wines

Sarah Rowlands Author Of The Periodic Table of Wine
By Sarah Rowlands

Who am I?

I became intensely interested in wine while working in a Michelin Star kitchen where understanding how flavours work together, developing nuances in my palate, and an interesting wine list combine. Enthusiasm and passion led to success in wine examinations at the highest levels, working in wine retail, travelling the globe visiting amazing vineyards, and wineries, meeting iconic winemakers, influential vineyards managers, as well as other luminaries in the world of wine. The greatest benefit being many new friends and lifelong special memories. Along with the wine tastings I give, The Periodic Table of Wine is a way to share discovering wine and the joy it brings to new audiences.

I wrote...

The Periodic Table of Wine

By Sarah Rowlands,

Book cover of The Periodic Table of Wine

What is my book about?

The Periodic Table of Wine is sold globally to wine drinkers looking for adventure as well as beginner sommeliers starting out on their careers. Designed as a fun and quick way to give wine lovers more confidence in picking different wines they enjoy without being intimidated? The easy-to-use table, in an accessible pictorial format, shows how different wines relate, guiding you to new wines to discover and love.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Vineyard at the End of the World: Maverick Winemakers and the Rebirth of Malbec

Why did I love this book?

Today Argentina along with her malbec wines are held in high regard. It wasn’t always this way. This is a pacey rich journey through four centuries telling how ‘wine is not just a drink, it’s a story’. Full of characters, anecdotes, wine, business…Argentine style…like the hospital stay where a doctor’s recommendation is the best bottle of wine on the hospital’s café menu.

By Ian Mount,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Vineyard at the End of the World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As wine connoisseurs know, Argentine wine was once famously bad. The grapes were overwatered, harvested in brutal heat, fermented in enormous cement pools, aged in antiquated oak vats, and then watered down and adulterated. The final product was industrial plonk, drinkable only on ice. But in 2001, a Cabernet Sauvignon / Malbec blend beat Napa and Bordeaux's finest in a blind taste test. Suddenly, Argentina emerged as a premier wine region with a champion varietal-what best-selling author Benjamin Wallace calls "the humble Malbec." How did this happen?

Ian Mount's vivid journey through Argentina's Wild West explores the alchemy of weather,…

Book cover of Phylloxera: How Wine Was Saved for the World

Why did I love this book?

An entertaining story of how the mystery of why vines were withering and dying in swathes in the late 19th century was solved. Campbell brings these ugly miniscule root munching girls interestingly to life by intertwining amusing yarns of the sometimes eccentric methods and people of the time involved in the eventual discovery of the solution to the dying vines.

By Christy Campbell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Phylloxera as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A historical investigation into the mysterious bug that wiped out the vineyards of France and Europe in the 1860s - and how one young botanist eventually 'saved wine for the world'.

In the early 1860s, vines in the lower Rhone valley, and then around Bordeaux, inexplicably began to wither and die. Panic seized France, and Jules-Emile Planchon, a botanist from Montpellier, was sent to investigate. Magnifying glass in hand, he discovered the roots of a dying vine covered in microscopic yellow insects. The tiny aphid would be named Phylloxera vastatrix - 'the dry leaf devastator'. Where it had come from…

Book cover of Judgment of Paris: Judgment of Paris

Why did I love this book?

An inspiring story of how prejudice in the wine world was brought into focus which started a revolution in the way wines from around the world are viewed. It uncovers the people and places involved in shattering conventional wisdom and demonstrating that exceptional wines can be produced in many countries. So well told is this story, that it inspired the film Bottle Shock.

By George M. Taber,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Judgment of Paris as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The only reporter present at the mythic Paris Tasting of 1976-a blind tasting where a panel of esteemed French judges chose upstart California wines over France's best-for the first time introduces the eccentric American winemakers and records the tremendous aftershocks of this historic event that changed forever the world of wine.

The Paris Tasting of 1976 will forever be remembered as the landmark event that transformed the wine industry. At this legendary contest-a blind tasting-a panel of top French wine experts shocked the industry by choosing unknown California wines over France's best.

George M. Taber, the only reporter present, recounts…

Book cover of Wine and War: The French, the Nazis, and the Battle for France's Greatest Treasure

Why did I love this book?

You don’t need to know about wine or WWII to enjoy the story of how French wine was ingeniously protected from pillaging Germans during the Occupation. It reads like a war movie, about wine. Some anecdotes with a touch of James Bond about them, with others more Allo Allo. Sadly, the heroism involved continues to this day, but now with Lebanese wine producers. Indeed, there is another more recent book covering this very topic too.

By Don Kladstrup, Petie Kladstrup,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Wine and War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the vineyards, wine caves, and cellars of France as war and occupation came to the country winemakers acted heroically not only to save the best wines but to defend their way of life.

These are the true stories of vignerons who sheltered Jewish refugees in their cellars and of winemakers who risked their lives to aid the resistance. They made chemicals in secret laboratories to fuel the resistance and fled from the Gestapo when arrests became imminent.

There were treacheries too, as some of the nation's winemakers supported the Vichy regime or the Germans themselves and collaborated.

Donald Kladstrup…

Book cover of Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition

Why did I love this book?

Americans have quite a different relationship with alcohol compared to Europeans. This book uncovers the background of how Prohibition came about, how influences other than alcohol were key, along with the ingenuity of people on both sides of the debate to put their case or dodge the restrictions. Full of stories that explore the men, indomitable women, bootleggers, and economic as well as social forces and hypocrisy involved in the establishment and eventual repeal of Prohibition laws across America.

By Daniel Okrent,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Last Call as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A brilliant, authoritative, and fascinating history of America’s most puzzling era, the years 1920 to 1933, when the US Constitution was amended to restrict one of America’s favorite pastimes: drinking alcoholic beverages.

From its start, America has been awash in drink. The sailing vessel that brought John Winthrop to the shores of the New World in 1630 carried more beer than water. By the 1820s, liquor flowed so plentifully it was cheaper than tea. That Americans would ever agree to relinquish their booze was as improbable as it was astonishing.

Yet we did, and Last Call is Daniel Okrent’s dazzling…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in France, wine, and drinking?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about France, wine, and drinking.

France Explore 825 books about France
Wine Explore 51 books about wine
Drinking Explore 13 books about drinking