The best wine books

5 authors have picked their favorite books about wine and why they recommend each book.

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The Vineyard at the End of the World

By Ian Mount,

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

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.

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.

The Story of Wine

By Hugh Johnson,

Book cover of The Story of Wine: From Noah to Now

This bestselling book first came out long before my own global history of wine and it has gone through a number of editions as well as translations. It takes on the long history of wine ‘from Noah to Now’ in a readable, well-informed narrative – as we would expect of Hugh Johnson, who is one of the best-known English wine writers and authors. His richly illustrated book has global range and covers all the world’s wine-producing regions. It’s an excellent example of history written for a non-specialist readership and is probably the book that has done more than any other to bring history to the attention of wine lovers.


Who am I?

I’ve been passionate about wine since I was a teenager in New Zealand and I now teach and write about it, judge in wine competitions, and travel the world to visit wine regions. I teach European history and the history of food and drink at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. As a wine historian, I spend weeks each year in archives, studying everything from changes in vineyard area and the weather in specific years to the taxation of wine and patterns of wine drinking. Currently, I’m working in several French archives for a book on wine in the French Revolution. It will be my ninth wine book.


I wrote...

French Wine: A History

By Rod Phillips,

Book cover of French Wine: A History

What is my book about?

After writing a global history of wine I decided to focus on France, the world’s best-known wine country. I’m a Francophile, so writing this book – which covers more than two thousand years, from the first vineyards to the present – was an absolute pleasure. I can’t imagine how many bottles of French wine helped me complete the book, which sets out the way wine interacted with politics, economic change, revolutions, wars, and cultural shifts in France. I look at topics such as the rise of famous regions such as Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Champagne; the Church and wine; changes in vineyards and winemaking; and the regulation of wine production and consumption.

While showing how France’s winemakers survived centuries of challenges – including wars, revolutions, deadly winters, and vine diseases – my book also explodes many myths about French wine.

Vineyard Tales

By Gerald Asher,

Book cover of Vineyard Tales: Reflections on Wine

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!


Who am I?

I’m the daughter of a Californian grape farmer, and have driven tractor, picked grapes, and tied vines. Whilst at Berkeley, I travelled around Napa Valley tasting wines whilst riding pillion on a 750 cc motorcycle; at Oxford I discovered European wines. Thereafter, I was a professor of modern and contemporary history in London, writing nearly a dozen books, and continuing to explore wines with my husband. I have wine in my bones. I now travel around the world tasting it, writing about it, judging it, and leading tasting tours, all the while continuing to drink it. I am currently writing a book on the global history of wine.


I co-wrote...

Is This Bottle Corked? The Secret Life of Wine

By Kathleen Burk, Michael Bywater,

Book cover of Is This Bottle Corked? The Secret Life of Wine

What is my book about?

This is a book of fifty short essays about wine, all answering a question, and ideal for reading in the evening with a glass of port in hand. There are bits of history – ‘What was George Washington’s favourite wine?’ or ‘Did Slovenia turn the British into a nation of wine drinkers?’ Others look at literary figures – ‘Why did Omar Khayyam write so much about wine?’ or ‘What did Jane Austen recommend for heartache?’ There are big questions – ‘What is terroir, and should we care? or ‘Must you have a guru?’ or ‘Do you understand winespeak?’ But there are also small ones - ‘What is a “comet wine”?’ or ‘When should wine smell of petrol?’ And for the truly curious, there is a look at wine made from brussels sprouts. 

Hugh Johnson's The Story of Wine

By Hugh Johnson,

Book cover of Hugh Johnson's The Story of Wine

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?


Who am I?

I’m the daughter of a Californian grape farmer, and have driven tractor, picked grapes, and tied vines. Whilst at Berkeley, I travelled around Napa Valley tasting wines whilst riding pillion on a 750 cc motorcycle; at Oxford I discovered European wines. Thereafter, I was a professor of modern and contemporary history in London, writing nearly a dozen books, and continuing to explore wines with my husband. I have wine in my bones. I now travel around the world tasting it, writing about it, judging it, and leading tasting tours, all the while continuing to drink it. I am currently writing a book on the global history of wine.


I co-wrote...

Is This Bottle Corked? The Secret Life of Wine

By Kathleen Burk, Michael Bywater,

Book cover of Is This Bottle Corked? The Secret Life of Wine

What is my book about?

This is a book of fifty short essays about wine, all answering a question, and ideal for reading in the evening with a glass of port in hand. There are bits of history – ‘What was George Washington’s favourite wine?’ or ‘Did Slovenia turn the British into a nation of wine drinkers?’ Others look at literary figures – ‘Why did Omar Khayyam write so much about wine?’ or ‘What did Jane Austen recommend for heartache?’ There are big questions – ‘What is terroir, and should we care? or ‘Must you have a guru?’ or ‘Do you understand winespeak?’ But there are also small ones - ‘What is a “comet wine”?’ or ‘When should wine smell of petrol?’ And for the truly curious, there is a look at wine made from brussels sprouts. 

The Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson (editor), Julia Harding (editor),

Book cover of The Oxford Companion to Wine

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.


Who am I?

I’m the daughter of a Californian grape farmer, and have driven tractor, picked grapes, and tied vines. Whilst at Berkeley, I travelled around Napa Valley tasting wines whilst riding pillion on a 750 cc motorcycle; at Oxford I discovered European wines. Thereafter, I was a professor of modern and contemporary history in London, writing nearly a dozen books, and continuing to explore wines with my husband. I have wine in my bones. I now travel around the world tasting it, writing about it, judging it, and leading tasting tours, all the while continuing to drink it. I am currently writing a book on the global history of wine.


I co-wrote...

Is This Bottle Corked? The Secret Life of Wine

By Kathleen Burk, Michael Bywater,

Book cover of Is This Bottle Corked? The Secret Life of Wine

What is my book about?

This is a book of fifty short essays about wine, all answering a question, and ideal for reading in the evening with a glass of port in hand. There are bits of history – ‘What was George Washington’s favourite wine?’ or ‘Did Slovenia turn the British into a nation of wine drinkers?’ Others look at literary figures – ‘Why did Omar Khayyam write so much about wine?’ or ‘What did Jane Austen recommend for heartache?’ There are big questions – ‘What is terroir, and should we care? or ‘Must you have a guru?’ or ‘Do you understand winespeak?’ But there are also small ones - ‘What is a “comet wine”?’ or ‘When should wine smell of petrol?’ And for the truly curious, there is a look at wine made from brussels sprouts. 

French Wine

By Rod Phillips,

Book cover of French Wine: A History

This is the best general survey of French wine in English, from someone who not only teaches the history of modern France at his local university, but who also reviews and writes about wine for his city’s newspaper. As both an academic historian and a journalist, Phillips has written a riveting account of how wine was first introduced to France under the Romans, how many of the vineyards later came under the control of the Catholic church in the Middle Ages, how the French state attempted to control and regulate the production of wine in the nineteenth-century, and how smaller wineries are now trying to cope with the global commercialization of the wine industry. Just a great primer on French wine.

Who am I?

I knew nothing about wine and drank it only rarely until I went to Paris as a graduate student in the 1970s. Even then, I couldn’t afford more than basic plonk. It was not until I started doing research in Dijon every summer in the 1980s, making great friends in the process, eating and drinking at their dining tables, and visiting their favorite vignerons with them for dégustations, that I began to appreciate wine, not just as a fantastic beverage, but as a social and cultural creator. And as a historian, I appreciate that drinking wine that comes from vineyards planted in the Middle Ages connects us with our ancestors in the past.


I wrote...

The Politics of Wine in Early Modern France: Religion and Popular Culture in Burgundy, 1477-1630

By Mack P. Holt,

Book cover of The Politics of Wine in Early Modern France: Religion and Popular Culture in Burgundy, 1477-1630

What is my book about?

This book explores the interaction of politics, religion, and material culture in the city of Dijon and the wine region in Burgundy that surrounded it. While so many studies of the sixteenth-century have depicted the ruling elites and the popular classes they governed as being diametrically opposed in constant social and cultural conflict, this book examines the city of Dijon, where the mayors and city councilors who governed the city came to rely on the support of the city’s vineyard workers—the vignerons, who made up roughly 20 percent of the population—to confront and repel the Protestant Reformation when it arrived in the city, as well as to help them fight back against the encroaching absolute monarchy of Louis XIII.

Puligny-Montrachet

By Simon Loftus,

Book cover of Puligny-Montrachet : Journal of a Village in Burgundy

If terroir is about place, Loftus shows us one particular place in rural Burgundy, and especially the people living there who grow the grapes and make the wine. These vignerons help us understand that good wine is made in the vineyard, not through any manipulation after the harvest in a fermentation tank or oak barrel. Loftus also shows how wine influences local politics, as in 1879 when the village elders petitioned the French government to add the name of their most famous vineyard—Montrachet—to the name of their town, Puligny, thus allowing their Grand Cru vineyard name to appear on the label of humbler bottles bearing just the village name, following in the footsteps of Nuits-St. Georges, Chambolle-Musigny, Aloxe-Corton, and dozens of other Burgundian villages.

Who am I?

I knew nothing about wine and drank it only rarely until I went to Paris as a graduate student in the 1970s. Even then, I couldn’t afford more than basic plonk. It was not until I started doing research in Dijon every summer in the 1980s, making great friends in the process, eating and drinking at their dining tables, and visiting their favorite vignerons with them for dégustations, that I began to appreciate wine, not just as a fantastic beverage, but as a social and cultural creator. And as a historian, I appreciate that drinking wine that comes from vineyards planted in the Middle Ages connects us with our ancestors in the past.


I wrote...

The Politics of Wine in Early Modern France: Religion and Popular Culture in Burgundy, 1477-1630

By Mack P. Holt,

Book cover of The Politics of Wine in Early Modern France: Religion and Popular Culture in Burgundy, 1477-1630

What is my book about?

This book explores the interaction of politics, religion, and material culture in the city of Dijon and the wine region in Burgundy that surrounded it. While so many studies of the sixteenth-century have depicted the ruling elites and the popular classes they governed as being diametrically opposed in constant social and cultural conflict, this book examines the city of Dijon, where the mayors and city councilors who governed the city came to rely on the support of the city’s vineyard workers—the vignerons, who made up roughly 20 percent of the population—to confront and repel the Protestant Reformation when it arrived in the city, as well as to help them fight back against the encroaching absolute monarchy of Louis XIII.

Judgment of Paris

By George M. Taber,

Book cover of Judgment of Paris: Judgment of Paris

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.

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.

1855 Bordeaux

By Dewey Markham,

Book cover of 1855 Bordeaux

The 1855 Classification created quality tiers for wines from a number of districts in Bordeaux: the famous First Growth (Premier Cru) wines and their Second, Third, Fourth, and Fifth Growth counterparts. There’s been only one change since then (a Second Growth promoted to First) and people still pay high prices for these wines based on a ranking that is more than 150 years old. Dewey Markham’s book tells the story of the Classification and shows that the wines that topped the list in 1855 were also ranked highest in earlier lists and that the rankings were based on price rather than intrinsic quality. It’s a well-documented book that brings history to bear on the way we look at some of the most prestigious wines of Bordeaux.  


Who am I?

I’ve been passionate about wine since I was a teenager in New Zealand and I now teach and write about it, judge in wine competitions, and travel the world to visit wine regions. I teach European history and the history of food and drink at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. As a wine historian, I spend weeks each year in archives, studying everything from changes in vineyard area and the weather in specific years to the taxation of wine and patterns of wine drinking. Currently, I’m working in several French archives for a book on wine in the French Revolution. It will be my ninth wine book.


I wrote...

French Wine: A History

By Rod Phillips,

Book cover of French Wine: A History

What is my book about?

After writing a global history of wine I decided to focus on France, the world’s best-known wine country. I’m a Francophile, so writing this book – which covers more than two thousand years, from the first vineyards to the present – was an absolute pleasure. I can’t imagine how many bottles of French wine helped me complete the book, which sets out the way wine interacted with politics, economic change, revolutions, wars, and cultural shifts in France. I look at topics such as the rise of famous regions such as Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Champagne; the Church and wine; changes in vineyards and winemaking; and the regulation of wine production and consumption.

While showing how France’s winemakers survived centuries of challenges – including wars, revolutions, deadly winters, and vine diseases – my book also explodes many myths about French wine.

Burgundy

By Marion Demossier,

Book cover of Burgundy: The Global Story of Terroir

Terroir is the notion that the environment that grapevines grow in is imprinted on the wine they produce. It was universally accepted for several decades but is now hotly debated, as scientists have debunked the idea that certain soils and rocks transfer flavour and texture to wine. In the 1920s Burgundy became the first region to embrace the idea of terroir and in her book, Marion Demossier examines the circumstances that gave rise to it and the way that terroir was adopted and adapted by wine regions throughout the world so that wine producers could claim that their wines expressed ‘a sense of place’. This excellent book cuts through much of the marketing nonsense about wine.


Who am I?

I’ve been passionate about wine since I was a teenager in New Zealand and I now teach and write about it, judge in wine competitions, and travel the world to visit wine regions. I teach European history and the history of food and drink at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. As a wine historian, I spend weeks each year in archives, studying everything from changes in vineyard area and the weather in specific years to the taxation of wine and patterns of wine drinking. Currently, I’m working in several French archives for a book on wine in the French Revolution. It will be my ninth wine book.


I wrote...

French Wine: A History

By Rod Phillips,

Book cover of French Wine: A History

What is my book about?

After writing a global history of wine I decided to focus on France, the world’s best-known wine country. I’m a Francophile, so writing this book – which covers more than two thousand years, from the first vineyards to the present – was an absolute pleasure. I can’t imagine how many bottles of French wine helped me complete the book, which sets out the way wine interacted with politics, economic change, revolutions, wars, and cultural shifts in France. I look at topics such as the rise of famous regions such as Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Champagne; the Church and wine; changes in vineyards and winemaking; and the regulation of wine production and consumption.

While showing how France’s winemakers survived centuries of challenges – including wars, revolutions, deadly winters, and vine diseases – my book also explodes many myths about French wine.

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