New readers walking into a bookstore must feel the same as most average people do when they enter a wine shop. Neophytes are confronted with an overwhelming numbers of choices with very little unbiased information at their disposal to make the best selection. We hope Bookmarks continues to help readers and that the recommendations below will help those interested in wine. Our panel of experts has recommended resources for everyone from beginners to obsessed oenophiles.
I want to call your attention to one of our contributors, Karen MacNeil, whose The Wine Bible(2001) is among the best books for neophytes. I also consider it a treat to include “Florida” Jim Cowan in our panel of experts. Before the Internet, I never would have (virtually) met Jim, and he is a constant example to me that the generous and eloquent sharing of one’s expertise is repaid in random acts of kindness several times over.
Karen MacNeil WRITER, CONSULTANT, EDUCATOR
Karen MacNeil’s articles on wine and food have been published in more than 50 publications including The New York Times, Food & Wine, Saveur, and Town & Country. She is the author of the bestseller The Wine Bible, which won the 2001 Best Wine Book of the Year award. Karen is the Chairman of the Center for Professional Wine Studies at the Culinary Institute of America in the Napa Valley. She conducts private wine tutorials for individuals and corporations.
The New France A Complete Guide to Contemporary French Wine
By Andrew Jefford (2002)
In this aptly titled volume, wine expert Jefford brilliantly captures modern France in a way no other wine writer has quite managed to do. Readers fascinated by the passions, politics, and polemics of the world’s most famous wine country need look no further than this well researched, authoritative book.
The Story of Wine
By Hugh Johnson (1989)
The road for wine journalism in the 20th century was paved by Johnson, the British wine expert. No single writer has been more prolific or important in influencing the generations of wine experts alive today. Of all Johnson’s books, this is the one I love the best, in part because he explores areas that so few other wine writers touch: wine and religion, wine and ancient history, wine and war. Highly readable and fascinating.
The Oxford Companion to Wine
Ed. by Jancis Robinson (1994)
Indispensable for anyone who wants to develop their expertise and connoisseurship of wine. Robinson and a team of some 80 other experts define and explain every conceivable term and concept, from appellation controlee to ullage. While hugely valuable as a reference book,the Oxford Companion is decidedly not for beginners. It’s the very deep end of the pool.
Laurie Daniel WINE COLUMNIST
A resident of California’s Santa Cruz Mountains, Laurie Daniel has been a journalist for more than 25 years. Although she grew up in wine-deprived Midwest, Daniel quickly developed an interest in wine after she moved to California. Her weekly wine column is published in several newspapers and magazines, including the San Jose Mercury News, Wine Country Living, and the Wine Enthusiast.
The Wine Bible
By Karen MacNeil (2001)
It was a 10-year labor of love for MacNeil, a wine writer and instructor at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone. The book is comprehensive but never dry, and it’s written in an engaging, conversational style. When I read it, it sometimes feels as if I’m having a conversation with the author over the dinner table.
Making Sense of Wine
By Matt Kramer (2003)
I love Kramer’s contrarian, somewhat cantankerous writing, and the revised edition is vintage Kramer. He does an outstanding job of explaining why, as he notes in the preface, ‘wine is so fundamentally appealing.’ The revised edition elucidates some of the recent revolutions in winemaking that have been prompted by, among other things, influential wine writers.
Kermit Lynch MERCHANT AND IMPORTER
Kermit Lynch is a Berkeley, California wine merchant who specializes in French wine. His book,Adventures On the Wine Route, winner of the Veuve Cliquot “Wine Book of the Year” award, is available from North Point Press. His latest book,Inspiring Thirst, is available by Ten Speed Press. “My choices are not easy to find, but they are tasty enough to make the effort worthwhile.”
By Victor Hazan (1982)
Read it for the way Hazan describes the taste of wines, the ways wines can look, smell, taste, and feel. No one has done that better.
The Wines of the Northern Rhone
By John Livingstone-Learmonth (1978)
Learmonth offers a chance to meet in these pages some of the people who make great wine, including legends such as Auguste Clape, Robert Jasmin, and Gerard Chave. I hear from the author that a new expanded edition will be out soon from the University of California Press.
By Richard Olney (1995)
It goes more deeply into the story of one wine than any other wine book, and Olney’s prose is up to the task. Here is a look at wine from several perspectives: historical, cultural, aesthetic, and so on. It leaves a long aftertaste.
Jim Cowan INTERNET DENIZEN
Jim is a retired lawyer who splits his time between western North Carolina and the west coast of Florida. He has been interested in wine for more than 30 years, and frequents many Internet wine bulletin boards using the moniker “Florida Jim.”
The Wine of Chablis
By Austen Biss and Owen Smith (2000)
Three hundred pages devoted to a comprehensive examination of the producers and vineyards of Chablis, including the names of the distributors of each producer’s wines. It includes quality recommendations and recent tasting notes for each grower, producer, and negociant, and gives specific information about dining and staying in Chablis and the surrounding area. The most up-to-date and complete source on the subject.
A Wine and Food Guide to the Loire
By Jacqueline Friedrich (1996)
Ms. Friedrich is an opinionated and passionate writer who covers most of the best producers in each region along the Loire. She includes commentary on the people and cuisine and sufficient background and historical data to give the reader a feel for this oft overlooked wine-producing area. There are some great, inexpensive wines produced in the Loire Valley, and this book helps the reader find them.
Vino Italiano The Regional Wines of Italy
By Joseph Bastianich and David Lynch (2002)
An entertaining and well written book about the wines and cuisine of the major wine regions of Italy. This is not an in-depth examination. Rather, it gives the reader pertinent information on the kinds of wine being made, some producers to look for, and specifics about places to visit for wine tasting. Each chapter discusses a single region and finishes with a couple pages of ‘fast facts’ that summarize the preceding overview. There are also a few recipes suggested for each area’s wines.