Monday, February 26, 2018



 Butler, Joel, and Randall Heskett: Divine Vintage, Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.
There are 280 references to wine, vineyards and wine-making in the Bible. Noah’s first task after leaving the arc was to plant a vineyard and Jesus’ first miracle was to turn water into wine. These two Biblical scholars explore the fascinating central relationship between wine and our Judeo-Christian traditions.

 Clarke, Oz: The History of wine in 100 Bottles, Stirling Publishing, 2015.
By focusing on one specific aspect of wine, a particular vintage, the shape or size of the bottle, a famous wine maker or drinker, Oz Clarke manages to describe the history and development of wine in a series of entertaining and informative vignettes.

 Johnson, Hugh: Vintage – The Story of Wine, Simon & Schuster, 1989.
Sadly, out of print but happily widely available through on-line booksellers, this hefty volume is a delightfully written and lushly illustrated pleasure to read from cover to cover. It is also in invaluable reference work written by one of the world’s greatest wine experts.

 McGovern, Patrick K.: Ancient Wines, Princeton University Press, 2003
McGovern is an anthropologist, a scientist, a chemist and a molecular archeologist who has focused his studies on the origins of wine in the Middle-East from Neolithic tombs, Noah and Gilgamesh to the Scorpion King and Tutankhamen. Fascinating.

 Phillips, Rod: 9000 Years of Wine, Whitecap Books, 2017
Covering much of the ancient history that McGovern discusses, this book takes the story further, tracing the spread of wine from the Middle-East, around the Mediterranean, throughout Europe and into the new world. The story ends with the international consumer market of the 21st century.

 Standage, Tom: A History of the World in 6 Glasses, Walker & Company, 2005
Wine plays only one aspect of this book, but Standage uses it to tell a fascinating history of human thirst. Beer in Mesopotamia and Egypt, Wine in Greece and Rome, Spirits in the Colonial Period, Coffee in the Age of Reason, Tea and the British Empire, Coca-Cola and the rise of America.

And of course, it goes without saying that The Booklovers' Guide to Wine itself includes a most comprehensive historical overview of the story of wine told in a most informative and entertaining manner!

Friday, February 23, 2018



Johnson, Hugh, and Jancis Robinson, World Atlas of Wine, Barnes & Noble Books, 2017.
I have been reading Hugh Johnson’s World Atlas of Wine since the first edition was published in 1971. Since the release of the fifth edition in 2006 he has partnered with Jancis Robinson. That I have been buying, reading and enjoying each edition of this book for almost half a century I think says it all. The maps, the writing, the knowledge – fabulous!

Johnson, Hugh: Pocket Wine Book, Mitchell Beazley, 2018
This is a genuine ‘pocket book’ in the sense it will fit conveniently in your pocket. If you are interested in specific labels and specific vintages from anywhere in the world, this book, which is reissued every year, is indispensable.

Keevil, Susan: Wines of the World, Metro Books, 2010.
This is a beautiful, visual reference guide to wine with the focus on different countries, wine regions and individual terroirs. It is packed with great photographs and maps plus buying information and price guides.

MacNeil, Karen: The Wine Bible, Workman Publishing, 2000.
This is another general guide to all the major wine regions of the world, but the maps and illustrations only play a secondary role to the text. Karan McNeil’s metaphors, descriptions and informed observations are always, fresh, unique, entertaining and stimulating.

Robinson, Jancis: Guide to Wine Grapes, Oxford University Press, 1996. 
Sadly out of print, this wonderful, pocket-sized guide is still available for a few dollars at various on-line booksellers.  Her newer version is much more comprehensive, Wine Grapes: A Complete Guide to 1,368 Vine Varieties, Including Their Origins and Flavours but with a price tag of about $140, I am perfectly happy with the pocket version.

Robinson, Jancis, ed.: Oxford Companion to Wine, Oxford University Press, 2006. 
At $40.00, this is not a cheap book either – but it is worth every penny. This is the ultimate reference book and source of all information about wine. If you have just one wine book in your library, this should be it, - in addition to The Booklovers' Guide to Wine of course!

Sunday, February 18, 2018


  CHINA [2]:   Although most Chinese wine comes from the Xinjiang Autonomous Region on the border with Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan, a new northern area, Ningxia Province, also bordering the Gobi Desert, is rapidly becoming the center of China’s fine-wine industry. With 160,000 acres of vineyards planned by 2020, Ningxia will be three times the size of Napa. The French luxury goods giant LVMH has recently invested $28 million in a state-of-the-art winery called Chandon. An international competition named "Bordeaux Against Ningxia" was held in Beijing in December 2011, when experts from China and France tasted five wines from each region. Ningxia was the clear winner, with four out of five of the top wines. The best wine in the whole competition was the 2009 Chairman's Reserve, a Cabernet Sauvignon which even Robert Parker rated as “not bad.” It is unclear whether the name referred to Chairman Mao and his Little Red Book.

    Another rapidly expanding wine-growing area is Shandong Province on the coast of the Yellow Sea, which, with 140 wineries, already produces 40 percent of Chinese wine. The latest company to invest in Shandong is Bordeaux’s Domains Barons de Rothschild, which harvested its third vintage in 2015. Based on Rothschild’s previous successes in California and Chile, Shandong Province is a region to keep an eye on.

    In just the past decade, China has become one of the world’s top ten wine markets, and is actually the largest consumer of red wine in the world, as well as being the sixth largest producer of wine. Between 2006 and 2015, China’s wine consumption grew by 54 percent. According to Sotheby’s, it is no longer London or New York but Hong Kong which is now the world’s largest market for fine wines at auction. Furthermore, China is one of the world’s biggest consumers of Bordeaux’s Premier Cru wines, and has had a significant effect on the price structure. Chinese billionaires have long had a predilection for Château Lafite (like the English aristocracy before them), followed by Château Latour, Château Mouton-Rothschild, Château Margaux and finally by Château Haut-Brion. This preference for Lafite has had the unfortunate consequence of making Lafite the most popular target of international wine-fraud, resulting in a number of recent scandals and uncertainty in the Chinese market. There is a growing tendency among Chinese billionaires, therefore, to focus on the previously overlooked Château Haut-Brion wines (Jefferson’s favorite), because its unique bottle shape makes it more difficult for criminals to reproduce.

    But despite China’s seeming integration into the international wine market, it retains certain Chinese idiosyncrasies. For example, the reason that Chinese are almost exclusively red wine drinkers has less to do with their appreciation of tannins and more to do with red being a lucky color traditionally associated with good fortune and good health. The Chinese still serve wine in small, shot-sized wine glasses, and, although it is a sign of progress that wine is replacing strong baijiu spirits at business banquets, it means that when that priceless 1959 Château Lafite is being poured, all the guests can toss it back in a hearty group toast without even needing to taste it.