3 Wine Books You Can’t Live Without
As some of you may be aware, in addition to running the coolest drink tours in Toronto, I also preach what I practice at George Brown College. I dabble in spirits, but mostly I teach wine courses.
Remembering back a decade ago to what somm school was like for me, I think a healthy library of reference texts (read: a ton of awesome wine books) is most helpful in your vinous pursuit; plus it makes you look really cool to a new found lover swinging by your abode.
Over the years, I’ve developed a habit of bringing one of my favourite wine books to each class I teach to show students what I found helpful as a beginner, and in many cases still use to this day.
Dick and I are huge wine and cook book lovers, so you can expect many more reviews to appear on this blog, but to start, here are the top three wine texts that I think should be on any serious wine student’s book shelf.
The Wine Bible, Karen MacNeil
If you only read one wine book, make it this one. The Wine Bible is flat-out indispensable reading for both newcomers to the wine world and veterans needing a brush up. Now in its second edition, The Wine Bible is a thorough and complete tome on everything to do with wine, covering the regions, history, grapes, production methods plus trivia and interesting facts. More importantly, and most impressively, MacNeil all logic by making this book an engaging, entertaining, and lively read. You can certainly study the 1008 page text from cover to cover, or, since the book is broken down into countries, cherry pick the chapters and regions you would like to know more about.
What to Eat with What You Drink, Andrew Dornenburg & Karen Page
I refer to this book more than any other these days, as it’s a brilliant tool when I’m out of new ideas for wine and food pairings, and bored of the same old, same old – which happens to me a lot. Some people have wanderlust, I have winelust. I digress.
Authors Page and Dornenburg brilliantly break down the book into two main sections: what to eat with what you drink, and, what to drink with what you eat. Both chapters provide exhaustive lists on food items expertly paired to drinks, and drinks expertly paired to food: bold and capitalized means home run; bold, uncapitalized means very good; and unbolded, small letters means you can be sure it’s a decent pairing.
The authors asked leading chefs, sommeliers and restauranteurs to weigh in, and the book does open to their collective thoughts. For additional fun reading, expert quotes on what and why a pairing works is peppered throughout the alphabetized lists.
Oz Clarke’s Grapes and Wines, Oz Clarke
Is Chianti a grape or a place? What are you really drinking when you ask for a Bordeaux? Is Zinfandel pink or red – or white?
Oz Clarke answers these burning questions and more in this authoritative encyclopedia on what seems like every wine varietal on earth. Starting with the odd ball Abouriou grape and steadily working its way through 300 pages to end with Zinfandel, Grapes and Wines takes a closer look at the profiles of wine grapes. Clarke dedicates entire chapters, understandably, to the dozen or so more popular grapes like Chardonnay, Pinot Noir or Shiraz describing the history, growing conditions, taste profiles, general food pairings and even top producers. Lesser known varietals (Rolle, anyone?) may only get a few sentences, but rest assured every grape is given its rightful due – and to save us all a bit of face, each entry also notes whether the grape in question is red or white.
Going even further, Clarke ends the book with a helpful and succinct chapter, “Which grapes make which wines?” Cutting to the chase of what grapes actually go into a Rioja, Chianti or Bordeaux, as well as a glossary of terms so you can toss around words like “Brut” or “Cuvée” like a boss.
These books definitely made – and continue to make – my life a lot easier when studying wine, or just trying to figure out what pair with dinner.
Have any must read books on your shelf? Leave us a recommendation in the comments below!