My daughter is a wine beginner. Can you recommend any good books?
Sure can. As an affordable, compact encyclopedia, The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil is a gem. I think it qualifies as the best book you can own if you can own just one wine book. MacNeil is a much-awarded speaker and consultant and the creator of the Rudd Center for Professional Wine Studies at the Culinary Institute of America in California’s Napa Valley. As far as authoritative voices go, hers is among the top in the world. The thick paperback book, which took her many years to research and write, is priced at $37.95 in Canada but should be available at discounted rates at various online retailers.
Like many long-time wine enthusiasts, I’m particularly fond of a travelogue that became an instant hit when released in 1988. It’s called Adventures on the Wine Route, by California-based author, importer and winemaker Kermit Lynch. Lynch is a legend in American wine circles for introducing Californians in particular to great French wine thanks to his importing business and an iconic shop in Berkeley, Calif. Subtitled A Wine Buyer’s Tour of France, the paperback chronicles Lynch’s personal travels to meet various producers, written passionately and with a deliciously breezy style.
For witty writing and provocative, stimulating ideas, few people can beat Matt Kramer, the long-time columnist at Wine Spectator magazine. He’s got several books, including a cookbook on the cuisine of Piedmont in Italy, but his brilliant columns have been collected in a volume called Matt Kramer on Wine. It may not be the best basic introduction to wine because some columns assume a certain level of knowledge, but the writing is a joy, and Kramer has a wonderfully idiosyncratic and contrarian take on everything from cellaring to collecting to fads, trends and personalities.
In a vaguely similar vein are the anthologies of Jay McInerney, the novelist of Bright Lights, Big City fame, who took up wine writing for House & Garden magazine and, later, The Wall Street Journal. The first compilation is Bacchus & Me, followed by A Hedonist in the Cellar and The Juice.
If your daughter is interested in studying wine more formally, the most authoritative and useful reference guide may be The Oxford Companion to Wine, edited by the great Jancis Robinson, another of the most respected wine writers. It’s big, heavy and pricey and comes across as slightly academic, with entries compiled in alphabetical order, but it’s a great resource and worth the investment.
A new wine aficionado might not yet be ready for books on specialized topics, but if she is, you might consider two that ably take on trendy topics in today’s wine world. The first is Natural Wine: An Introduction to Organic & Biodynamic Wines Made Naturally. It’s by the eloquent and passionate Isabelle Legeron, a French Master of Wine and a leading champion of low-intervention, old-school winemaking. The other is Volcanic Wines by Toronto-based Master Sommelier John Szabo. Complete with many beautiful colour photos taken by the author, it’s an intriguing global tour of wines produced from soils rich in hardened lava. Warning: You may drink nothing but “wine on the rocks” for the rest of your life.
Beppi Crosariol will once again be participating as The Globe’s wine expert on the July 2019 Globe and Mail Seine River Cruise. For details on how to reserve your cabin on this voyage down the Seine from Paris to Normandy visit GlobeNormandyCruise.com.