Looking for your next read and want to make it the perfect wine pairing? As reviewed by Master Sommelier Jill Zimorski, in the first season of the Reading & Drinking podcast, we give you five of the best wine books to add to your reading list or gift to the wine lover in your life.
99 Bottles, a Black Sheep’s Guide to Life-Changing Wines
André Mack is a sommelier, wine director, restauranteur, twice-published author, and winemaker. He’s also a graphic artist and uses his graphics throughout this book, making for a visually enticing publication.
It’s an incredibly original wine book and somewhat of a memoir. Mack details 99 impactful bottles throughout his career, and not just wine! He includes many beverages, including beer, spirits, and non-alcoholic drinks.
The book has six distinct chapters spanning the various periods of his career. The information is presented in a content-dense way, along with beautiful illustrations. He tells a story about each bottle and accentuates why it’s important to him. He also includes further educational information in pull-out boxes, for example, “What is Sherry?” and “Where is Champagne?”
Each of the 99 bottles is visually represented in the form of a trading card and includes the label illustration, its proper name, the standard price (either $, $$ or $$$), and where to find it. He also incorporates a tasting note, which is a bonus since some of the bottles are so rare and likely something very few people will have the opportunity to try. And finally, Mack offers a pairing note. Some are food pairings, while others are outside the box, pairing an emotion, place, or song lyric.
99 Bottles by André Mack isn’t a reference text for wine. It’s a beautiful story.
Tasting Pleasure: Confessions of a Wine Lover
Jancis Robinson is one of the most famous and widely respected individuals in the world of wine. Decanter’s Woman of the Year in 1999, a Master of Wine, a 2-time James Beard Award Winner; her list of achievements is impressive.
Tasting Pleasure details Robinson’s childhood and spans her career until 1999, when the book was published. Throughout the book, Robinson recounts events and describes various wines she’s had the opportunity to taste, including arguably some of the world’s greatest wines. The astonishingly descriptive notes transport the reader.
Robinson’s writing is so humble despite her accolades and accomplishments, to the point where some parts almost seem self-deprecating. She weaves light British humor throughout, making the read even more enjoyable. It also includes personal details about her life, keeping everything honest and open.
Tasting Pleasure: Confessions of a Wine Lover is a diary-like memoir. But because of Robinson’s significant and decades-long role in the wine industry, readers close the book with a wave of learnings about wine and the industry.
Vignette, Stories of Life and Wine in 100 Bottles
Jane Lopes is a master sommelier and wine director who grew up in Napa surrounded by wine. Vignette was published in 2019 and is part memoir, part wine text. It’s divided into small vignettes, suggesting a few bottles to try on each page.
Lopes suggests reading this book in one of three different ways. To learn about the industry, she recommends tasting through the 100 various bottles to understand the world of beverages, emphasising wine.
For a raw and vulnerable read that describes her career journey, read the memoir in full, in chronological order. It’s a fascinating journey that speaks of topics often kept under the surface.
Outside of the memoir aspect and the 100 bottle suggestions, the book is a great reference text for wine. So the third approach allows readers to understand the beverage world entirely by going through and absorbing only the educational pieces. Each vignette contains colorful illustrations that are great for visual learners.
Vignette is a beautiful, raw and honest memoir and an excellent source for students of wine. This book has something for everyone, making it the perfect gift for someone who enjoys wine.
Peter Liem is no stranger to the wine world, having worked as a writer, an editor, a critic, and a tasting director. He is the author of Champagne in addition to Sherry, Manzanilla and Montilla: A Guide to the Traditional Wines of Andalucía.
Liem has exceptional knowledge of Champagne. But to ensure the reference information was complete, he collaborated with Champagne producers.
The book is divided into three categories: the place and sub-regions, the history, and the process of making Champagne. Champagne can invite a lot of misinformation, but Liem remains very objective as he dissects common myths and commits to setting the record straight for the reader.
The book includes maps of the Champagne region, which are helpful to those studying Champagne and those who enjoy a visual reference. It also purposefully features more prominent and well-known producers, plus small boutique producers.
Dr. Jamie Goode
Dr. Jamie Goode is a British wine journalist, lecturer, author, and the publisher of a successful wine blog. He holds a PhD in plant biology and has written four books.
Flawless focuses on wine faults, what causes them, and how they can be remedied or avoided. Goode places a positive spin on this, knowing that concentrating on faults can inadvertently put a downer on the whole topic, hence the name “Flawless”.
Throughout the book, Goode explains 13 faults that can occur in wine. These include Brettanomyces (Brett), oxidation, volatile acidity (VA), reduction and volatile sulphur compounds, musty taints (cork taint), smoke taint, geosmin, eucalyptus taint, light damage, heat damage (maderization), greenness (or ladybug taint), mousiness and; malolactic fermentation faults. If you want to learn the science of winemaking and the possible issues that can arise, this is for you.
The book is written approachable, which helps those without a scientific background understand the text. The first page of each chapter answers six questions about each wine fault, giving readers short, digestible nuggets of information.
For more recommendations, listen to Jill Zimorski’s Reading & Drinking podcast on the SOMM TV Podcast Network.