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.
Number One – 99 Bottles, a Black Sheep’s Guide to Life Changing Wines, by Andre Mack
Andre Mack is a sommelier and wine director, a restauranteur, a twice-published author, and a 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 something of a memoir. Mack details 99 impactful bottles throughout his career, and not just wine! He includes many beverages including the likes of beer, spirits, and even some non-alcoholic drinks.
The book has 6 distinct chapters spanning the various periods of his career. Each chapter is broken down into individual bottles with one or two pages dedicated to each. 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 even a song lyric.
99 Bottles by Andre Mack isn’t a reference text for wine. It’s a story, but it’s a beautiful story, and we couldn’t recommend it more.
Number Two – Tasting Pleasure: Confessions of a Wine Lover, by Jancis Robinson
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 Bear Award Winner; the list goes on. She hosts an incredibly informative website and has also written an expansive list of wine books. Her list of achievements is unmatched.
Tasting Pleasure details Robinson’s childhood and spans her career up until 1999 when the book was published. Throughout the book, Robinson recounts events she’s attended and describes various wines she’s had the opportunity to taste – including arguably some of the greatest wines ever made. The astonishingly descriptive notes transport the reader.
Robinson’s writing is so humble despite all of 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 very personal details about her life, keeping everything very honest and open.
Tasting Pleasure: Confessions of a Wine Lover is not a reference text but a diary-like memoir. But because of Robinson’s significant and decades-long role within the wine industry, readers close the book having learned a lot about wine and the industry.
Number Three – Vignette, Stories of Life and Wine in 100 Bottles, by Jane Lopes
Jane Lopes is a Master Sommelier and a 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. The recommendations are to further the reader’s knowledge of wine and not all necessarily related to the stories she’s sharing.
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 get a holistic understanding of the world of beverages, with an emphasis on wine.
For a raw and vulnerable read that describes her career journey, then read the memoir in full, in chronological order. It’s a fascinating read that speaks of topics often kept under the surface.
Outside of the memoir aspect and the 100 suggested bottles, the book is a great reference text for wine. So the third approach allows readers to gain a complete understanding of the beverage world – with a focus on wine – by going through and absorbing only the educational pieces. Each vignette contains colorful illustrations – whether it’s a chart, pie graph, or other graphic – that are great for visual learners.
Vignette is a beautiful, raw and honest memoir, as well as an excellent source for students of wine. There’s something for everyone in this book making it the perfect gift for someone who enjoys wine.
Number Four – Champagne, by Peter Liem
Peter Liem is no stranger to the wine world having worked as a writer, an editor, a critic and a tasting director. He is a published author for not just Champagne, but also Sherry, Manzanilla and Montilla: A Guide to the Traditional Wines of Andalucía.
Liem is an incredibly gifted writer with exceptional knowledge of Champagne. But to ensure the reference information was thoroughly complete, he collaborated with Champagne producers throughout.
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 not only helpful to those studying Champagne but also for those who enjoy a visual reference. It also purposefully features both bigger and well-known producers and small boutique producers.
Champagne is a well-written reference text which will help anyone in their study of wine, particularly Champagne.
Number Five – Flawless, by 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, plus how they can be remedied or even 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 (matterization), greenness (or ladybug taint), mousiness and; malolactic fermentation faults. If you’re looking to learn the science of winemaking and the possible issues that can arise, this is for you.
The book is written in an approachable way which helps those without a scientific background to understand the text. The first page of each chapter answers six questions about each wine fault, giving readers short, digestible nuggets of information.
Flawless by Jamie Goode is a scientific look at winemaking and the flaws that can occur in the end product. We highly recommend this book for anyone interested in winemaking but also for those who want to learn a bit more about the science behind wine.
These 5 wine books should be the perfect addition to your bookshelf or the perfect gift for the wine lover in your life. For more recommendations, listen to Jill Zimorski’s Reading & Drinking podcast on the SOMM TV podcast network.
Diana Cavill is the Sales & Marketing Coordinator for the team at SOMM and has a strong passion for writing, wine and travel which she has been lucky enough to combine within this job.