All Reference Books, Great And Small (November 2017 Wine Product Roundup)

Vinted on November 8, 2017 binned in wine books, wine products
Hugh Johnson's Pocket Wine 2018


This month’s wine product review roundup requires you to get your reading glasses, as we’re taking a look at two upcoming wine reference book releases, one of them tiny (and insanely useful), the other heavy and large (and maybe a lot less useful).

First up is the venerable Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine, 2018 edition (Mitchell Beazley, 336 pages, about $17). This tiny marvel is updated annually, and at this point I struggle to say anything about it that I’ve not already said in my usual yearly boot-lickingly obnoxious recommendation of this mighty mini-tome. No wine reference book series even comes close to packing as much utility into such a small package, and doing it so consistently. That I know so may of the contributors probably only makes my endorsement seem even more boot-lickingly boot-licking, but that won’t stop me from highly recommending it. Again.

In the interests of offering a balanced appraisal, I will say that the supplemental material in last year’s 2017 40th Anniversary edition is, in my view, superior to this most recent release; so if you own that one already, you may want to skip this one and see what the 2018 edition has to offer.

Next up is a new edition of the much larger, heavier, and visually impressive Larousse Wine (Hamlyn, 656 pages, about $60). Headed by technical consultant Master Sommelier Georges Lepré, with a team of contributors that are primarily French-based or French-wine-focused, you’d think that a book with 800 photographs and 37 maps would be insanely useful. And you’d be half right…

Larousse Wine

image courtesy of Hamlyn

Nearly half of Larousse Wine is a gorgeously illustrated and well-designed multi-chapter treatise on the core aspects of wine in general, including its history, how it is made, how it can best be enjoyed, and why we have so many misconceptions about it. This portion of the book almost justifies its coffee-table style size and price. The second half of the book is a review of the world’s major wine regions, with producer highlights, but is dominated to an almost shocking degree by France. So much dead tree real-estate is dedicated to French wine here that the USA and Canada get only about 16 pages in total. Chile gets only about 4 pages… and you get the picture. This seriously reduces the utility of the second half of Larousse Wine for all but the most ardent Francophiles, and undermines its subtitle claim of being “the definitive reference for wine lovers” (just put the word “French” in there before “wine” and you’re welcome, guys, I just fixed it for you).

What is potentially more interesting than these reference releases (to me, anyway) is the fact that they are being released in hardcover, printed format in the first place. Why do we still have major paper-based updated editions to them in a nigh-always-connected world? I don’t have an answer to that, but I find it increasingly more old-fashioned, like making voice calls, using Quicken, or having landline phone  service. I mean, I like to page through a wine tome as much as anyone, but I recognize that at 45 years old, I’m just waxing nostalgic at this point…






  • Bob Henry

    “Why do we still have major paper-based updated editions to them in a nigh-always-connected world? I don’t have an answer to that, but I find it increasingly more old-fashioned, like making voice calls, using Quicken, or having landline phone service. I mean, I like to page through a wine tome as much as anyone, but I recognize that at 45 years old, I’m just waxing nostalgic at this point…”

    I have some answers.

    Some folks like to underline pertinent printed text (say, WineDude while he was studying for his WSET and CSW certs).

    Others like to write in margin notes.

    Still others like wine merchants like to haul out these tomes on the sales floor to elaborate on a point of conversation with a customer.

    And — zut alors! — what would folks like moi put on the ample shelves of our “library” room in our stately mansions if we didn’t have . . . books?

    • 1WineDude

      Ha ha, you know what, most of my printed books are used as decor in my home nowadays!

      • Bob Henry

        Posted today by Inc. magazine:

        “Bill Gates Follows These 4 Rules to Get the Most From His Reading;
        The famous entrepreneur-turned-humanitarian recently shared the secrets behind his famous reading habit.”


        “[Rule #] 1. Make notes in the margins.

        “You know, when you’re reading, you have to be careful that you really are concentrating,” says Gates.

        “Particularly if it’s a nonfiction book, are you taking in new knowledge and sort of attaching [it] to knowledge you have? For me, taking notes helps make sure that I’m really thinking hard about what’s in there.”

        Of course, you may not always agree with what you’re reading — and neither does Gates. In these cases, taking notes becomes even more important, as doing so can help you develop empathy, understand varying perspectives, and think critically.

        • Bob Henry

          Second excerpt:

          “[Rule #] 3. Print or digital? Read what makes you comfortable.

          “Over time, I will make the switch [from print to digital],” says Gates. “But when I’m just sitting there at night reading, often the paper magazine or the book, I’m used to that,” he adds with a shrug.

          The point here isn’t to read your books in print because “that’s what Bill Gates does.”

          Rather, find what works for you. Because if you find a style of reading that you enjoy and that’s comfortable, you’re likely to do more of it.

  • jml248

    Ahhhh I am also in the minority that love printed books and learn best by flipping back and forth, underlining, sticky noting etc.

    • 1WineDude

      I certainly enjoy that, too. I just think that we are, indeed, in the minority now. :)

  • Bob Henry

    Dude, a lot of what we read on wine will never make it to digital . . . because most content has a comparatively small target (and paying) audience.

    So the “first edition” print version is it.

    There will be no “second edition.” No repurposing of the text and accompanying exhibits to some other (current or future) medium.

    The printed page will outlive its digital counterpart:

    • 1WineDude

      Wow, Bill Gates secretly likes to kill trees… Who knew? :)

      I’m going to go ahead a disagree about print outliving digital. That just doesn’t match up with the empirical evidence of technological progress.

      • Bob Henry

        As that Rand Institute study details, we have a poor track record of bringing our recorded cultural heritage with us into the future.

        We have lost more than half of all movies to neglect in not preserving the film negatives.

        Unknown percentage of how much of our recorded music history has been lost.

        And we are not keeping up transferring print media to digital media.

        The Rosetta Stone will literallly outlive any digital medium.

        • 1WineDude

          I’m not sure that I’d take that bet, Bob. Information has never been so easy to create and store as it is now.

          • Bob Henry

            Quoting from that TechCrunch piece:

            “Today at the Techonomy conference in Lake Tahoe, CA, the first panel featured Google CEO Eric Schmidt. As moderator David Kirkpatrick was introducing him, he rattled off a massive stat.

            “Every two days now we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003, according to Schmidt. That’s something like five exabytes of data, he says.

            “Let me repeat that: we create as much information in two days now as we did from the dawn of man through 2003.

            “‘The real issue is user-generated content,’ Schmidt said. He noted that pictures, instant messages, and tweets all add to this.”

            User-generated content is not literature or high art. It is ephemera. Pop culture flotsam and jetsam.

            Not worth archiving for posterity.

            Let’s talk about our cultural heritage and legacy.

            Literature and art are easy to “create” (read: transfer) from one contemporary digital storage standard to a newer one — but there is no economic incentive to preserve it, because “monetization” opportunities are lacking.

            We all know the refrain: bloggers and podcasters create for their own artistic or intellectual self-satisfaction, because they cannot earn a living trying to compete with free or pirated “content” on the Web.

            Movie studios made their profits from selling admission tickets to new theatrical release movies.

            The debut of broadcast television and its voracious appetite for programming motivated the studios to spend money on restoring the film negatives needed to license movie “content” to the stations.

            The debut of home video movie releases further motivated the studios to spend money on restoring the film negatives needed to issue movies on VHS and Beta and LaserDisc and later DVD.

            Record companies made their profits from selling artists’ new vinyl albums — not from selling what is known as “catalogue” product. (Read: older recordings.)

            The debut of the compact disc spurred the buying public to replace their analogue recorded music libraries with digital physical media such as CD and later DVD-Audio and SACD.

            That motivated the recording companies to spend money restoring the analogue master tapes needed to reissue those “catalogue” albums.

            No one with knowledge of digital media believes that CDs and MP3 and digital file downloading and digital streaming accurately conveys the full fidelity of the analogue music tape. Or conveys the visual fidelity of the film negative. These digital reproductions are inherent compromised due to bandwidth limitations, given the early standards of digital media.

            Excerpt from the Los Angeles Times “Calendar” Section
            (January 23, 2014, Page D7):

            “Neil Young goes on the Record at Grammy Event”


            By Randy Lewis
            Staff Reporter

            “. . . Currently, CDs contain about 20% of the digital information that’s contained in master recordings, and MP3 files offer only 2% to 3% of what the artist originally heard in the studio.”

            — AND —

            Excerpt from the Los Angeles Times “Arts & Books” Section
            (August 30, 2009, Page E1ff):

            “Meet (And Be) The Beatles;
            Newly remastered albums. (You haven’t heard them like this.)”


            By Randy Lewis
            Times Staff Writer

            “CDs can hold only 15% to 20% of the digital information in masters that use the current state-of-the-art 192 kHz, 24-bit sampling rate, the same used for the Beatles’ new masters, according to Rouse. A Blu-ray disc offers 100% of that sampling rate for playback.

            . . .

            “An EMI U.K. marketing executive said there are no plans to issue the Beatles remasters on Blu-ray . . .”

            In closing:

            And “why” won’t EMI release the Beatles music on higher fidelity Blu-ray?

            They don’t wish near-perfect reproduction of the analogue master tapes to be pirated and disseminated for free on the Web.

            If that happens, EMI (and the surviving Beatles and their heirs) would no longer be able to “monetize” their recordings.

            • Bob Henry

              Excerpt from The Wall Street Journal “Opinion” Section
              (July 8, 2009, Page a15):

              “To Rake It In, Give It Away”


              Book review by Jeremy Philips

              “Free: The Future of Radical Price”
              By Chris Anderson
              (Hyperion, 274 pages, $26.99)

              “It is easy to see why free is an appealing price for consumers, although how companies make money by giving stuff away is less obvious. In ‘Free: The Future of a Radical Price,’ Chris Anderson, the editor of Wired magazine and the author of ‘The Long Tail,’ sets out to explain why free is an increasingly compelling business model.

              “Mr. Anderson explains how the underlying economics of digital services make free business models far more widespread than they were in the analog world. Central to the new ‘free economy.’ he says, are the ‘near-zero “marginal costs” of digital distribution (that is, the additional cost of sending out another copy beyond the ‘fixed costs’ of the required hardware).’ So Google spends billions on its software and infrastructure, to get its vast search engine up and running, but each incremental search costs it almost nothing.

              “Free business models, whether purveying digital products or tangible goods, are based on cross subsidy — that’s why you get a ‘free’ mobile phone when you sign up for a long-term service plan. In the digital realm, the “freemium” model offers the elusive free lunch. Many millions of Skype users, for instance, making voice and video calls over the Internet, pay nothing at all, subsidized by a smaller group of customers who pay for additional functionality. The free service is a loss leader (and cheap marketing) for premium paid services.

              “Advertising is plainly the best known free model. You don’t pay for Web searches, any more than you pay for network television, because in both cases ads are attached to the product you are getting free. As Mr. Anderson notes, though, advertising can’t pay for everything online. If you have a blog, ‘no matter how popular,’ the revenue from AdSense — a Google service that places ads on Web sites — will probably never ‘pay you even minimum wage for the time you spend writing it.’

              “Of course, that’s fine for bloggers more interested in fame or influence than in money or for blogs (like Mr. Anderson’s own) that are loss leaders for more lucrative endeavors, such as writing books or making speeches. But if you have to earn a living from the Web, ‘free’ can be a problem. Even Eric Schmidt, Google’s chief executive, doubts that free can work for everyone. ‘The problem with Free,’ he allows, ‘is that it eliminates all the price discrimination texture in the marketplace. . . . It tends to be winner-take-all.’”

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