Because Some Of You Still Read, Right? (November 2016 Wine Products Roundup)

Vinted on November 29, 2016 binned in wine books, wine products

I’ve been inundated with wine book samples this month (which I’ll note is November 2016, for posterity’s sake, and for those of you still sobering up from Thanksgiving), both the electronic and the good, old-fashioned dead-tree varieties. And so, I’m going to use this edition of the wine product roundup to give you a little taste of the current wine book scene (all prices noted are for hardcover editions).

Hugh Johnson Pocket Wine Guide 2017Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine 2017: 40th Anniversary by Hugh Johnson ($16.99, Mitchell Beazley)

Bottom line: highly recommended.

Every year for the last several years, I’ve received a sample of the latest edition in this series. Every year for the last several years, I think that this insanely useful little gem cannot possibly get any more insanely useful. Every year for the last several years, I have been wrong, and 2016 continues the trend. The high bar that’s been set for this go-to reference book for the last forty years has predictably been matched, but I’d argue it’s also been exceeded, in that the “If you like this, try that” and “wine stories” article themes that have been reserved for this edition’s color pages sections are superb (and make the book even more useful). If you’ve skipped the last couple of editions, it’s time for an upgrade.


24 hour wine expertThe 24-Hour Wine Expert by Jancis Robinson ($12.95, Abrams Image)

Bottom line: recommended, with reservations.

It’s not that The 24-Hour Wine Expert isn’t a very good wine book; it is, and Jancis Robinson brings her sharp prose and equally sharp mind to pop many a wine myth balloon within its short 112 pages. The idea, espoused by Robinson in the opening Welcome section, is to use the book to answer common wine questions (how is wine made?, how should one buy wine?, what hardware should be used?, etc.) as they come up. The trouble is, the book is positioned in a way that leverages the very kinds of sweeping generalizations and shortcuts that Robinson has spent nearly her entire career in the public spotlight battling against, and ignores a more comprehensive wine knowledge resource of which Robinson has become a particularly skilled champion: the Internet. There’s useful information here, no doubt, but the usefulness of a hardcover copy is debatable…

How to Drink Like a Billionaire: Mastering Wine with Joie de Vivre by Mark Oldman ($28.95, Reagan Arts)

How to Drink Like a BillionaireBottom line: recommended, with reservations.

Mark Oldman is a consummately entertaining personality, which is reflected throughout the packaging, illustrations, and playful writing of his latest wine guide. It’s certainly Oldman’s best-looking book to date, and, despite the flamboyancy of its section headings, it’s accessible, easy to navigate, and full of useful information. In fact, Oldman manages to sneak in many a measured thought regarding wine appreciation among the flashy pages of How to Drink Like a Billionaire (to wit: his emphasis that the ménage à trois of crowd-sourced reviews, critic consensus, and your own taste is the best way to “judge” a wine). The book is also funny (hey, we’re talking about a guy who once, at a major wine industry event, texted me that he’d “never seen so many trophy cougars”). So why the reservations? If you have Oldman’s other books (both of which are excellent), then there’s probably not enough new material in his latest to warrant the purchase. First-timers to Oldman’s writings should certainly go for it, though.


I Taste RedI Taste Red: The Science of Tasting Wine by Jamie Goode ($29.95, University of California Press)

Bottom line: recommended, with reservations.

Anyone who has geeked out over the science of winemaking and wine tasting should be at least peripherally familiar with the name Jamie Goode, whose book The Science of Wine is a borderline-classic. With I Taste Red, Goode takes a similarly accessibly-scientific approach to understanding how we, as individuals, perceive and taste wine. Overall, the book deals with interesting science, has its share of bona fide ah-ha! explanations, and raises though-provoking questions about whether or not the traditional methods of evaluating wine truly stand up scientifically. The reservations come mainly in the flow of the prose, which at turns becomes decidedly dry. This even bleeds over into the book’s colorful illustrations, which at first appear stylish, but often do little more than add colorful bubbles around the not-quite-populist text. I Taste Red is probably best reserved for the geekiest of wine geeks on your Nice List.






  • Bob Henry

    Excerpt from The Wall Street Journal “Review” Section
    November 19-20, 2016, Page C8):

    “What to Give: Holiday Books”


    By Barton Swaim
    “Reference Books” Column

    . . . The one indispensable book on language published in 2016 is the fourth edition of “Garner’s Modern English Usage” (Oxford, 1,056 pages, $50). When the first edition of Bryan Garner’s masterpiece appeared, in 1998, I bought two copies — one for myself and one as a gift for my brother-in-law. Mr. Garner writes with zest and clarity, and although he is an excellent chronicler (how has the language been used?), he is a reliable counselor as well (how should it be used?). Mr. Garner’s guide now exceeds 1,000 pages and includes arrays of real-life example sentences, all duly cited. It is in many ways an atlas of the English language.

    • 1WineDude

      :) Bob, this is a list for wine lovers, not for wine bloggers like me…

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