It’s true! I can actually talk about wine books that aren’t mine, I swear! My pile of wine book media samples has been piling up here at 1WD HQ, not because I haven’t found anything worthy to recommend (quite the opposite, in fact), but because, well, it just didn’t feel prudent to offer critiques of other people’s books while I was busy promoting the release of my own. It just felt like a huge invitation for Karma negativo.
But enough time has wound by since my books were released that I think we’re in the safe zone for a handful of wine book reviews, and so I give you four recent releases that I think are worth a look (and maybe some of your hard-earned cash):
Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book 2021 (Mitchell Beazley, $16.99)
At this point, I have pretty much run out of things to say about this small-but-mighty tome, which I recommend every year because, simply put, it has no equal in the wine world in terms of packing as much useful information as possible into as small a format as possible. Every serious student of the vine should have this pocket book.
If you don’t yet own a copy, or haven’t refreshed your edition in a few years, you should pull the trigger on this one, ASAP. For 2021, Johnson devotes the books glossy latter pages to the topic of terroir, and in his inimitably British way, he pulls no punches (e.g., there is a small section entitled “How to kill your terroir”).
How to Drink: A Classical Guide to the Art of Imbibing (Ancient Wisdom for Modern Readers), (Princeton University Press, about $15)
How to describe this little delight? Simultaneously one of the strangest, most endearing, and surprisingly useful wine books that you’re ever likely to encounter, How to Drink is a translation of Latin epic poem written in a sort of ancient Greek style by Vincent Obsopoeus, first released in the 1500s in Bavaria.
If that combo isn’t odd enough for you, the entire thing is meant as a treatise on how to drink without succumbing to the pitfalls of drunkenness; and, if you do happen to get drunk and/or get involved in drinking games, how to manage those scenarios, as well. I am, I suspect, failing miserably right now in trying to relate then cleverness and readability of this updated, modern translation of the work of a talented poet of whom you probably have never heard before… just buy it, you won’t be disappointed!
The Goode Guide to Wine: A Manifesto of Sorts by Jamie Goode (University of California Press, about $19)
Never has a wine book had a subtitle that so accurately describes its contents. A collection of musings from longtime wine writer Jamie Goode, who has a PhD in plant biology and, therefore, tends to do his best work when explaining wine in more scientific terms. Is this gathering of wine advice tidbits his best book? Probably not, but it is his most accessible. Somehow, despite a premise that could easily have devolved into arrogant mansplaining, and a penchant for utilizing sentences so short that it suggests a phobia against punctuation, this book manages to come off as friendly, informed, and useful.
The Sommelier’s Cookbook: Recipes and Wine Pairings for Discerning Palates by Joanie Métivier (Rockridge Press, $24.99)
Full disclosure: I was asked by the author, who I was lucky enough to meet and hang out with during some of my wine media travels, to provide an endorsement for this book (which also happens to share the same publishing house as my recent books). So with that in mind, I’ll refrain from a detailed review, and only tell you in a friendly way that if you’re in the market for a cookbook that has wine at the center of its beating spiritual heart, this is one to put high on your list. The style is accessibly straightforward and knowledgeable, the layout and photos are excellent, and the recipes look (to my untrained eye, anyway), pretty damned delicious.