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Five essential wine books

By Dave Brookes

1 May, 2020

If you’re inspired to build on your wine knowledge, Dave Brookes shares five books that will have you emerging from isolation like a true wine buff.

I swivel in my chair, stare at my bookshelf and catch myself nodding as I count my wine books before finishing at 278. It seems excessive, but I like each one for different reasons. Some are adorned with signatures of authors and winemakers, others were picked up while visiting regions, and all have meaning for me. Marie Kondo can take a hike – I need them all. But here is my take on the five books every wine lover should read.

Essential wine books Adventures on the Wine Route
Kermit Lynch

Guaranteed to make you love wine a little more, Kermit Lynch was one of the first major importers of great French wine into the US, and his tales of cellar visits, grand dinners, great wines and the characters behind them are wonderful. His journeys are underpinned by a search for authenticity and real wines. The prose is poetic, sometimes hilarious, always captivating and illuminating, and has a tendency to remind you why you got into wine in the first place. It makes you want to hit the wine route and get immersed in great wines. It’s the vinous equivalent of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, and it is wonderful.

The Oxford Companion to Wine
Jancis Robinson

The encyclopedic Oxford Companion to Wine is a weighty tome. Perhaps not for everyone, but this is the go-to reference for many a wine geek – and for good reason. It is comprehensive and rock-solid, and the one essential wine book that covers the entire, nebulous subject of wine on a global scale admirably. I often find myself pouring a glass of wine, opening it up to a random page and digesting its contents. You are certain to learn something new.

Australian Wine – Styles and Tastes, People and Places 
Patrick Iland, Peter Gago, Andrew Caillard and Peter Dry 

If you are after one wine book with a distinctly Australian flavour that covers all bases, look no further than this offering from a distinguished posse of Aussie wine experts. It is a wonderful introductory wine textbook, with chapters covering an introduction to Australian wine, wine tasting and consumption tips, elementary viticulture, an overview of winemaking, grape varieties and wine styles, and a dip into all of the Australian wine regions. It covers a lot of ground, and does it well.

World Atlas of Wine: 7th Edition
Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson

I like maps. There is something special about poring over maps, mentally ticking off wineries you have visited or tasted, or marking down places you want to visit in the future. Maps are important. Although I’m just a simple man and like looking at the map of world wine regions, the writing associated with each place is fantastic, as you’d expect from two of the world’s most respected wine writers. On a professional level, it’s an essential textbook for any student of wine. For the average wine lover, it’s an opportunity to deepen your knowledge of wine and that is a beautiful thing. Each new edition gets better with great detail and clarity within its pages. And I like maps.

Champagne: The Essential Guide to the Wines, Producers and Terroirs of the Iconic Region
Peter Liem

We all love Champagne, right? I have some wise friends who live at Lake Como and keep at least one bottle of Champagne in the fridge at all times – for good days and bad. This is good advice, and Peter Liem’s epic boxed book and map set is a deep-dive into the region and should be required reading for all Champagne lovers. Covering the region’s history, how the wines are produced, producer profiles, amazing photography and maps, this is a wonderful reference book. I like the way Peter Liem approaches the subject, including his controversial thoughts on the region’s terroir, with his expertise and love of the region flowing from the pages. It’s a beautifully produced volume, too. 

This article first appeared in issue #46 of the Halliday magazine