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My favorite wine books



I gave a talk last night to the Sonoma County Wine Library on “what makes a wine book for the ages.” That’s a rather august topic, and it made me compose a list of the books in my own wine library (which is very substantial) that I have enjoyed a great deal. Here’s the list. As you can see, I prefer older books: newer ones seem more slapdash, and the writing certainly leaves something to be desired.

  1. Notes on a Cellar-Book, George Saintsbury, 1934.
  2. Wines, Julian Street, 1948
  3. The Complete Wine Book, Frank Schoonmaker and Tom Marvel, 1934
  4. Also their American Wines, 1941
  5. Hugh Jonhson’s Story of Wine, 1989
  6. The Romance of Wine, H. Warner Allen, 1932
  7. All of Harry Waugh’s Wine Diaries, 1960s-1970s-1980s
  8. The Wines of Bordeaux, Edmund Penning-Rowsell, 1969
  9. ABC of America’s Wines, Mary Frost Mabon, 1942
  10. Drink, Andre Simon, 1953
  11. Gerald Asher’s Gourmet articles, reprinted in soft cover
  12. I came up on Bob Thompson’s “Pocket Encyclopedia of California Wines” and Olken, Singer & Roby’s “Connoisseurs’ Handbook of California Wines”
  13. Alexis Lichine’s New Encyclopedia of Wines & Spirits, 1981
  14. The World Atlas of Wine, Hugh Johnson, 1977 edition
  15. Great Winemakers of California, Robert Benson, 1977
  16. Wine Winemakers Dance: Exploring Terroir in Napa Valley, Swinchatt & Howell, 2004
  17. The Wines of America, Leon Adams, 1973
  1. Julie St John says:

    These classics stand the test of time. Thanks for the great presentation last night.

  2. redmond barry says:

    Broadbent’s tasting collections, Anthony Hansen
    s ans Matt Kramer’s Burgundy books , and Kermit Lynch’s Adventures are still good reading. And The Cask Of Amontillado.

  3. Dear Julie, thank you. It was a pleasure to be among book lovers!

  4. Bob Henry says:

    Most serious wine enthusiasts and almost all winemakers who matriculated through the California enology schools are familiar with Maynard Amerine and Edward Roessler’s reference book titled “Wines – Their Sensory Evaluation.”


    Likewise Émile Peynaud’s “The Taste of Wine: The Art and Science of Wine Appreciation.”


    Let me introduce one more that makes up the invaluable “how to critically evaluate” troika.

    The late Canadian wine writer Andrew Sharp wrote a wonderful consumer guide titled “Winetaster’s Secrets.”


    Backgrounder on author:

    Quoting Robert Parker’s book review:

    “An extremely well written book with the most informative and perceptive chapters on wine tasting I have read. This is the finest book for both beginners and serious wine collectors about the actual tasting process — lively, definitive and candid.”

    Every time I open up my highly annotated and dog-eared copy, I learn (or recall) something new and important.

    Highly, highly recommended.

    For general reading text on the basics of wine, wine grape growing and winemaking (enhanced by excellent infographics), check out Hugh Johnson and James Hallidays’ guide titled “The Vintner’s Art: How Great Wines Are Made.”


  5. Bob Henry says:

    Let me add this observation: don’t overlook wine series on home video.

    Some examples:

    (Many wonderful wine programs originally aired on U.S. public television stations in the 1990s. Few have made it into the DVD / Blu-ray era.

    You may be compelled to acquire them today as videotapes.

    The sad legacy of analogue media not always making its way into digital media, due to limited revenue-generation prospects.

    Debunks the myth that “Everything is on the Web.”)

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