The most important and the most enjoyable component of building a wine education is tasting a large variety of wines and developing your palate. If you want to truly broaden your wine knowledge, however, you can’t just stop there. The books listed below have had a profound impact on my understanding and appreciation of wine and I highly recommend them to anyone that wants to further their wine education.
The Wine Bible, written by Karen MacNeil
The Wine Bible is a terrific guide for beginners but thorough enough to be a helpful resource for the more experienced. The book begins with a basic introduction to tasting and evaluating wine. Other notable topics includes a comprehensive list of the grapes used to make wine and tips on buying, storing, aerating, and decanting wine.
The most valuable resource inside is the in depth look at the major wine growing regions of the world, complete with maps, local winemaking laws, and information regarding notable producers in the respective regions. MacNeil does a great job of personalizing the book with fun, interesting anecdotes and providing readers with an easily approachable and unpretentious guide to the world of wine.
Judgment of Paris, written by George M. Taber
If you’re interested in the history of California wine and the tasting event that put the US on the world’s wine map, this book is a must read. Written by George M. Taber, the Time magazine reporter that covered the famous 1976 wine tasting event that pitted California wines against France’s best, the book gives the reader a sense of the Napa Valley before it was a big time wine region.
Judgment of Paris provides an account of the rise of Napa institutions such as Chateau Montelena and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars. What I found most interesting were the stories of the people that have had such an influence in the California and consequently the American wine industry. Pioneers such as Andre Tchelistcheff, Mike Grgich, Lee Stewart, and Warren Winiarski are truly inspiring figures for any wannabe winemaker.
Without a doubt, this book is one of my all time favorites. Taber’s simply a great storyteller and the rise of the Napa Valley is a great story. The American wine industry is forever indebted to him, as his Time article played a huge part in the industry’s rise and success. I was very excited to find Taber on Twitter- you can follow him at @GeorgeMTaber.
The University Wine Course, written by Marian W. Baldy
As the title might indicate, this book is actually a college textbook on wine appreciation. I know that I said college textbook, but hold on, stay with me! Baldy provides an in depth view of the sensory evaluation of wine, a/k/a “is this wine good.” Also included are chapters on the production of red wine, white wine, and fortified wine. Baldy also touches on the subject of grape growing and vineyard management.
Other cool features of the University Wine Course include quizzes to test your wine knowledge, tasting diagrams, and various tips and tools to set up home tastings. This is not the ideal book for beginners, but when you’re ready to tackle some of the more technical aspects of wine, buy this book. If I would have had college courses like this, I definitely would have gone to class much more often.
Note: As I was flipping through these books today, I couldn’t help but notice that Robert Mondavi’s approval was stamped on each one: on the front cover of the Wine Bible, on the back cover of the University Wine Course, and in the foreword of Judgment of Paris. I wanted to write about Mr. Mondavi and I took this as a sign that maybe next week is the time to do it. Stay tuned!