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40 years of Wine Writing

My first wine book (1979) and my most recent (received today). Wine writing has come a long way since EPR’s tome, which now looks rather dwarfed by JA’s new edition.

EPR chaired the WS from 1964-1987 of course, having joined in 1937.

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I hold size isn’t important :grinning:

For a wine book it’s easy to pad out with large pictures; what is important is - does it have broad coverage, is it accurate and is it readable?

So I’ll be very interested in your opinion on JA’s book when you’ve had some time to read it

I found EPRs book very readable, I devoured the 3rd edition (1976 - left) cover to cover, and I took with me to Bordeaux. I got the 4th edition (1979) but never read it cover to cover as it was updated version of the 3rd edition

I dug out the earlier edition for the photo and can read in faded pencil details of wine I bought when I visitedwineries there in 1976

Vieux Chateau Certan F22.50 (I remember when visiting the winery that the wines were rather expensive for a Pomerol!)
Ch Palmer 1975 F25.00
Ch Carbonnieux white 1972 F12.00
Ch Carbonnieux red 1973 F20.00

Also a couple of St Emilion wineries I visited - against one I noted ‘rough & acid’!

20200530_wine-bdx

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Very true about size. This purchase is the first wine book I have purchased for many a year but I do find JA a credible writer unlike many others. I missed out on the recent Pomerol tome, by Neal Martin, which I was very disappointed about.

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I have also bought Jane Anson’s new book; so far it reads really well. In the introduction she very clearly sets out coherent and convincing reasons for writing the book. The fold out maps which show soils alongside maps showing chateau locations are very useful.
I am enjoying reading the history section which gives an excellent overview.

I also thought very highly of Jasper Morris’ “Inside Burgundy.” Neither of these books included lots of tasting notes of wines I will never try nor be able to afford. Both pay equal attention to the outlying less prestigious areas of their respective regions.

But one of the best wine books I have read is “Bursting Bubbles” by Robert Walters. It is a myth busting analysis of the Champagne region and it was much more informative than Peter Liem’s misconceived effort about Champagne. The latter painted an “everything is the garden is gorgeous” picture of the region and was littered with uncritical adulation of just about every negociant and grower. Walters was far more objective.

If you can bear the expense the new Christies’ encyclopedia of Champagne and Sparkling wine is comprehensive although unfairly dismissive of Sparkling wines from East Anglia.

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My first wine book, sadly since lost, was “A Wine Primer” by Andre Simon. I remember asking my father (I would have been in my late 'teens) “What’s the difference between “Claret” and “Red Bordeaux”?” He frowned, thought for a bit, and said “Dunno” - then the next day presented me with a second hand copy of this book, and told me to find out for myself. My recollection is that it was very much of its era - 1950s-ish? and written (of course) by a Frenchman. So about half was about claret, three quarters of the rest about Burgundy, and maybe a page each on “other wines” - ie Rhone, Alsace, Champagne. About half way down the last page it said “And readers may be interested to learn that I believe wine is sometimes made outside France.”
OK, possibly memory is playing tricks and I exaggerate, but not by much - and there was certainly no mention of anywhere beyond western Europe. Life, and the wine world, has moved on.

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No, I think your memory is sound.

It wasn’t until quite late in the C20th that new world wines became common in this country. When I returned from California in the early '70s I was laughed at for saying that they made decent wine there. The only place you could get Australian wine was from one shop in Soho owned by the Australian wine Commission (or what ever it was called).

Looking back at my WSET text books from the early '80s it is surprising how little there was about wines from outside Europe.

Another thing to bear in mind is that drinking table wine wasn’t common, it was rare to see bottles of wine on a restaurant table: men drank beer, their ‘ladies’ a snowball, or Port & lemon…

The advent of package tours to Europe is credited with introducing wine to Brits

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I have a copy of the 2nd edition of Hugh Johnson’s World Atlas Of Wine ( 1977, albeit a book club edition from 1979 ). When compared to the sixth edition from 2007 it’s almost unbelievable how the wine world had changed in the intervening 30 years.

The Southern Hemisphere particularly. New Zealand doesn’t warrant a single page in the 2nd edition !

The Northern Rhone is another area that’s changed dramatically too. Although the quality of the wines is emphasised it still seemed to be very much an insiders choice back then.

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That is an excellent and very readable book. I devoured most of it during a flight.

I buy a lot of wine books, but don’t nowadays so much get guides to wine regions; last one was Bill Nanson’s The Finest Wines of Burgundy that I got to accompany me on a trip there.

The only wine books bought so far this year are
Platters 2020 Guide to South African Wines, an annual purchase since 1996. Unmissable
Caro Feely’s Grape Expectations: A Family’s Vineyard Adventure in France enthralling
Caro Feely’s Saving Our Skins: Building a Vineyard Dream in France enthralling
Peter Stafford-Bow’s Firing Blancs (The Felix Hart Novels Book 3) - previous 2 were very amusing, based on experiences of someone in the wine business, written under a non-de- plume
Mark Daydy’s Olivia Holmes Has Inherited A Vineyard: An uplifting, feel-good story of new beginnings an unconvincing novel

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Not surprising; the book come out in 1977 and the first NZ Sauvignon Blanc wasn’t produced until 1979 (by Montana - now Brancott, in Marlborough on the South Island) and it was that which was exported and put NZ on the world’s wine stage.

They made wine on the North Island, but because of damp conditions most vines were hybrids, and the South Island was deemed too cold for vinifera. None was exported to Europe.

The wine we can easily get today bears little in common with what was available when I started drinking wine. Thankfully :slightly_smiling_face: Don Cortez anyone?

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Coincidentally, I have just purchased this, based upon a recommendation from another forum. How did you rate it?

It’s primarily a list of Cote d’Or producers with, in most cases, a page of text on one page and a photo on the facing page. Maps are small scale showing general appellations.

I didn’t find it much use on my wine tour, and I haven’t touched it since.

But - I’m not an aficionado of Burgundy and I don’t buy Burgundy so I am not the target audience Take my comments with that knowledge.

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Wow ! I had no idea.

I’ll stick to Hirondelle thanks. Not that it lived up to its name !

God, Hirondelle!!! And the really scary thing was at the time you thought that was pretty good… And the branded Liebfraumilchs, Blue Nun, Black Tower; when you moved on to Niersteiner Gutes Domthal and Piesporter Michelsberg you thought you were dead sophisticated. The memories come flooding back, as, not infrequently, did the wine.
And not forgetting Piat D’Or, heavily advertised with the slogan “The French adore le Piat D’Or!”. Which was unlikely as the French had never heard of Piat D’Or, it was a UK branding exercise by one of the big drinks conglomerates (Distillers maybe?) for sweetened filth shipped over in tankers from God knows where. Simpler times…

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My “World Atlas of Wine” is the fourth edition, text to 1994, I have a 1998 reprint. New Zealand may have arrived, but, in a 320 page book, merits precisely two! There is still very much an old world focus - Europe gets 190 pages (of which France has 89), USA 25, Australia 12, South Africa 5, South America (entirely Chile) 2 - and England and Wales - One! I suspect the focus has shifted somewaht by the current edition.

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Re the Bill Nanson “Finest Wines of Burgundy” book - this is probably my least favorite of the series of “Fine Wine” editions - I also have the Tuscany and Champagne books. All the books in the series are produced to very high standards (ie paper quality, printing etc) , and the photography in all is exceptionally good. They are all, after the introductory whaffle, a series of profiles of a selection of producers/domains/houses, each with a photo of their leading lights posing with varying degrees of self-consciousness in their vineyard or winery.
The text for each is a few paragraphs on the history, a bit on their winemaking philosophy, and then some tasting notes (now rather outdated) on their “finest” wines. So they are interesting and informative to readers who already know the area and its wines pretty well, and, as peterm found, fun to consult when in the area, but as “text books” or an introduction to their wines, would not be a first choice. (Which, for Burgundy, in my clearly-not-very-humble opinion, would be Anthony Hanson’s book for history and background, then Jasper Morris for reference.)
I had the Champagne book with me once when we called in at Barnaut’s shop in Bouzy (to stock up on their excellent blanc de noir - highly recommended), and the young lad behind the counter turned out to be the son of the owner, who laughed hysterically at the (rather stiffly posed) photo of his father, and took my book into the back of the shop to show presumably other members of the family, who also clearly found it funny. At which point Dad walks in. Slightly awkward. But in the end he accepted we hadn’t come all the way from England just to laugh at him, and he autographed his photograph in the book, so all was well.

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I had Bill Nanson’s book and formed the same view as ChiantiPeter308. A more recent publication by Raymond Blake is also in many ways unsatisfactory as does not really explain anything in clear simple and logical terms. The early chapters are diffusely written, and the later chapters, particularly 8 are all rather speculative. Chapter 2 on viticulture and Vineyards is all over the place. Blake’s book is one of the many from the “Infinite ideas classic wine library” series. Some of that series are very good, such as Rosemary George on Chablis and her other book on the languedoc. If you want to chuck a small handy volume in your car glovebox and take it round wine regions then Benjamin Lewins’ series is very useful. The pictures are appalling but the text is precise and to the point and they are very cheap.

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Snap! What an absolute beast. This is ‘the’ Bordeaux book I’ve been waiting for.

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I’d really like to get that Jane Anson book, but the price is a bit steep for me. Don’t get me wrong for such a weighty and in depth book (assuming it’s any good) that’s a very fair price. Just a little too much for me. I suspect I’ll have to wait for it to appear secondhand in Abebooks for a more affordable price!

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I’ve read about 40 pages so far. The style is very well constructed. Not preachy and not wine speak either. She does have the credibility of living in the region too. £60 is expensive but I haven’t purchased a decent wine book for ages.

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To add to the list of good wine reads, rather than a geographic, an autobiographical; Robin Yapps “Drilling for Wine” . Funny, of its time, and very engaging. One of my first, and most memorable wine books. For an area/topic book, I dip into “Rhone Renaissance” by Remington Norman on a regular basis. Love reading about the places and people Ive met on trips.