Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Books for Christmas: Jancis Robinson “Wine Grapes” and Nick Stock “Good Wine Guide 2013”

Wine Grapes by Jancis Robinson MW, Julia Harding MW and Dr José Vouillamoz is an astonishing book. Its 1241 pages details almost 1400 distinct grape varieties, as well as a myriad of correct (and incorrect) synonyms. Cutting edge DNA and relentlessly patient and detailed research lies behind the book, which comes in a huge cloth-bound volume and cloth slipcase. Ecco is an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers and is above and beyond all but a handful of books among the many hundreds in my personal wine book library. I assume it will ultimately be sold in Australia, but I obtained my copy through Amazon at a total cost of US$136.23 (including postage and packaging). One of the features of the book is the reproduction of 80 colour paintings of some of the most obscure grape varieties imaginable alongside better known varieties. Thus you get a picture of Amigne, Arvine, Bagrina, Biancolella, Portugais Bleu, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Canaiolo Nero, Chaouch, Jaén Blanco and Pinot Blanc Chardonnay – the latter the last illustration in the first group, and with a cross reference at its foot to the correct (and simple) Chardonnay. The paintings come from a seven-volume, 3200-page work published in French between 1901 and 1910, compiled by Pierre Viala (1859-1936) a professor of viticulture in Montpellier, supported by no less than 85 grape experts from several countries. When you see the acknowledgements page in Wine Grapes, I didn’t count the names, but Jancis Robinson has secured the support of well more than 85 people in compiling the ultimate wine grape book.

Nick Stock Good Wine Guide 2013, published by Penguin Australia under the aegis of The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald (a humble 450 pages, RRP $26.99) provides tasting notes for over 1500 wines with the usual database extracts to help you navigate. It presents the wine in varietal groups, with scores out of 100, and as an added attraction includes the recipe for the Penguin Bloody Mary and a selection of sake reviews.

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