Sunday, September 30, 2007

Wine Literature

A list of helpful literature.

The Emperor of Wine (Elin McCoy)
-Fascinating, clear and informative. An excellent orientation to the unreliable and bullshit-filled world of wine.
Making Sense of Wine (Matt Kramer)
-credibility doubtful, but very provocative
Alexis Lichine's New Encyclopedia of Wine and Spirits
-old attitudes, old knowledge: a good reference.
Terry Robards' New Book of Wine
-Robards writes for the Wine Spectator.
Hugh Johnson's World Atlas of Wine
-Excellent maps, again - old attitudes, old knowledge, but a good reference.
The Wine Brats' guide to living with wine
-Their focus on de-snobberizing wine often hinders their clear thinking. The shape of the glass matters, guys- Accept it!
Untrodden Grapes (Ralph Steadman)
-Almost no credibility to speak of, this is best treated as a fantastically illustrated work of fiction. A fabulous book.
Judgment of Paris : California vs. France and the historic 1976 Paris tasting that revolutionized wine (George M. Taber)
-Dry and pedantic, with exhaustive histories of each wine at the tasting, this is nonetheless factual and credible, and not overly florid or fanciful in descriptions. An excellent portrayal of a critical period in the history of the wine industry.

Windows on the World of Wine (Kevin Zraly)
This is the first education-geared book I have read. As a student still in college, I'm something of a connoisseur of textbooks, if you will, and I found this to be greatly lacking. For one, its attempted scope is far to large. Often Zraly describes pricing and classification without any description of the characteristic tastes of the region. While I appreciate the accessibility of his writing, there are many elements of the wine world that are far too complex to simplify, and by doing so, one sacrifices the true picture of things. Trying to extract information from this book was like trying to work out the mechanism of DNA replication by reading a zoology textbook.

Books by Robert Parker:

The World's Greatest Wine Estates
Parker's Wine Buyer's Guide

-All of these are excellent references.


The Wine Spectator
-Flashy and commercial, with wine advertisements sandwiching wine ratings, this journal appears to cater to the inexperienced and imprecise, especially the rich and clueless. In my opinion, it's lack of credibility and reliability (because of committee tastings), and emphasis on simplifying the immensely complex world of wine, make it a confusing read. Robert Parker of the Wine Advocate, however, generously refers to The Spectator as "Required Reading." More telling is the curious fact that full-page ads in the Wine Spectator often advertise their wine's Parker Score.
-An extensive, if clumsy, database of ratings and tasting notes. Parker's scores are consistent, and his tasting notes are articulate and appetizing. His expert avoidance of conflict-of-interest, and willingness to admit his rare mistakes, make him by far the most credible wine critic.

1 comment:

Thomas Matthews said...

Thank you for including Robert Parker's assessment of Wine Spectator. Apparently, 400,000 Wine Spectator subscribers agree more with him than with you, finding our magazine educational, comprehensive, objective and reliable.

Thomas Matthews
Executive editor
Wine Spectator