Best Wine Books of 2005
My books stack up. They stack up by the bedside, in my office, in my closet, on my television and on my desk. It’s a problem I’m working one.
And while this year it seems I’ve been concentrating on antiquarian editions within the wine genre, I’ve still had time to buy and buy and browse and buy the wine books that are new to the shelves.
Wine works well in the pages because it is a product that spans history, culture, classes, personalities, science and even the overwhelming need to incorporate celebrity into our lives.
My Five Top New Wine Books of 2005 hit on a number of these subjects, each with a different perspective and all from authors with a unique voice.
The Emperor of Wine: The Rise of Robert Parker and the Reign of American Taste (By Elin McCoy)
Robert Parker has become a polarizing figure in the world of wine as well as a necessary figure. No one stirs more debate and interest not just about his influence, but about what wine should be than the author of the wine advocate. When he is done publishing he will still be polarizing, but he will also be found to be responsible for creating more wine enthusiasts than any other non-vintner in this era. Elin McCoy nails Parker’s significance not only to American wine drinkers but to the wine trade around the world. This book could have been terrible. It could have been a mere expose based on an agenda. It is in fact an exploration of the modern taste in wine and the modern approach to wine using Robert Parker as the central character and spring board for important discussions.
Great Wines of America: The Top 40 Vintners, Vineyards and Vintages (By Paul Lukacs)
I review this book at length in an earlier post as well as interviewed its author. Since first reading I’ve gone back to it numerous times not so much to check the list, but to better understand and appreciate the criteria by which Lukacs devises his list. This is not so much a list of the best in America as it is an explanation of the significant movements and elements of the American wine story with pointers to those vintners and wines that exemplify America’s wine story. This book is highly recommended.
A History of the World in Six Glasses (By Tom Standage)
Tom Standage is the the Technology Editor at The Economist, perhaps the top news magazine in the world. He is also a historian. Neither of these two facts about the man are difficult to imagine after reading A History of the World in Six Glasses. The premise of this great read is that different ages throughout history have each had their defining drink. Beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and Coca-Cola are the six defining drinks in this work. Wine is all over the book and for good reason. It has spanned civilizations and time, allowing all number of accomplishments to occur. Standage explains this in smooth running prose that really hit the spot. Not a reference boo, by any means, but rather this is a very good "sit down and enjoy read"…nearly a romp.
A Wine Journey Along The Russian River (By Steve Heimoff)
This book too has been reviewed in an earlier post. It winds up on my To Five list because it is the best book I’ve read this year that attempts to dissect a particular wine region, in this case Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley. The West Coast Editor of the Wine Enthusiast Magazine, Heimoff digs deep into this region exploring the geography, the spiritual and practical meaning of the land, the people who live and work in the region and the mean of the wines that are produced here. It is a very personal book in a way I did not expect and this too makes it a great find and great read. You’ll leave the final page knowing enough about this region to satisfy you, but also with a strong desire to get in your car and drive about the back roads of the Russian River Valley looking yourself to uncover its secrets.
The Worlds Great Wine Estates: A Modern Perspective (By Robert Parker)
If you read Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate you’ll know that far more interesting than his numbers is his commentary that arrives before the reviews of a region and the perspective he reveals when he writes about an estate before launching into the reviews. This new tome is an expansion these elements of his writing. "The World’s Great Wine Estates" is both reference and story, not an easy combination to pull of. Parker pulls it off with authority, depth and a very critical eye. While a large book, it is not comprehensive in it’s look at the world of wine. However, it is a magnificent examination of what the best vintners in the world are doing and how they are doing it.