A Best-of-Its-Type Wine Book

WindowsWineThere are all sorts of examples of books that just keep appearing, edition after edition after edition. There are really only two ways of looking at this phenomenon: 1) The book is old hat, but they just keep putting it out because it’s well-known and that’s good enough for the publisher, or 2) The book remains among the best of its type.

There is no fine line here. A book that is among the best of its type is easily recognizable to those who have been looking closely.

Kevin Zraly has just recently seen his “Windows on the World Complete Wine Course” published over the subheading of “The 30th Anniversary Edition”. It falls into the second category: The best of its type. It was the book that was handed to me on my first day working in Wine PR. “Read This”, I was instructed.

That “type” can generally be called “The Survey of the Wine World” school of wine books. One of the things that makes Zraly’s 30th anniversary edition so remarkable is that this type of wine book may in fact be the most commonly purchased wine book. This type of wine book serves not only as a foundational introduction to wine, but also as a reference. They highlight the basics of winemaking, wine drinking, wine regions, grape varieties, wine education and anything else about which a well-rounded wine lover ought to be aware.

The new “Windows on the World Complete Wine Course” 30th Anniversary edition does all this is a concise and organized way, just as it has done since the first edition was published in 1985. Yet, it is nearly impossible to write or even update this kind of book without including one’s own opinions on regions, wines and people. Zraly gives us some of his own opinions to chew on and swish around as he profiles the lay of the wine land. This is just one of the features that keeps the book from becoming monotonously academic.

It’s hard to find any way to criticize this book. It’s sharp-looking, well designed, written with exacting and compelling prose, and covers most of what needs to be covered, particularly for the person who has picked it up with a commitment to educate themselves. The only fault I might find with the new edition is that of the many wines in many categories that Zraly recommends or points to as examples, few could be put into the category of “new breed”. Many of his recommended wines could have been recommended in the first editions. While his recommendations seem largely relevant, more mention of new wineries would be appreciated.

“Windows on the World Complete Wine Course” is one of those books that really must be included in any list of The Wine Writing Cannon alongside The Oxford Encyclopedia of Wine, The World Atlas of Wine, Gerald Asher’s books of essays and a few others.

By Kevin Zraly — Sterling Epicure —$28.00

As most know, the original Windows on the World restaurant where Kevin Zraly worked for many years was felled on 9/11. Kevin dedicates this 30th Edition to all those who lost their lives on that day.

2 Responses

  1. Wayne Young - November 19, 2014

    This was also one of my first wine books, but I wonder if the Italy section is as woefully inaccurate and incomplete as in last editions…

  2. norman gennaro - November 19, 2014

    I have the book but some of the suggested wines are difficult to find. Is there a updated list of what people use when this course is done in NYC?

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