This season’s wine book offerings seem slimmer than past years, and especially for pretty, coffee table books. This is not necessarily a problem, since pretty, coffee table books can cost as much as a case of well-made cheap wine.
But there are a variety of worthwhile books for sale this year. Among the most interesting:
• A wine bucket’s worth of wine guides. This category, interestingly, has picked up over the last couple of years. My favorites are Tom Stevenson’s Wine Report 2009 ($15) and Kevin Zraly’s American Wine Guide 2009 ($13). Stevenson includes U.S. wine regions, which is one reason why it’s so valuable. (Full disclosure: Several people who contributed to our DrinkLocalWine.com project contributed to each book.)
• The Geography of Wine: How Landscapes, Cultures, Terroir, and the Weather Make a Good Drop ($16). This book, by geography professor Brian Sommers, does not dazzle with style, but does explain accurately and efficiently why some grapes can grow in places where other grapes can’t – and why that’s important. His discussion of terroir is first rate, as well.
• The Wine Snob's Dictionary: An Essential Lexicon of Oenological Knowledge ($13). One of the Wine Curmudgeon’s rules about wine books is never to buy one that uses any form of the word oenology in the title. But this is the exception, since that’s the point of the book. It’s laugh out loud funny and mostly deadly accurate (though off base in blaming Randall Grahm for the plague of cute wine names). The authors, David Kamp and David Lynch, have written a series of snob books, including the Food Snob’s Dictionary.
• The Wine Maker's Answer Book ($15). This is actually a guide to winemaking for semi-professional (and even professional) winemakers, but it’s written in such a sensible manner that anyone who has ever wondered about technical issues like malolactic fermentation and barrel char could learn something. Allison Crowe, the author, is a columnist for WineMaker magazine.