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Wine & spirits books 2022: the best

Our usual end-of-the-year round up, with an overview of the editorial year that was, and our selection of some of the best titles in the wine and spirits sections.

The wine publishing year reflected an overall mood of nostalgic reassessment, a looking back rather than forward, a reappraisal of classics, a focus on leading names and their established voices.

This represented a big change from 2021, when there was a more vibrant look at lesser-known regions, a bubbling emergence of new authors and an exploration of alternative editorial formats.

This return to safer grounds was greatly influenced, of course, by a wider context of caution and cost cutting, with publishers taking less risks and investing less in new titles/authors. Still, wine lovers were well served by a star-studded string of new titles and reeditions, all of which celebrate, in one way or another, the personal connection with wine through words.

On the spirits front, the publishing schedule was ruled by two major trends – back to basics and moderation – perhaps also showing the same caution and restraint, after a couple of active and creative years. The two titles that lead the spirits section below stand out for their narrative, in-depth approach, avoiding the ‘how to’ and DIY craze.

As ever, the best titles, both on wine and spirits, are also beautifully designed and a pleasure to handle and look at. If looking for last-minute Christmas gifts, these titles are safe, meaningful and stylish choices.

Best wine books 2022

Drinking with the Valkyries – Writings on wine

by Andrew Jefford, published by Académie du Vin Library
£25 from Amazon UK | $35 from Amazon US

Decanter readers will be familiar with Andrew Jefford’s unique writing style and poetic thinking. In tandem, they have shaped one of the most singular voices of wine writing in the English language. His column holds many readers expectant for each new Decanter issue, an expectation now met in luscious abundance with this collection of essays.

Jefford explains how the anthology came to be: ‘My principal writing outlet for the last 15 years has been journalism. I came to realise that many of the things I most wanted to say about wine were hidden in some of the key essays, columns and stories I had written during that time. So I nursed the idea of a collection and happily, Académie du Vin Wine Library said yes to the project in 2021.’

The title was received with unanimous praise since its launch in September. ‘I’ve been thrilled that everyone who has written about the book has picked out a different piece from it to focus on,’ says Jefford. ‘That suggests that it might bring pleasure and intrigue to many different sorts of reader. Maybe even to readers who wouldn’t normally pick up a wine book.’ Indeed you do not need to have a love for wine to enjoy this book. A love of words will more than suffice.

Chianti Classico – The atlas of the vineyards and UGAs

by Alessandro Masnaghetti and Paolo De Cristofaro (translated by Burton Anderson), published by ENOGEA
€70 from ENOGEA

A beautiful volume, with outstanding maps and infographics, delving into Chianti Classico and its eight communes and 11 UGAs. Published by Alessandro Masnaghetti’s own imprint, Enogea, the volume focuses, as expected, on the oenocartographer’s painstaking mapping work, shown in the great detail of each of the three-dimensional projections complete with topographic, geological and landmark details. Masnaghetti is, however, also a talented writer, his style reflecting the same kind of down-to-earth, experiential approachability and sensorial intimacy that makes his maps particularly informative and appealing.

The Wine Bible – 3rd Edition

By Karen MacNeil, published by Workman
£21.78 from Amazon UK | $18.99 from Amazon US

A revised and updated edition of MacNeil’s much-loved and -rated book. With her chatty style and liberal use of metaphors, MacNeil is uniquely engaging and her writing approachable, matched by a smart layout that packs a lot in the page without feeling too busy. What else do you need to bring new wine lovers to bigger depths of knowledge? This bible is, therefore, as relevant today as when it was first published in 2001. 

The Life and Wines of Hugh Johnson

by Hugh Johnson (foreword by Eric Asimov), published by Académie du Vin Library
£28.62 from Amazon UK | $40.14 from Amazon US

It is easy to fall out of love with wine when working in the industry; easy enough to take it too seriously and without enough joy. Whenever I start that dangerous tedium creeping in, I pull one of Hugh Johnson’s books from the shelf and am quickly reminded of the privilege, joy and pleasure of drinking, writing about and discovering wine.

First published in 2005 as Wine, A Life Uncorked, this book already was a great read, weaving biographical recounts with technical and historical information. This expanded and revised edition, updated by Johnson himself to take in two decades of change in the wine world, deserves even more attention. A new foreword by Eric Asimov (another author that can renew one’s belief in the craft of wine and writing), and two new chapters – on digestifs and sparkling wines – make it compulsory purchase, even for owners of the previous edition.

To Fall in Love, Drink This: A Wine Writer’s Memoir

by Alice Feiring, published by Scribner
£12.69 from Amazon UK | $13.76 from Amazon US

Although best known as the doyenne of natural wine, Alice Feiring’s writing is widely recognised even by critics of the movement (or is it the style?…). Her sixth, and most accomplished, book is a candid, witty collection of essays that show how Alice, the girl, came to be Alice Feiring, the respected wine writer. As much coming-of-age tale as a love letter to wine, and the many ways in which it touches life, this book is entertaining and inspiring in equal measures. To fall in love with wine, read this.

Best Spirits books 2022

A Sense of Place: A Journey Around Scotland’s Whisky

by Dave Broom, published by Mitchell Beazley
£35 from Amazon UK | $32.95 from Amazon US

This is not a guide or reference book; it is, rather, a beautiful and atmospheric exercise on storytelling and character portrait which will transport you to the many landscapes of Scottish whisky. Sense of Place, as of terroir, are usually thought of as qualities of wines that evoke their origins, craftsmen and history. In this volume Broom shows that the same applies to Scottish single-malts. With a pristine design and exquisite specially commissioned photography by Christina Kernohan, this book is a great accomplishment and a luxurious immersion in one of the world’s finest spirits.

Cure: New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix ’Em

by Neal Bodenheimer and Emily Timberlake, published by Harry N. Abrams
£21.99 from Amazon UK | $21.99 from Amazon US

If you’re looking for a cocktail recipe book, this title is not for you. Here, cocktails are more a pretext than an end in itself, used as narrative conduit to tell the story of New Orleans and of its incredible culture and people. Co-authored by Neal Bodenheimer, himself a protagonist of the local hospitality scene and owner of the iconic bar that gives name to the book, this really is a tribute to the vibrant legacy of the multicultural city. And all that jazz.

The best for the home mixologist

From the many guides and recipe collections released this year, we highlight two that will be a safe addition to any library and a good everyday reference for the home mixologist.

60-Second Cocktails: Amazing Drinks to Make at Home in a Minute, by Joel Harrison and Neil Ridley (published by Mitchell Beazley, Princeton Architectural Press)
£10.60 from Amazon UK | $18.73 from Amazon US
The fourth book from Joel Harrison and Decanter contributor Neil Ridley. The duo have compiled an easy-to-make selection of drinks With tips on cocktail kit, glassware and how to create your home bar.

The Cocktail Edit, by Alice Lascelles (published by Quadrille)
£23.49 from Amazon UK | $17.78 from Amazon US
Everything you need to know about how to make all the drinks that matter. The second book by Alice Lascelles, built around a capsule collection of 12 cocktails, each with six twists, this also includes chapters on ingredients, equipment and techniques.

The best for no-and-low inspiration

With readers looking for ways to cut on alcohol units, we’ve seen a good number of titles hitting the shelves this year focused on lighter or virgin cocktail options. Here are two of the best.

Drink Lightly: A Lighter Take on Serious Cocktails, by Natascha David (published by Random House)
£16.99 from Amazon UK | $13.88 from Amazon US
Get those lycra leggings out. This book, featuring 100 recipes for non-alcoholic and low-abv drinks, will get you in proper Flash Dance mood. Penned by Natascha David, renowned bartender and owner of the now closed but much-loved Nitecap bar in NYC. Also available in a kitchen/bar-friendly spiral-bound version.

Free Spirit Cocktails: 40 Nonalcoholic Drink Recipes, by Camille Wilson (published by Chronicle Books)
£14.99 from Amazon UK | $14.36 from Amazon US
A simple-to-follow and unpretentious book focused on drink ‘inclusivity’, so that no one is left out at parties or celebrations.

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