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Best wine books: Latest releases to read

Wine books appear to have hit new heights of popularity in 2020, with plenty of new releases. Here is some great inspiration for a gift for a wine lover, or just to treat yourself…

Best wine books: Latest releases 2020

Inside Bordeaux, Jane Anson

As any regular readers of her Decanter columns will know, Jane Anson has incredible knowledge and access to Bordeaux.

Her highly anticipated book, Inside Bordeaux, profiles 600 châteaux across the region in exceptional detail, and examines both the history of the region and modern trends.

Big Macs + Burgundy, Vanessa Price

For a fun, light-hearted guide to wine pairing, Big Macs + Burgundy is from sommelier Vanessa Price, who writes for New York magazine’s Grub Street blog.

From fried chicken and brut Champagne to pairing wines with a Big Mac, Price argues that exceptional matches can be found everywhere and that ‘you don’t need truffle-dusted sunchokes or sous-vide pheasant loins to unlock the joys of an exceptional or even just-plain-good bottle of wine’.

Noble Rot: Wines from another galaxy, Dan Keeling and Mark Andrew

From the duo behind the two London sites of Noble Rot, and the magazine by the same name, Wines from another galaxy sets out to demystify parts of the wine world. A definitive guide to ordering wines, talking about wines and knowing how to find what you like.

The pocket wine guide 2021, Hugh Johnson

Always a great choice for a stocking filler, Decanter columnist Hugh Johnson’s ever popular annual pocket wine guide is back. In its 44th year of publication, it’s a practical guide for wherever you’re buying wine, including what to drink in 2021 and what vintages to hold on to.

For a heartier read, look out for Johnson’s new edition of The Story of Wine: From Noah to now, which examines how wine became the global phenomenon it is today. It’s available from the Académie du Vin Library.

Tasting Victory: The Life and Wines of the World’s Favourite Sommelier, Gerard Basset

This is the fascinating memoir of the late Gerard Basset OBE MW MS, the world-renowned sommelier who also founded the Hotel du Vin. The book provides a rich insight into an extraordinary career, during a period of significant change on the UK culinary scene. Decanter’s Amy Wislocki also notes that, when reading this book, ‘it is striking just how much work went into the preparation for all of the many sommelier competitions that Gérard entered.’

Château Lafite: The Almanac, Saskia de Rothschild

Released in December 2020, this book charts 150 years of vintages at the First Growth estate from 2018 back to the Rothschild family’s arrival in 1868.

It includes tasting notes, information on vintage conditions and blends, as well as historical documents, and has been written by Saskia de Rothschild, a former journalist who succeeded her father, Baron Eric de Rothschild, at the helm of Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) in 2018.

DBR (Lafite) has also announced that it will release 300 cases containing a numbered magnum of Lafite Rothschild 2018 and a copy of The Almanac. Stockists for the book only are listed below:

Wine and Food: The perfect match, Ronan Sayburn MS and Marcus Verberne

Another food and wine pairing choice, Wine and Food: The perfect match, is from 67 Pall Mall’s head of wine, Ronan Sayburn MS, and head chef Marcus Verberne. This coffee table book includes food and wine pairing advice, plus guidance on wine service. Read an extract on pairing wine with tricky ingredients. The book’s guide to canapé and wine matching can also be found in the current Decanter magazine (January issue).

On Bordeaux: Tales of the Unexpected from the World’s Greatest Wine Region, Various authors.

A guide to all things Bordeaux, Jane Anson wrote the introduction to this, and some of the chapters. Other wine experts offering insights include Decanter contributors James Lawther MW and Fiona Beckett.

Chapters cover a range of topics, including the history of the region, the châteaux and the rivalries – from Left vs Right Bank to Mouton vs Lafite – plus Bordeaux in the modern world.

A Life in Wine, Steven Spurrier

Steven Spurrier has updated his 2018 memoir (Wine a way of life), revamping the original and also including two new chapters, with one on the value of a life in wine. A fascinating look back over a significant wine career – and the changes across the industry in that time.

Steven Spurrier’s top wine memories

Great wine books to read while in self-isolation – something for every kind of reader

Written March 2020

If you want a memoir… ‘Cork Dork’, Bianca Bosker

For an insight into the life of working in the New York wine scene, settle in to Bianca Bosker’s Cork Dork. A ‘high-octane account of her year in the New York wine scene’, Bosker was previously an editor at Huffington Post before pursuing a career in wine. As a New York Times bestseller, it’s got a broad appeal, for both the beginner and the seasoned oenophile.

If you want to laugh and learn… Red and White: An unquenchable thirst for wine’, Oz Clarke

Oz Clarke’s Red and White marks a slight departure from his previous books. Not just a technical reference book, it’s part autobiographical, including Clarke’s first venture into the world of wine, but also includes plenty of serious wine content. It’s ‘full of joie de vivre, wit, opinion and anecdotes,’ and it’s laugh-out-loud funny at times, said the Decanter review.

If you’re improving your knowledge… The World Atlas of Wine’, Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson MW

The eighth edition of the World Atlas of Wine was released at the end of 2019, and is an essential item on the book shelf of any self-proclaimed wine lover. Written by Jancis Robinson MW and Hugh Johnson, this is the longest edition yet, with 230 maps, 22 of which are new – showing how much the wine world is evolving.

See our interview with Robinson and Johnson, on what’s changed over the years of producing the Atlas

If you want some light relief from the news… Monsieur Pamplemousse’ series, Michael Bond

Best known for creating Paddington Bear, Michael Bond also wrote a series of novels for adults, around a character called Monsieur Pamplemousse – a Michelin inspector who also solved crime, with his canine sidekick ‘Pommes Frites’.

A series of culinary adventures are set in France, continually referencing fine wines of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhône and more… Read a taster of the books here. 

If you’re looking for a novel…. My Italian Bulldozer’, Alexander McCall Smith

Jane Anson shared some of her favourite novels that manage to effortlessly weave wine into the main story. My Italian Bulldozer is a romantic novel set in Tuscany, about a food writer who is travelling to get over a breakup.

See Jane Anson’s other wine novel suggestions here. 

If you want a visual guide to wine… Wine Folly: The essential guide to wine’, Madeline Puckette and Justin Hammack

Online publication Wine Folly made a name for itself with its easy to understand graphics that help you get to grips with learning about wine. This book, which offers a visual guide to wine, was published in 2016 and covers major grapes and regions, as well as food pairing, glassware and methods of production. It may be particularly useful for anyone using this time to revise for future WSET exams.

See also

Top wine shows to stream while in self-isolation

Chianti with The Sopranos? Top TV shows and wine pairing ideas

Latest Wine News