Wine World: Wine in Words


If you have a special interest in wine, you’ve probably acquired a few books on the subject. There’s a vast amount of wine information online these days, but I’ve seen many wine articles that contain errors, misinformation or dubious opinions. Professionally-published books on the other hand are usually the work of many people and often contain far more detail than online articles. Before publication, the text of books is nearly always checked by other experts in the field; a process known as a peer review. This is rarely the case with articles online. Our tropical climate is not particularly kind to printed books, but it’s much more satisfying to hold a real book in your hands rather than merely gawp at a screen.

There are hundreds of books covering every facet of wine, but I can think of a handful that really ought to be on the shelf of every wine enthusiast. They’re also up-to-date and easily available. As you probably know, many books are available in digital format, which goes a little way to saving trees. Kindle editions are available only from Amazon; they’re cheaper than the printed versions and available instantly to read on your smartphone or computer, anywhere you go. Although the Amazon website allows you to read substantial sample of each book, you can buy hard copies of all these recommendations online from Lazada, delivered to your door.

The Wine Bible, 3rd Edition (published 2022; 735 pages) by Karen MacNeil. $18.99 @ Kindle; paperback THB 1,725 @ Lazada.

First published in 2001, this book was described by American winemaker Robert Mondavi as, “The most complete wine book ever”. It’s comprehensive, entertaining, authoritative, splendidly written and endlessly interesting. It’s ideal for everyone from wine beginners to experts. It’s also my personal “go-to” reference book when I need to check something quickly. The book is divided into wine regions by country but there are dozens of side-notes and fascinating anecdotes and other snippets of information. There are hundreds of photographs and this new edition includes dozens in full colour. There are also plenty of maps and some general articles about wine, such as decoding foreign wine labels. For a good all-round wine book, The Wine Bible is the one. Incidentally, if you order a paperback copy from Lazada, be sure to check it’s the updated 3rd edition. There are many older 2nd editions still on sale.

Wine Simple (published 2019; 272 pages) by Aldo Sohm and Christine Muhlke. $7.99 @ Kindle; hardcover THB 1,920 @ Lazada (Free delivery in Thailand).

Despite its cringing ungrammatical title, this is an excellent guide which begins with the fundamentals of wine in easy-to-absorb pieces of information and it contains many useful everyday tips. Modestly subtitled “A Totally Approachable Guide from a World-Class Sommelier” the book has several broad sections that cover wine essentials, how to taste, how to evolve your palate and so on. The “world-class sommelier” is Aldo Sohm who uses the first few pages to tell you about himself before he gets into the essentials. You’ll probably either love his style or hate it, so read the first couple of dozen pages on Amazon to see if it suits you.

For the novice, Wine Simple contains a wealth of fascinating information with many illustrations and confidence-building infographics. The world-class sommelier has strong opinions too, but fortunately a good sense of humour. Jay McInerney writes, “This is undoubtedly the best introduction to wine that I’ve ever encountered. I wish I’d had access to a book like this when I was beginning my journey as a wine lover. Aldo Sohm makes wine fun without making it dumb, proving yet again that he is a great teacher”.

Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine (published 2015; 240 pages) by Madeline Puckette and Justin Hammack. $5.99 @ Kindle; paperback THB 1,640 @ Lazada. (Free delivery in Thailand).

This is an excellent book for both novices and the experienced. It is written in clear English without being condescending, and it contains some interesting information that even seasoned wine connoisseurs might need reminding about. The text is supported by excellent infographics, diagrams and flavour wheels which are invaluable for those who learn visually. Wine Folly has become popular for its inventive and easy-to-digest approach to learning. The book is divided into Fundamentals, Styles of Wine and Wine Regions. Illustrations are plentiful and almost every page contains helpful diagrams to support the text. Over a hundred grape varieties are colour-coded by style and there are detailed maps of the main wine regions, a food-and-wine pairing section and dozens of helpful tips to steer you along the road of discovery.

The World Atlas of Wine, 8th Edition (published 2019; 416 pages) by Jancis Robinson and Hugh Johnson. Hardback THB 3,540 @ Lazada (Free delivery in Thailand).

I really had to include this title. Since it first appeared in 1971, when I bought my first copy, this book has become a classic. It is now recognized as the essential and most authoritative wine reference work available, and the authors are two of the most respected names in the wine world. For anyone who is fascinated by wine and maps, this beautifully presented and designed book is a must. To reflect the changes in the global wine scene over the past six years, the Atlas has grown in size and many more maps have been added to the wealth of superb cartography. The text has also been revised and there are splendid colour photographs. Eric Asimov of the New York Times writes, “The World Atlas of Wine is the single most important reference book on the shelf of any wine student.” He’s right of course; as he so often is. The book is a delightful classic that no serious wine enthusiast can afford to be without. “This book,” writes Dave McIntyre of the Washington Post, “belongs on your shelf. It’s the essential rootstock of any true wine lover’s library”.