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What is a good (great) book for getting started with wine...

characteristics of grapes, blends, etc....


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  1. Some of the first books I started with were those Robert Parker annuals back in 80's. Not sure they are published anymore. Learned a ton from them.... especially about the different wine regions of the world, the varietals planted in each region, and some of the more well-known producers in each area. A good reference, regardless of whether you do or don't like his "ratings".

    1 Reply
    1. re: TombstoneShadow

      Those books are very informative and you can get one for $3.41 including shipping. Most of the information about specific wines is long out of date and useless, but the stuff about appellations is solid.


    2. Depends on how much you already know but I suggest starting with The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil. If you want more information maybe The Oxford Companion to Wine or The World Atlas of Wine.

      1 Reply
      1. re: JonDough

        Here's a second vote for Karen MacNeil's "The Wine Bible." It's well organized, so you don't have to read every word to find the information you want at any given time. But it is very readable.

        1. see below/above for earlier Chow thread, but yeah I'd second the Wine Bible if you want something that will serve as introduction and yet is comprehensive enough that you'll be using it/relying upon it for years as you expand your knowledge base....

          there are a lot of recent books that are even more basic intros, but the Bible is the "one" I'd recommend if you were only gonna get one to learn from for 1-5 years....

          1. Sorry to seem obtuse, but WHAT do you WANT to learn?

            For example, for a great starter book, try "Great Wines Made Simple" by Andrea Immer Robinson.

            To do comparisons between wines, try Kevin Zraly's "Windows on the World Wine Course."

            For a more serious reference book, yes, you could get Karen MacNeil's "The Wine Bible," BUT I WOULD NOT . . . a new, revised edition is due out within the year. Wait.

            For a GREAT reference book, and very readable (as a reference -- think World Book, as opposed to Encyclopædia Britannica), get a copy of "The Oxford Companion to Wine," by Jancis Robinson.

            If you want books which are SPECIFICALLY focused on one country, or on one region, let us know for further recommendations.

            3 Replies
            1. re: zin1953

              Karen MacNeil's new edition of the Wine Bible probably won't hit shelves till late spring, 2016, so buy the current edition now (new or used), and then re-buy it if you wish. I think it's one of the best.

              Also of note: Say what you will about the "For Dummies" books, but the Wine for Dummies books are very clear and full of easy-to-understand information.

              In the series are Wine for Dummies, and also French Wine for Dummies, Italian Wine for Dummies, and Champagne for Dummies. All are good. Written by wine writer Ed McCarthy along with his wife and Master of Wine, Mary Ewing Mulligan.

              1. re: maria lorraine

                My bad; I thought it coming out sooner . . .

              2. re: zin1953

                "For a GREAT reference book, and very readable (as a reference -- think World Book, as opposed to Encyclopædia Britannica), get a copy of "The Oxford Companion to Wine," by Jancis Robinson."

                Absolutely agree. The one book every serious wine person needs.

              3. Peynaud, Émile (1984). Knowing and Making Wine. trans. Alan Spenser. Wiley-Interscience. ISBN 0-471-11376-X.

                Peynaud, Émile; intro. by Michael Broadbent, M.W. (1996). The Taste of Wine: The Art and Science of Wine Appreciation. trans. Michael Schuster. London: Macdonald Orbis. ISBN 0-471-11376-X.

                Simultaneously basic and advanced. Yet well translated. Yet pricey.

                1. Wine Bible by Karen McNeil. It has absolutely amazing coverage of France and Italy. Information on new world wines is not as comprehensive, but I think it's the perfect book to start of with. McNeil consulted a slew of regional experts for each chapter and I believe she took something like 10 years to write it. Would also recommend checking out winefolly.com (blog) and ordering some of their posters. As an other option, I did a Wines class at Cornell and the professor used Wine For Dummies, but imo Wine Bible is much better.

                  1. I routinely google such info if I want for example to find out about say characteristic traits of Tempranillo or some other grapes/wines. There is so much information available at your fingertips.

                    1. I started with Hugh Johnson Pocket Wine Book
                      many years ago. For French speakers the Guide Hachette
                      des Vins is a very good source (covers France only).

                      1. This is not a traditional starter guide, but if you have even a little basic knowledge Jay McInerney's 3 books are tremendously informative and entertaining. Sure, he often focuses on high-end stuff I'll never encounter, but he actually has a lot of practical mid-range and everyday recommendations mixed-in. There's a broad range of knowledge in his books, and I found them a very accessible way to learn about different grapes, regions etc.