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2008 wine books Part 2

18 Dec 2008 by Jancis Robinson

Yesterday in 2008 wine books Part 1 we recommended some books out this year that try to introduce newcomers to wine, but what about new reading material for those of us who are already committed wine nuts?

I think my top 2008 recommendation as a reference book would be Clive Coates’ The Wines of Burgundy, published by the University of California Press, which has recently become the most energetic wine book publisher I know. This is a hefty volume which is in effect a fully revised version of his Côte d’Or published a decade ago so there is a certain amount of duplication. But the producer profiles, which are to me the most interesting aspect of books such as this (although there are thousands of tasting notes, and useful vintage assessments too), seem to have been updated conscientiously. The untimely death of Philippe Engel and subsequent acquisition of the vineyards by François Pinault is included, even if the name of the resulting sister property to Ch Latour, Domaine d’Eugénie, is not. For years, Remington Norman’s The Domaines of Burgundy was the best reference but sadly it is now pretty out of date and this new book nicely takes its place.

There are of course the usual annuals and it’s good to see Wine Report 2009 edited by Tom Stevenson and published by Dorling Kindersley again – not least because it is such a useful complement to the best of the winery-by-winery annuals, Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book 2009 (Mitchell Beazley), that is always so miraculously comprehensive (even if I’m sure we all have a few additions we’d like to make).

For a good read, you could always try Corkscrewed by Robert Camuto, an American who fell in love with France and some of her more individual wine producers – a sort of Adventures on the Wine Route Rides Again. The University of Nebraska Press must be one of the more unexpected wine book publishers.

I believe we Brits have to thank another pair of Americans, Dick Ward and David Graves of Saintsbury winery in Carneros, who ensured that we have an attractive re-issue of George Saintsbury’s Notes on a Cellar-Book, intelligently edited and annotated by that California wine scholar Thomas Pinney. There is much food for thought here, and a facinating window on another age of connoisseurship. Not a score in sight, and again the University of California Press was responsible.

For comment on a wide range of other books published in 2008, see Wine writing – US v UK and feel free to add your own comments on wine books and wine writing below. Have I missed out anything wonderful?



Sorry, Stephen. Have only just caught up with your kindly drawing our attention to the buzz surrounding company directors' liabilities. (Christmas intervened.) You can be sure however that my reaction to your book is likely to involved multiple Zs.

6 Jan 2009 15:52 by Jancis Robinson

Jancis, Regrettably you failed to mention a forthcoming book to which I contributed, which in my view undoubtedly deserves a mention on your website. The book, entitled "Company Directors: Duties, Liabilities, and Remedies", will be published by OUP in February 2009. It was edited by Simon Mortimore QC, a well known authority in this field. I contributed chapter 23 (capital and distributions) and chapter 24 (accounts, audit and annual returns). It's a snip at £175.00 (hardback). There is a buzz around the duties and liabilities of company directors, particularly in light of the Companies Act 2006, with much interest and focus on sections 170 to 177. The book opens with an historic perspective (written by Simon Mortimore QC) which reviews the legislative history of this thrilling field. It is in a handy sized book which, at over 1,000 pages, slips easily into the nearest skip and can be easily referred to in the event of insomnia.

18 Dec 2008 22:26 by Stephen Robins

Hi Jancis It seems you missed out on this:- I have teamed up with Philip Williamson and David Moore of Wine Behind The Label fame to write a topical and unique Guide to the Wines of England and Wales. There is a buzz around wine production in England and Wales with much interest and focus on climate change and its implication for the 200+ vineyards. Rumour has it that imminent overseas investment will also be providing a renaissance to our wine industry. Many well established English and Welsh winemakers are now producing award winning wines and competing on the world stage for recognition. Some of their wines are served at State banquets as a tribute to their quality. The book opens with an historic perspective and asks if wine was produced here by the Romans or only imported. The intervening centuries also have an interesting story to tell. An erudite essay by Richard Selley, Emeritus Professor of Geology at Imperial College, London, charts the impact of climate change on viticulture. Richard is an acknowledged expert and author on the geology of English vineyards. Perfect for a wine trail holiday or some excellent weekend visits, this unique illustrated guide with maps will provide an up to date overview of more than 100 vineyards, tell you about the winemakers who are putting the UK firmly on the (international) map, detail their wines and viticulture, point out which vineyards are open to the public or by appointment and detail the wide variety of grapes grown and the many styles of English and Welsh wines produced. It is in a handy sized book which slips into the pocket or handbag which can be easily referred to whilst touring the vineyards. Regarding our researches, most of the vineyards were personally visited by either Philip, David and myself (we divided the country up between us) and we got a number of wineries to send in their wines to us for a comprehensive tasting as well as our attendance at the English Wine Growers annual tasting at Lords earlier this year. Clearly, there has been a tremendous increase in the quality of English and Welsh wines over the past few years, especially the fizz, but there are a number of producers making very passable still wines, which will only improve as new techniques are mastered. The one thing that will hold all this improvement back, is the weather. However great a wine producer is, it is impossible to cope with some of the conditions encountered in 2007 and 2008 in stark contrast to the great 2006 vintage which was excellent in both quality and quantity. Certainly before I embarked on this exercise, I was quite sceptical, but I am not now.

18 Dec 2008 16:40 by Neville Blech

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