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  • Jancis Robinson
Written by
  • Jancis Robinson
6 Feb 2019

Food and drink books of the year were announced in London last night. 

The André Simon Awards, now in their fortieth year, were announced last night at a warm reception in The Goring Hotel attended by the likes of Hugh Johnson and veteran publisher of the late Elizabeth David's work, Jill Norman. 

Winners of the Drinks Book Award was The Sommelier's Atlas of Taste: A Field Guide to the Great Wines of Europe by ex-sommelier Rajat Parr and wine writer Jordan Mackay. Tam reviewed it here and we published this extract about minerality from the introduction to the book. But although Nick is chair of the Awards and his sister Katie is the secretary, they were only tangentially involved in the decision process. The judges include two Masters of Wine – Sarah Jane Evans and David Gleave of Liberty Wines – and this year's drinks-book assessor is my counterpart on the Daily Telegraph Victoria Moore (who won the Drinks Book Award last year). She is seen here with shortlisted author Oz Clarke, who, as she pointed out in her eloquent assessment of all shortlisted drinks books, won the Drinks Book Award 28 years ago.

She said about the winning book, 'It isn't easy to produce fresh insights and fascinating commentary on some of the most well-trampled wine regions on earth, but sommelier-turned-wine producer Rajat Parr and writer Jordan Mackay have managed to do just that, and to do so with style; I expect this book to find its way on to the shelves of wine drinkers and collectors as well as those of aspiring sommeliers.'

She also praised the other shortlisted drinks books: 'Oz Clarke was at his engaging best in Red & White: An Unquenchable Thirst for Wine [reviewed here]. But perhaps what the drink shortlist tells us more than anything is just how much we still have to learn about wine and other drinks. It included two landmark wine reference books – in one [Flawless: Understanding Faults in Wine, reviewed here], Jamie Goode takes a serious look at wine faults, in another [Vineyards, Rocks, & Soils: The Wine Lover's Guide to Geology], Alex Maltman offers a geologist's view of terroir – and a picture book that explores the world's great tea regions [Michael Freeman and Timothy d'Offay's The Life of Tea: A Journey to the World's Finest Teas.]. Notably, one of the most beautifully produced and well-written entries, Amber Revolution: How the World Learned to Love Orange Wine by Simon Woolf [reviewed here], was self-published after being crowd-funded on Kickstarter. Does this tell us something about the future for wine publishing?'

Winner of the Food Book Award advised by food writer Meera Sodha was the popular food writer Diana Henry's widely admired How to Eat a Peach: Menus, Stories and Places. The crowd at The Goring Hotel last night was swollen by representatives of The Hubb Community Kitchen, a group of West London women whose community was affected by the Grenfell Tower fire and who used cooking and recipes to heal some of the trauma caused by this terrible event. They won a Special Commendation for their book Together: Our Community Cookbook with a foreword by The Duchess of Sussex, once known as Meghan Markle.

The John Avery Award, presented by his children Mimi and Richard, went to Caroline Eden's Black Sea: Dispatches and Recipes – Through Darkness and Light. Also on the shortlist of food books was a rich array of other titles: Niki Segnit's Lateral Cooking, Matt Goulding's Pasta, Pane, Vino: Deep Travels Through Italy's Food Culture, Ben Lebus's MOB Kitchen: Feed 4 or more for under £10, James and Tom Morton's Shetland: Cooking on the Edge of the World, Melanie McGrath's Pie and Mash down the Roman Road, and Thom Eagle's First Catch: Study of a Spring Meal.

The Awards were founded in 1978 to commemorate André Simon. Past winners include Elizabeth David, Jane Grigson and Hugh Johnson. See more about the Awards here.