Variations on a Theme: For the Holidays — Wine

Carlo DeVito, professional food and wine writer and co-owner of the Hudson-Chatham winery, gives a list of books for the wine lovers in your life.

Mark Twain once wrote: “The approach of Christmas brings harassment and dread to many excellent people. They have to buy a cartload of presents, and they never know what to buy to hit the various tastes; they put in three weeks of hard and anxious work, and when Christmas morning comes they are so dissatisfied with the result, and so disappointed that they want to sit down and cry. Then they give thanks that Christmas comes but once a year.”

Here’s a list of books for the wine lover in your life to prove Mark Twain wrong. Cheers!

Divine Vintage: Following the Wine Trail from Genesis to the Modern Age by Randall Heskett and Joel Butler

What do you get when a Master of Wine (the first in North America) expert crosses paths with a biblical scholar? You get Divine Vintage. Joel Butler is currently president of the Institute of Masters of Wine, North America Ltd., and a well published writer. Randall Heskett is a biblical scholar with advanced degrees in the Old Testament and Hebrew Bible from Yale University and the University of Toronto. The two explore how wine has significantly influenced the evolution of human society through the lenses of historical fact and the interpretation of Biblical texts about wine. Wine was an integral part of life in the Roman world and is a key element in many stories in the Bible. This provides a fascinating read.

Inventing Wine: A New History of One of the World’s Most Ancient Pleasures by Paul Lukacs

Paul Lukacs is one of the best wine writers today. According to him, the history of drinking wine dates back at least 8,000 years , and although the chemistry remains similar, the wines people drank back then were very different from those we enjoy today. And of course, fashion and cultures have invented and reinvented wine many times. Lukacs explains the many transformations of wine through the ages — from nutritional substance to spiritual elixir to foodstuff — and looks at aspects such as medicinal uses and artistic views. Lukacs blends it all beautifully.

How to Love Wine by Eric Asimov

In this book, Eric Asimov, wine critic for The New York Times, relates examples of anxiety that people experience when it comes to wine, and with warmth and candor he draws on his professional knowledge and insights to allay those worries. The book is chock-a-block with engaging personal stories of his love affair with wine. Asimov is a wonderful storyteller. This book would be an excellent choice for novices and experts alike.

Uncorked: My Journey Through the Crazy World of Wine by Marco Pasanella

In this quirky behind-the-scenes memoir, Marco Pasanella relates his journey through the wine business after he opened a wine shop at the age of 43. Pasanella depicts an industry that’s rich in history yet still uncomfortable with technology, even while celebrating it. The book features interesting characters and big personalities.

Wine Grapes : A Complete Guide to 1,368 Vine Varieties, Including Their Origins and Flavours by Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding and José Vouillamoz

A pocket guide to grapes by world-renowned wine expert Jancis Robinson has long been a staple of the industry, but this new tome, weighing in at a hefty 7 pounds and 1,280 pages, is the definitive guide to wine grapes around the world. Using cutting-edge DNA analysis and detailing almost 1,400 distinct grape varieties, this book examines grapes and wine in amazing detail. The grapes are presented alphabetically, charting the relationships between them, including family trees. This book is the ultimate addition to any oenophile’s library.

The New York Times Book of Wine: More Than 30 Years of Vintage Writing by Howard Goldberg

This work contains 125 of the best articles on wine that have appeared in The New York Times, with contributions by Eric Asimov, Frank Prial, R.W. Apple, Frank Bruni, Harold McGee, Alex Witchell and many others. With an introduction by Eric Asimov, editor Howard Goldberg, who has been writing about wine for more than 30 years in the Times, has chosen pieces covering everything from corkscrews and wine speak to pairing wine with food, restaurant experiences and much more. The writing is terrific throughout, making this a great wine book for bedside reading.

Wine Wars: The Curse of the Blue Nun, the Miracle of Two-Buck Chuck and the Revenge of the Terroirists by Michael Veseth

Mike Veseth (a.k.a. the Wine Economist) tells the fascinating saga of the war between market trends that are redrawing the world wine map and the “terroirists” who resist them. The author explains how the wine industry is at a critical crossroads today. According to him, three unstoppable forces are reshaping the globe: globalization; the rise of branded products, like the famous Two-Buck Chuck; and “the revenge of the terroirists” to save wine’s soul. An interesting work that’s fun to read.

The Windows on the World Complete Wine Course by Kevin Zraly

This classic gets a whole new life in an interactive paperback edition. This is the top best-selling wine book in the world, having sold more than 3.2 million copies. Zraly, who started the world’s most famous wine class, was North America’s most famous cellar master. He articulates complex ideas better than anyone in the industry. The book is filled with interesting facts and tidbits. The text has been updated throughout, but also carries 15 phone tags that bring videos of Zraly to your phone or laptop. Also included is an audio pronunciation guide filled with 1,300 audio files of the most difficult to pronounce people and terms associated with wine. Still the single best book in the business.

The Wines of the Southern Hemisphere by Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jensen

The World Wine Guys have scoured wine-making countries south of the equator to provide a broad picture of this new world region. Having traveled to each of the countries they discuss, the authors provide interviews, profiles, reviews, and recipes from Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and other places. Witty and informative writing makes this colossal work enjoyable to dip in and out of. This book offers a new take on wines from this part of the world.

The Wine Region of Rioja by Ana Fabiano

This big, beautiful book focuses on one of the hottest wine regions in the world today, where high-quality Rioja wines originate. Fabiano highlights the history, customs and cuisine of Rioja, taking readers to the region’s centenary wineries as well as modern cutting-edge producers. She presents an in-depth look the differences between the classic traditional Rioja classifications and the newer, more modern styles that are emerging. Readers will find the author, who has 20 years of experience leading wine tours through Spain and Rioja, a great guide.

Carlo DeVito is a professional food, wine, beers and spirits editor and writer. He is co-owner of the Hudson-Chatham Winery, with his wife, Dominique, and is editor of the blog East Coast Wineries.

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