Luna Beberide Mencía, Bierzo, Spain 2019 (£9.50, thewinesociety.com) At Christmas, a wine book is second only to a bottle of grand cru as a longed-for present for the wine lover in your life. Which book rather depends on your oenophile’s level of interest – although it’s worth remembering that no beginner in any subject ever enjoys being patronised. As science editor-turned-wine writer Jamie Goode puts it in his fun polemical primer to wine appreciation, The Goode Guide to Wine (£15.99, UCP), “Rather than Cheese for Dummies I want to read Cheese for Smart People. Smart people who just don’t know much about cheese yet.” The wine book that comes closest to that ideal, but which will also appeal to the most serious of wine experts, is The World Atlas of Wine (£50, Mitchell Beazley). Co-edited by the UK’s most distinguished wine writers, Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson, it’s filled with great writing and gorgeous, fine-detailed maps. Read it with a succulent, cherry-scented red from a region with an expanded section in the recently published 8th edition, Bierzo.
Battenfeld Spanier Mölsheim Riesling, Rheinhessen, Germany 2017 (£14.67, justerinis.com) If The World Atlas of Wine takes care of the geography of wine, while also doing a pretty good job on the biology, chemistry and culture, then The Story of Wine: From Noah to Now (£30, Academie du Vin Library) – another Hugh Johnson masterpiece that has also been republished in a new edition this year – deals with the history. In Johnson’s typically spry and musical prose, it tells the story from ancient Egypt and Rome to, the late-20th-century rise of the New World via Burgundy’s monks and Bordeaux’s links with medieval England. For wine lovers looking to dig deeper into a specific region or country, I’d look to the impressive and growing series The Infinite Ideas Classic Wine Library, which includes fine books on South Africa, the Languedoc and, the best so far, The Wines of Germany (£30), by the London-based German master of wine, Anne Krebiehl, with the latter’s lively, literary intelligence best enjoyed with an electrifying new-wave dry riesling such as Battenfeld Spanier’s Mölsheim.
Christophe Cordier Viré-Clessé, Burgundy, France 2018 (£16.99, or £14.99 as part of a mixed case of six, majestic.co.uk) This year hasn’t been a vintage year for wine-led restaurants and wine bars, of course, but a certain amount of vicarious, if poignant pleasure can be had from reading the memoirs of some leading lights of that scene. Tasting Victory (£25, Unbound), the late French master sommelier Gerard Basset’s tale of his journey from directionless working class kid to Sommelier World Champion and founder of the British Hotel du Vin chain is incidentally fascinating on the development of the British eating and drinking scene while lifting the lid on the arcane world of competitive sommellerie. Wine Girl (£16.99, Fleet), by US sommelier Victoria James, is a brilliantly Bourdain-ish, occasionally harrowing tale of a young woman making her way through the institutionally sexist American fine-dining world. A glass of rich white burgundy, such as Christophe Cordier’s, will enhance the experience of a first chapter in which James deals hilariously with a classic chauvinistic mansplainer and a bottle of Domaine Ramonet Chevalier-Montrachet, super-expensive white burgundy.
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