Five Books About Wine You Can Read at Home or On-The-Go

There are a lot of great books about wine out there. Many are thoroughly researched and well written, but this often means that they’re quite information-heavy, or physically quite large. Take the World Atlas of Wine by Jancis Robinson and Hugh Johnson, for example. It’s a favorite of many wine lovers, but at 4.8 pounds, it’s not a book that you can slip into your handbag or luggage easily.

The five books that follow are easy-to-read narratives that you can enjoy by the pool, on a train, plane or anywhere with a glass of wine in hand.


Wine and War

by Donald Kladstrup and Petie Kladstrup

This classic takes you on a journey through war-torn France, from the German-occupied Chateaux of Bordeaux to the liberation of great wine from Hitler’s nest in Austria.

The tear-jerker comes mid-way through the book. Gaston Huet, of Domaine Huet in Vouvray, has been captured and is spending time in a prisoner of war camp. He manages to bribe the guards into allowing small deliveries of wine. After months of collecting bottles from around France, there is enough for a modest celebration. The significance of the wine greatly outweighs the size of the pours:

“A party to celebrate wine? No, it is not just that. It is also a celebration of us and how we have survived. With this little glass of wine that we are going to drink together tonight, we will savor not only a rare fruit but also the joy of a satisfied heart.”

It’s not just a history book, it’s the story of how wine became a symbol of resistance during such a turbulent period. If you were ever wondering if wine is “just a drink”, here’s your answer.


Adventures on the Wine Route

by Kermit Lynch

In Adventures on the Wine Route, American importer Kermit Lynch takes us on a wine tour of France in the 1980s – from the Loire, through Bordeaux and the South of France, and up into Burgundy.

His musings on wine and travel are philosophical and poetic. This book isn’t so much a lesson on wine, but on how to perceive and interpret it.

For the #Winetraveler, perhaps the most relatable moment comes during his tales of Provence:

“But then of course Cassis tastes better at Cassis! Debussy sounds better after a walk through the foggy, puddled streets of late-night Paris. You are in the midst of the atmosphere that created it. The wine is not different; the music is not different. You are.”

The ideal place to read this would be beside the pool in Bandol, or perhaps among the vines in the Rhone valley. If you read it at home, you’ll be searching for flights to France as soon as you put the book down.


The Billionaire’s Vinegar

by Benjamin Wallace

The Billionaire’s Vinegar is thrilling. It tells the story of some of the most expensive wine ever sold at auction, including a bottle of 1787 Lafite Rothschild, one of many alleged to be part of Thomas Jefferson’s collection.

Featuring some of the best-known personalities of the wine world in the 80s and 90s, it reads like a detective novel. A real page-turner.


Godforsaken Grapes

by Jason Wilson

There are thousands of wine grapes, but a small number dominate wine lists. In Godforsaken Grapes, Jason Wilson recounts his mission to understand the underappreciated grapes of the wine world – from Altesse to Zweigelt.

It’s refreshingly honest, relatable and funny. And, at times, it’s weird. At one point, the author asks a winemaker for directions to the bathroom. The response? “Down the hallway… but I would be honored if you pissed in my garden instead.”

He does it.

The title is based on a speech by Robert Parker in which the critic dismissed obscure varieties. Anyone that admires Parker or classic wines might find the several references to that speech, and to so-called “Serious Wines”, a little tiresome. But in the end, Wilson enjoys a bottle of Leoville Poyferre 1982 and confesses,

“I am abashed to admit it – after all my Bordeaux-bashing and all my Robert Parker bashing – but I loved this wine.”

It is moments like this, where the author admits doubt, that makes this book so relatable.

It won’t help you to pass any wine exams – it’s too obscure – but by reminding you about the fascinating world of wine, it might inspire you to get back to the books. And it will certainly inspire you to try something new.


Cork Dork

by Bianca Bosker

In Cork Dork, Journalist Bianca Bosker recounts her entry into the sommelier world, starting as a “Cellar Rat” before eventually working through the sommelier exams and onto the restaurant floor.

Bosker’s initial perspective as a wine outsider allows her to observe and challenge (with amusement) customs of the wine world.

In one chapter, she takes cups of herbs to a blind tasting and asks sommeliers to identify them blind. Although chervil was frequently used in tasting notes, none of the sommeliers could identify chervil itself. In another, she explores and defends the production of “mass market” wines that many experienced drinkers would sniff at.

Cork Dork is funny and observant; an amusing and honest journey into the world of wine.

Interested in any of these wine books? Click on any of the links mentioned above to purchase directly on Amazon. Featured photo courtesy Sarah Phillips.


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Comments ( 2 )

  1. Great list! I have them all except for Adventures on the Wine Route. Looks like I am heading there next! Cheers.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sarah Phillips is a Miami-based marketer and wine educator. After spending nearly five years working in the London wine trade, she relocated to Miami in January 2019. Sarah has her WSET Diploma (Level 4 Certified) and teaches classes with a focus on the wines of France, Spain, Portugal and Italy at the Florida Wine Academy.

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