In 1000 Great Everyday Wines from the World’s Best Wineries (DK Publishing, 337 pp.; $25), former Wine Spectator editor Jim Gordon and his team of writers/tasters identify a range of good and affordable wines (which he equates with “the price of an entrée at a good restaurant”) from around the world with character that reflects their origin. France gets the most ink, followed by Italy, Spain, Germany, California and other wine-producing regions. “The rest of the U.S.,” which is everywhere but the West Coast, gets a mere two pages. Ohio merits a mention of Kinkead Ridge Winery for its Cabernet Franc and Viognier-Rousanne, long lauded by an enthusiastic fan base for their high quality. Interspersed among the recommended wines are charts on how to read labels, profiles of grape varieties, tips on doing a home tasting, and many other useful tidbits for the wine enthusiast.
Beverage Basics by Robert W. Small and Michelle Couturier with Michael Godfrey (Wiley, 375 pp.; $65) takes on the entire range of alcoholic beverages though dwells heavily on wine. Much information is packed into this volume, including sections on alcohol and the law, alcohol and health, viticulture and viniculture as well as detailed profiles of grape varieties. With its tables and studies, it sometimes resembles a textbook – not necessarily a bad thing because the information is so well organized and clearly communicated. The chapters on beer and spirits seem somewhat like an afterthought as they are relatively short and basic, but overall this is a very handy book to have around.
The very popular Kevin Zraly’s Complete Wine Course (Sterling, 336 pp.; $27.95) is now in its 26th edition with vintage updates and a new “Best of the Best.” (The best wine to age, the best red wine with fish, the best wine publication, etc. Some obvious, others a bit arbitrary – but hey, he’s the author, and with 40 years of experience, who’s to argue with him?) Also new are mobile tags scattered throughout the text that take the reader to Sherry-Lehmann wine merchant in New York City or to video overviews of chapter materials. (Those lacking smartphones can type the link into the web browser on their computer.) Each chapter focuses on one or more categories of wine – for example, the white wines of Germany – and includes “homework” tastings and a list of questions pertaining to the material. It’s serious, but it’s fun, too, and chock-full of information on vintages, styles, pairings, regions, labels and much, much more.
Award-winning wine writer Natalie MacLean takes readers around the world in search of great cheap wine in Unquenchable (Perigee, 323 pp.; $24). This isn’t just a bunch of lists, but an entertaining narrative of her travels in various parts of the world, with recommendations of top value producers, best value wines, terrific pairings and related reading. You won’t find Napa Valley here – too expensive, she says – but there’s plenty of good cheap wine to ferret out in South Africa, Ontario, Germany, Australia, Argentina, Portugal, Sicily and Provence.