Three Wine Books that Would Make Excellent Holiday Gifts

By John ~ October 24th, 2012.

In recent months, I have come across a number of wine books that have caught my attention. Three stood out for me, each of which I would recommend for people who love wine or are interested in learning more about it. I’m presenting the books in alphabetical order, since my recommendation for you would depend on your level of wine knowledge and your depth of interest in wine.

The New York Times Book of Wine: More Than 30 Years of Vintage Writing by Howard G. Goldberg
This book is a compilation of 156 excellent articles that have appeared in the New York Times wine column since 1972. As Eric Asimov says, “This anthology chronicle’s wine’s coming of age in the United States, from an American point of view.” One thing I noticed was that in the early years, the wine column seemed to provide a lot of introductory information, most likely because of the lack of knowledge among most Americans about wine forty years ago. Today, the average American knows much more about wine, and the most recent articles reflect that assumption about Times readers.

Here’s a baker’s dozen of my favorite articles from this book:

  1. “Pop Goes the Critic” by Eric Asimov
  2. “Talk Dirt to Me” by Harold McGee and Daniel Patterson
  3. “A Rule Just Waiting to Be Broken” by Eric Asimov
  4. “The Tastes of Walla Walla, Secret No More” by R.W. Apple, Jr.
  5. “Port Is a Welcome Guest at Cocktail Parties” by Eric Asimov
  6. “Natural Winemaking Stirs Debate” by Eric Asimov
  7. “Pickers to Vintners: A Mexican-American Saga” by Eric Asimov
  8. “Bordeaux Loses Prestige Among Younger Wine Lovers” by Eric Asimov
  9. “South African Goes From Never a Sip to Vineyard Fame” by Barry Bearak
  10. “In Albuquerque, French-Style Wines That Sparkle” by Sarah Kershaw
  11. “His Big Idea is to Get Small” by Eric Asimov
  12. “The Greatest Vintages of Alfred Knopf, 90” by Terry Robards
  13. “Jefferson On Wine: The Only Antidote to the Bane of Whiskey” by Howard G. Goldberg

Kevin Zraly’s Windows on the World Complete Wine Course by Kevin Zraly
This wine education classic is now available in paperback for the first time in more than twenty years, and it’s in a multi-platform edition for today’s techno-savvy student. Three million copies of this book have been sold since 1985, proving its depth and durability.

I’ve been a fan of Kevin and his work for many, many years. His ability to make a complex subject interesting, educational, and fun is without parallel. Last year, he celebrated his 40th year of teaching about wine, and it was the 35th anniversary of his Windows on the World Wine School.

You might be thinking, haven’t I heard about Windows on the World? Yes, you have. The Windows on the World Restaurant was on the 107th floor of the ill-fated One World Trade Center in New York City. Kevin Zraly was hired in April 1976 as the cellar master of the soon-to-be-opened restaurant and taught the Windows on the World Wine School there for the next 25 years until September 11, 2001. He was not in the restaurant on the morning of September 11th but lost a number of colleagues and friends. The wine school still continues today in a different location.

I believe that this book is one of two books, along with Jancis Robinson’s The Oxford Companion to Wine, that every wine enthusiast needs in their library.

The One Minute Wine Master: Discover 10 Wines You’ll Like in 60 Seconds or Less by Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan, MW
This book is excellent for the wine newbie who wants to know what kind of wine he or she will probably like best but doesn’t want to spend much time finding out. While the book is 170+ pages, the meat of it is on pages 52-54. The so-called One Minute Wine Master Quiz is on pages 52 and 53. It consists of eleven questions, none of which do you need to know anything about wine to answer. Once you tally your score, you turn over to page 54 to the Answer Wheel to find out what “season” the author believes you fit into and a list of wines that fit into that “season”.

Ms. Simonetti-Bryan, the author, is a Master of Wine, the highest wine credential you can earn. She is one of only four women in the United States to achieve this distinction. She is a top judge in wine and spirits competitions around the world and the winner of the 2008 Tasting Trophy by the Institute of Masters of Wine.

Just for fun, the four of us Wine Peeps took her one-minute quiz in the book to see if we thought it would have helped us when we were starting out in wine. For three of the four of us, the prediction of what we “should” like aligned very closely with our “actual” favorite type of wine.

My conclusion was to recommend the book as a good tool for the wine newbie, realizing that while it will probably make good suggestions for the type of wine you might like, it won’t actually help you select a particular bottle from a certain producer in the wine shop or from a restaurant wine list. For that next step, you can look to someone like us here at Wine Peeps for recommendations. Once you’ve determined the type of wine you’d like to try, I encourage you to check out our categories list on the right side of the site or to use the search box on the top right of our site.

Happy holiday shopping! Cheers!

Full Disclosure: We received these books as review copies.

Filed under: Wine Books, Wine Gifts/Accessories

Reader's Comments

  1. Timothy O,Neal | October 25th, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    Great to know that Windows on the World is available in paperback! I will be sure to let the staff at my restuarant (and new hires) know, for this book puts the beat-down on any of the Wine for Dummies books and beyond.

  2. John | October 25th, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    Thanks for your spot-on comment.