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BOOK REVIEWS
BOOK REVIEWS
We all know that to learn about wine you need to taste. For some of us there is also pleasure in reading about wine. The best books offer the sort of analysis and information that one will not find in tweets and blogs. There are so many books on wine, and knowing only too well that lack of time and space affect most of us, we thought we would share some of our favourites with you. Each month we will add to the selection.

 

 

The Finest Wines of Burgundy, Bill Nanson, 2012, Aurum Press Ltd.

Reviewed by Roddy Ropner

"The Finest Wines of Burgundy" is one in a series of books about the major wine regions of the world. Others so far published include Bordeaux, Champagne, Rioja, California and Germany. The authour of "Burgundy", Bill Nanson, also publishes the online Burgundy-Report.

This work does not attempt to be exhaustive in the manner of "Inside Burgundy" by Morris. In fact its selective and subjective nature its part of its appeal. It is subtitled  "A Guide to the Best Producers of the Côte d'Or and Their Wines" and this series defines "best" as those most worth talking about. It cannot be an easy task selecting those for inclusion and no doubt some will quibble about those omitted. However what I like is that Nanson does indeed act as a guide and mentor to both the great wines of the Côte and also those more humble wines that are still noteworthy. This he does not only by the selection of Domaines but also in the detail he gives about the most interesting wines produced by each. Nanson is clear about which wines he likes and why. This is something that is missing from the more detailed but less opinionated "Inside Burgundy".

Just as helpful is Nanson's description of when to drink the wines of Burgundy. In this regard and acknowledges and builds on the work of Anthony Hanson MW. In the chapter titled "The Readiness is All" Nanson reminds us that the "natural ageing prcoess of Pinot Noir....." differs from other varieties and notes that top Burgundies have a tendency to close down for long periods and suggests when to drink them. An understanding of these principles is key to the enjoyment of the wines.

The chapters on viticulture (Back to Roots) and vinfication (The Art of Elevage) are further treats for students of Burgundy. There is no simplistic list of steps taken in the vineyard or the cellar but a clear explanation of the options available, the rationale behind each and the consequence of any decisions made.

"Burgundy" is an insightful and welcome addition to the growing body of important work on this enigmatic region.

 

Inside Burgundy, Jasper Morris, 2010, BBR.

Reviewed by Roddy Ropner

A substantial book in every sense of the word - it weighs in at 656 pages. Even the subtitle "The vineyards, the wines and the people" hardly does justice to its scope. The author Jasper Morris MW draws on 30 years of experience in Burgundy to impart a vast amount of knowledge about the region. He does not spare us any of the detail or leave any stone unturned - literally. You want to know about soils (so important for an understanding of 'terroir') and you are treated to a discussion of the Eras, Periods and Epochs that influence the wines through the soil in and below the vineyards. The weather, grapes, viticulture and wine making with more besides are given the same thoughtful and exhaustive treatment.

 

Readers will undoubtedly enjoy the description and analysis of the vineyards, the winemakers and the wines that together they produce. The author claims that he was considering the sub-title "The sex life of Burgundy" however the descriptions while informative are diplomatic and unlikely to cause offence - after all the author does live in Burgundy.

 

The chapter on vintages, especially those since 1990, which are described under sub-headings "The weather", "First impressions" and "The wines in bottle" are especially useful and illuminating. There are also excellent detailed and very clear maps in colour. The author's prose is as subtle and elegant as many of the wines he describes. The text is scattered with literary quotes, historical references and anecdotes and

 

"Inside Burgundy" is all the more interesting and readable for these. An excellent book by any criteria it is set to become the standard reference book for Burgundy.

 

 

The Pearl of the Côte, The Great Wines of Vosne-Romanée, Allen D. Meadows, 2010, Burghound Books.

Reviewed by Roddy Ropner

For those who cannot get enough of Burgundy more good news. "The Pearl of the Côte, The Great Wines of Vosne-Romanée" was published in the summer of 2010. Meadows is an authority on the wines of Burgundy and creator of Burghound.com dedicated to reviewing the wines of the region. The village of Vosne comes under the microscope with marvellous detail on its history, wine makers and of course the wines.

 

Meadows has extensive experience of tasting in the region and includes many notes in the form of a personal selection of vintages at the end of each vineyard chapter. There are very honourable mentions for some of Wellspring Wines favourites including Pascal Lachaux of Domaine Arnoux-Lachaux (formerly Domaine Robert Arnoux), and Sylvain Cathiard.

 

Following the republishing of 'The Great Domaines of Burgundy' by Remington Norman and Charles Taylor (see below) and the arrival of 'Inside Burgundy' by Jasper Morris MW (see above) Burgundy lovers now have plenty of bedside reading.
 

Asian Palate, Jeannie Cho Lee MW, 2009, Asset Publishing and Research Limited.

Reviewed by Roddy Ropner

The author combines her interest in food (she received her Certificat de Cuisine from Cordon Bleu in Paris) with her encyclopedic knowledge of wine (she was awarded her Master of Wine in 2008) to provide a fresh and detailed assessment of which wines are best suited to Asian cuisine.

 

Avoiding the usual clichés Jeannie takes the reader on a journey round the major styles of cooking in the region - each covered in its own chapter. Jeannie provides information on the cuisine and drinks of each culture and then makes her own suggestions for food and wine pairings.

 

There are easy to understand charts and superb illustrations. Anyone fortunate to have heard Jeannie talking about wine will know that she has a gift for teaching, and an ability to simplify that which is complex. A talent which is equally apparent in her writing.

 

This is a beautifully produced book that attempts and succeeds in taking a comprehensive look at a vast subject that has hitherto been largely ignored or misunderstood. For those with an interest in wine and Asian cuisines "Asian Palate" is full of detailed, well-researched and practical advice.
 

World Encyclopedia of Champagne and sparkling wine, 1998, Tom Stevenson, Absolut Press.

Reviewed by Roddy Ropner

If you only have space on your shelf for only one book about Champagne this is the one to have. Tom Stevenson is known as the authority of Champagne. Everything you need to know about Champagne and sparkling wines is here. The history of Champagne, how sparkling wines are made and a guide to the best houses. Stevenson does not limit his coverage to the "Grandes Marques" or big brands but also rights about dozens of producers that nowadays merit inclusion and discussion based on the quality of their wines. He also explains wheat is meant by such terms as "Grande Marque".

 

All main regions producing sparkling wine are covered in Europe and the New World. Although the book was published in 1998, (and revised in 2002) such is the quality of the information that it easily stands the test of time. The one problem you may have is finding a copy. But it is well worth the search.
 
   

The Great Domaines of Burgundy, Remington Noman & Charles Taylor MW, 2010, Kyle Kathie Limited.

Reviewed by Roddy Ropner

An outstanding book on Burgundy by the authority Remington Norman, joined for the 3rd edition by Charles Taylor MW. One of the clearest explanations of the main producers in Burgundy. The authors help to clarify what is considered one of the most complex, not to mention one of the finest, wine producing regions. There are also chapters on appellations, climate, soil, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and many more including a review of vintages from 1971 - 2009. Indispensable for all who love the wines of Burgundy. Just as important it is a thoroughly enjoyable read due to the quality of writing and the extensive experience of the authors.

 

If you love Burgundy you will want this book. I you already have an earlier edition you will still need this book. The most important changes are chronicled in detail. As interest in Burgundy grows throughout the Asia region this is a timely and up-to-date reference book.

The Finest Wines of Champagne, Michael Edwards, 2009, University of California Press.

Reviewed by Roddy Ropner

A fine overview of the wines of Champagne, the history of the region, and the key producers. While the Grandes Marques dominate exports of Champagne there is an increasing interest in the grower-producers of the region. Edwards covers these and more. He also brings into focus the different regions and vineyards in Champagne. While much has been written about Bordeaux and Burgundy there is a relative lack of updated material on Champagne. This book fills the gap admirably.

 Perhaps most interesting of all for those who love Champagne are the chapters on the finest producers and their wines accompanied by tasting notes. Well illustrated throughout.

 

 

  

 
   
   
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